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Real black people and Suzanne Vega July 19, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

I was a bit skint, so the Russian and I decided to go on holiday. Thank heavens for Barclaycard.

We went to “Germany’s most beautiful island”, Rügen, and it’s the only German island I’ve ever been to, so I can’t claim to think otherwise. It’s about an inch off the coast, next to Hanseatic Stralsund, accessible from Berlin by one of those trains that stops at every bird’s nest and makes you work out the British Rail journey time from London to Glasgow and realise that, contrary to all logic, yep, this train really is slower.

We arrived just in time for a party to celebrate something or other at the bandstand on a promenade an inch from the beach. A tackier (or more enjoyable) occasion you could not have asked for, even by the sea. A compère with yellow hair played music just as bad as you’d hope for – Eye of the Tiger, D-I-S-C-O and so many more – and occasionally even sang along, with perhaps a sway of the hips and a click of the fingers.

We were still at the orientation stage of the trip when we stumbled across the party. We’d found the sea, cleverly. We saw what the resort-town Binz looked like. We saw the holiday-makers there were quite a mix – young and old and, which made us feel quite exotic, almost all German – and that the place had no designs on coolness at all. The party was just warming up when we got there. Some real black people, invited over from the mainland, no doubt, were trying their best not to think of suicide and the tokenism as they knocked out the odd cover-version or two. Folk stood around, but it was all just like a wedding with only the children, a couple of teenage girls and one or two ancient couples waltzing about while everyone else concentrated on boozing.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said one of the real black people, in English, oddly, which I think was meant to add to the exoticism – Look, people, we have real black entertainers on Rügen! – “…raise your hands in the air for… (unbearable tension)… Miss Tina Turner!” “Fucking hell, there’s a turn-up for the books,” I thought, until out onto the stage strutted a person whose only similarity to Tina Turner was that she was a black woman. OK, so she could sing and strut too. But I was thinking it was all a tack-overload.

The people-watching was brilliant. In true northern European fashion, everyone present got slaughtered. The acts were all very summer-season-in-Sunderland. But at some unnoticed critical juncture, the party went from early-wedding to full swing. Young and old danced side-by-side. I looked on in envy. If the Russian wasn’t ashamed to be a homo in public, you can bet your bottom pfennig I’d have been on that dance-floor waltzing away to The Macarena with the rest of them. As it was, I had to content myself with a rush of love for the Germans (and getting slaughtered on provincial Mojitos, which are a glass of rum). This was supreme tack, everyone knew it, and they all had a rollicking good time. Willing to make the most of it. Russians (apart from the Russian) would do likewise. I wondered if my teenage nieces and nephews would waltz with their parents/grandparents, or would sit on a bench with folded arms.

But it can’t all be fun, fun, fun. There was sunbathing to be done, an island to explore and bikes to be hired. Prora is one of the island’s main attractions. A million-kilometre long building designed as a Nazi Butlins, which was never finished and was subsequently used by the GDR army as barracks. It’s an extraordinary sight, today houses a museum or two, and skirts the best beach on the island. The Russian and I parked our bikes, noted happily that we were there at just the wrong time to tour the museums and trolled down to the beach.

Well, it was organisms all over the place. There is a notional separation of regular bits of beach from the Freikörperkultur – or nudist – ones, but some folk seemed to go naked anywhere and others seemed happy to keep their kit on with people’s bits bobbing around beside them. The Russian and I settled on a non-nudist bit, technically, but the majority of folk had their bits out. And, exposed genitalia aside, it was interesting to observe. Germans, especially eastern Germans, are famed for their non-shyness about nudity and that is no doubt largely what contributes to the utterly ordinary atmosphere there. There is no shyness, no perviness, no leeriness, no staring, no giggling, no pointing. Next to us, a group of 20- and 30-somethings was playing volleyball. Some were in the buff, some not. Willies were flying everywhere. But there appeared not to be a hint of embarrassment (or competition) at, presumably, a group of work pals letting it all hang out at the beach. I thought it was only fair to go with the flow and whipped my willy out too. Ten seconds later, a family with three teenage children sat an inch away from me. No-one paid the tiniest bit of attention. (Bastards.) And I was unconscious – I mean not conscious about it, not that I blacked out – after three seconds. And, do you know, it was lovely. Ordinary. OK-feeling. Utterly uncringeworthy. To be recommended. And this was with the sporty beauties around. And obese non-beauties. And regular neither-heres-nor-theres on the beauty stakes. And me, whose body looks like an x-ray with a beer-belly.

“Fuck, darling, I haven’t shaved my minge,” I hollered, in my only moment of worrying perhaps I’d got some aspect of etiquette wrong. While the sporty boys seemed very casual and ordinary about it all, I did notice they’d all shaved. I had a quick non-pervy look round (with my binoculars). Shit, everyone had shaved their muffs. Then a woman loomed into view with a veritable riot of pubes and I was at peace once more.

But you can’t look at willies and fannies and compare pube-cuts all day. The Russian and I got back on our bikes and headed for the white cliffs further up the coast. Darlings, my one hint for the non-professional biker is, if (potentially) cycling through a national park, ignore all the signs for cycle-paths and stick to the road. The cycle-paths may have been all scenic and green, but they are a bazillion times more circuitous and a lot less smooth than a lovely, tarmacked road. We got lost a million times. Had to carry the bastard bikes up and down staircases hewn in the forest (and we didn’t have groovy mountain-bikes but shitty old rust-buckets that any nun would be proud of). And ended up cycling a million miles further than if we’d just gone the way of the motor-car. 100km we reckon we clocked up (instead of 60). If you ever have the choice of two bikely routes to point B and option 1 is five inches on a forest bike-path and option 2 is 793 miles on a delicious, car-clogged road, go for option 2 every time.

The last day was a bike-free, sore-arse, stiff-and-sunburnt kind of day. The Russian and I arguing about where to have a shandy. Him aiming high and wanting to go to empty places with funky furniture and all very designy, me wanting to go to the trashy place next door with plastic tablecloths and a reassuring number of overweight families. I accidentally ordered the Russian the wrong drink which was, naturally, a cue for us to remind each other what bad luck we’ve both had to find each other and how we’re both much wickeder than Pol Pot and remember the time you did that? And what about that time? And when you?

Suzanne Vega came on the radio. And we all know it’s only one step from Suzanne Vega to Tracy Chapman. But that’s the kind of place Rügen is. Very Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman.

We took the train home.



1. wyndham - July 19, 2007

A Nazi Butlins – I thought they were all like that.

You were very brave getting your willy out like that but I hope you had your slacks back on by the time you got on your bike – that would have been a sight for sore eyes, I’d imagine.

2. pleite - July 19, 2007

Wynders, too true. The one camp I went to on the Isle of Wight when I was 12 or so did have rather a nasty hint of the ideological about it. God it was horrible.

Thankfully, I did remember to put my strides back on before cycling. As it was, the bike had given me the sorest bottom on Rügen. Nudist cycling would have been taking it all too far.

3. bowleserised - July 19, 2007

I’m intrigued. Did these men leave one of those little “landing strips” or do they shave the whole lot off?

4. pleite - July 19, 2007

The lot off. No Brazilians or whatever it is they’re called. Which makes me think they must have all been quite seasoned and organised and well-prepared for a bit of pube-free nudity, or perhaps German men and women simply shave the Schambereich in the main.

5. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 19, 2007

Haven’t we all played nude volleyball on a beach on the Ostsee coast? I know I have.

6. pleite - July 19, 2007

Have you? You raunchy old thing you! But not just last weekend? I would have recognised you, I hope.

Volleyball did appear to be the nude-sport of choice. My nude-sport was a ten-second swim. I’m rubbish at team-sports requiring skill and co-ordination, whether clothed or not.

7. ChristinaG - July 19, 2007

Rügen is very beautiful, but so is Usedom, so I don’t know if Rügen is THE most beautiful German island. I spent some time rehabing my back on Fischland-Darss and have quite the affinity for that Halbinsel as well.

I hope you used sunscreen on your delicate bits.

8. pleite - July 19, 2007

Christina, do you know, I didn’t. But they weren’t exposed for long and seem to be none the worse for wear.

I’d never heard of that Fischland place until yesterday, when a pal talked about it. And the train up to Stralsund was packed and I thought everyone was going to be going to Rügen but oodles got off at Pasewalk and changed onto trains to Usedom (I’m guessing). Lots of young people, especially, which made me think that Usedom might be meant to be a bit more funky than R. Though our beach Dorfdisko was good enough for me.

And I’m having an inner pernickety nerd alert. Something tells me Usedom is only a peninsula… No, wait, I’ve got googling and there are indeed links galore for Insel Usedom, whereas I thought it was attached to the European mainland but by Polish territory and not German. I’m talking nonsense.

Anyway, more importantly, Christina, not long to go now. I trust you weren’t quickly commenting while rushing round the house doing last-minute things ALL while in labour? (I guess/hope not.) We’ve got a baby coming to visit tomorrow (with parents) and I’m awfully excited to see if I’ll be rubbbish with a baba or not (though she’s a big girl of 1 now).

9. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 20, 2007

It was quite a few years ago, and I can’t say I noticed any lack of pubic hair, not that I was looking. Unlike the old queens with opera glasses/binoculars. Anyway, the main thing is: who do reckon was on No. 73 and is now a big SM enthuasiast? It doesn’t seem to be Sandi.

10. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 20, 2007

By the way, that man with the yellow hair…have you booked tickets for a “Hinz Event Cruise” yet?

11. pleite - July 20, 2007

Karl, the trouble is, I can only think of Sandi. I can’t really remember No. 73, apart from the theme-tune and wondering where the name Toksvig came from. I adore Sandi Toksvig. She almost always makes me properly laugh and she and Alan Coren are a good double act. Their laughs seem to be based on proper friendship. So even if it is Sandi, I’d cope admirably with her being an SM enthusiast.

I have not signed up for a Hinz Binz cruise.

12. marshaklein - July 20, 2007

Nude swimming is lovely (I did some last year on holiday in Tampere). Volleyball, on the other hand, naked or clothed, requires too much upper-arm strength, co-ordination and general caring-about-team-sports for me.

Sounds like you had a blast. I love a bit of cheesy pop, me.

13. In Actual Fact - July 20, 2007

Oh I have to agree: Nudey volleyball with East(ern) Germans just has to be done. From a distance. With binoculars.

Going to the sauna with one’s colleagues every Tuesday night is an experience too. Especially when there are two English people there and we both had to prove we weren’t sexually repressed…..

Which leads to slightly too loud conversations to prove how open we are…..
“Hi Mr. Fact, I see that even though you’re English you’ve got your kit off in the mixed sauna.”
“Well what did you expect, do you think a typically repressed Englishman or something?”
“Oh, of course not, I’m not a sexually repressed Englishwoman either, ha, ha. Look, I even shave my pubic hair into comely shapes…Let me spread my legs wider so you can see….”
“Hmmmm.. That’s, er, very pretty. And the hair too.”
“But you really should shave your balls. I’d find it much easier to lick them if there was no hair there. I made Stefan, my boyfrind, the 7-foot-tall guy whose just coming over to have a word with you do his.”

And next day at work, everyone who’d been wandering aroung naked the night before just acted naturally with one another. And it turned out that my nose wasn’t actually broken either….”

14. MountPenguin - July 20, 2007

“You’re not going to, are you?” said Mrs. Penguin. “Please, say you’re not”. “Well, you did forget the bag with the swimming things in them darling, and I am only going a swim and not playing volleyball or taking up breakdancing or anything”, I countered.

What amuses me about that beach is the division into sections of clothed, FKK and dogs. Not sure what the nudist dog owners are supposed to do though.

15. MountPenguin - July 20, 2007

That’s a thought. What is it with Brazilians and landing strips?

16. Blonde at Heart - July 20, 2007

It sounds fun. All of it, even the nudist beach and cycling (last time I cycled it was in Holland and the wind blew me into a ditch). Corny songs make the best parties. You do not have to pretend this is good music and just dance stupidly. Ideal for people who cannot dance. Did you see AB’s bog lately? I think he “gave up” blogging again.

17. bowleserised - July 20, 2007

A Brazilian without a landing strip is called a Hollywood, just so’s you know.

And it’s not Sandi Toksvig.

18. MountPenguin - July 20, 2007

Oh, I was hoping it might have been called a Sao Paulo.

19. bowleserised - July 20, 2007


20. Arabella - July 20, 2007

And what a step it is. Please, you must include the Vega-Chapman skooch in your little book of brilliant insights (or I’ll steal them) and retire on the proceeds.
I had no idea men shaved their woopsies.

21. Appy Linguist - July 20, 2007

A-ha! Now I understand why my (German) flatmate has razors all over the bathroom, and there are little bits of all types and lengths of shaven hair in the bath/shower and the washbasin. (Yes, vile – I know.) I had my suspicions in that direction, anyway.

Is denying genital puberty common among German men?

22. MountPenguin - July 20, 2007

Well, it’d certainly have the advantage that men can wear their trousers as low-slung as the women without fear of having a little sub-navel moustache poking out.

23. bowleserised - July 21, 2007

AL – it makes things look bigger, and also less sweaty. So it’s has a sort of jointly caveman/metrosexual appeal.

24. annie - July 21, 2007

Could we get to the nudie beach on Rügen from Berlin during a 4 day visit, do you think? *cough*

Coming on Tuesday! Til Friday. Are you free anytime, m’dear? (And any other Berlin bloggers like Bowleserised, it would be lovely to meet you and introduce you to my friend Em, who does not believe that bloggers are real)

25. MountPenguin - July 21, 2007

You could do it in an ambitious day trip, it’s about 3.5 hours by train if I recall correctly. Doesn’t cost much either if you get the right tickets. The station is a shortish walk from the beach.

Berlin also has a large selection of official and unofficial clothing-optional beaches; don’t know about the volleyball situation though.

26. bowleserised - July 22, 2007

Hello Annie! We might be having a stammtisch then, so that would be a good chance to come say hellooooo!

27. bowleserised - July 22, 2007

Oh and Mount Penguin – there are loads of beach volleyball courts, and I think the world champions passed through here on tour recently.

28. Sylvia - July 22, 2007

What about the accomodation? How was that?

29. pleite - July 24, 2007

Sylvia, accommodation was fine. Regular. Hotelly. We arrived without a booking and in high-season and paid about 100 euros a night. But I don’t know if I would recommend Rügen for the international traveller, especially when you already go to much prettier places like Lake Como. The Baltic coast’s pretty enough but…

B., you need to give me a full description of Brazilians, Landing Strips and Hollywoods. I thought a Brazilian and a Landing Strip were the same thing, and I could slightly visualise neither, but assumed they must be the same as I couldn’t think of more than one design.

Penguin, spot on. There were, indeed, clothed, nudist and dog beaches side-by-side. The dogs seemed very cool about the whole thing too.

Annie, we’ll prove bloggers are real. We are real, Annie’s friend Em! Yes, I’m as free as a bird. Well, only tonight’s not ideal, as friends have just left this morning and I need a day’s recovery. But we’ll text like mad. And Penguin is right. Those nudie beaches would be an exhausting day-trip. But if you’re desperate to get your bits out in Berlin, there are plenty of opportunities here too (he says, guessing, but there are lakes with beaches, and some are bound to be nude).

Appy, I think B.’s hit on it. The caveman/metrosexual effect. So when I said there was no competition amongst the men, maybe there was, subliminally. Mind you, they were ALL shaved, so it cancelled out any advantage anyone could have held over anyone else on the embiggening stakes.

Arabella, I have officially got Alzheimer’s. I had to google ‘Vega-Chapman skooch’, thinking it was perhaps a rare disease, or the name of some scientific phenomenon. But of course google only brought me back to this blog. And then I realised it was Suzanne and Tracy. Which proves I am too mad to write a book of little insights. Darling, YOU write it. And give me a little mention if any of the insights are mine. Is writing a book on your list? I’ve become incapable of writing an e-mail, even.

BaH, I’d seen that. The man’s gone majorly ambivalent about blogging. The old one still exists, technically. Maybe he’s planning to mysteriously revive that one? And that’s a sad image – you being blown off your bike into a ditch in Holland. But then you are young and (no doubt) fit and strong and I presume you stood up, brushed your skirts down and got back on your bike. And Holland is an appropriate place to bike, after all. Were you visiting your roots?

IAF, sounds like a close shave. Boom boom! Close shave! Geddit? Actually, the more I think about it, the less likely I think it is I’d have been happy to go nude with a group of pals. With strangers, alstublieft, but with my work pals (thankfully I have none), dunno. Mind you, on the aesthetic front, I must say the shaved types did all look perfectly pretty.

Marsha, hope you manage to squeeze in a bit of cheesy pop and nudity in Cornwall. I’ve done the sauna thing in Finland and that was with pals, actually, and wasn’t embarrassing either, so maybe nudity simply isn’t embarrassing. Lovelier in Finland than on a beach, actually. There we did the absolutely classic thing of running from the sauna and jumping into a lake, though it was summer, thank god, and the lake wasn’t frozen solid. It was also raining, which made the experience even more perfect.

30. Appy Linguist - July 25, 2007

I just asked someone, and he thinks it’s not uncommon among straight men in Germany. He then went on to tell me about the times (plural!) he’s had crabs. Maybe they don’t want crabs? Never even seen them on another person, myself. Just how often do people shag the great unwashed?

My students at Nokia in Helsinki really wanted to have an end-of-course naked sauna with me, but I managed to squirm my way out of it. I was too busy having naked saunas with someone else while his long-term boyfriend was not at home. Oh, to be young and live without morals again!

31. MountPenguin - July 25, 2007

Crabs do live in the sea too, you know. It’s a pain to get them off once they’ve got their pincers stuck in.

32. bowleserised - July 26, 2007

A landing strip is just one component part of a Brazilian (the rest being raw skin and shocked follicles)

33. leon - July 26, 2007

I still haven’t managed to get to Berlin, so I haven’t really been able to prove I’m real. You’ll just have to take KMS’s word for it. Or look me up on Farcebook.

Based on past sauna experience I’m generally too busy coping with the heat to worry about what state of undress everyone else is in.

34. pleite - July 28, 2007

Leon, I believe in your reality completely. Well, or Karl made a good job of pretending you exist. Anyway, we know you’re not shy about nudity as Karl said you constantly tried to naked-shower (what other way is there?)… in the kitchen. Was that the story?

B., it’s all more complicated than I realised. Is it some way related to back, sack and crack? I stole those words of yours galore and they even almost became the name of our winter trip to Poland: Zak(opane) and Krak(ow).

Penguin, thankfully, I didn’t see anything crabby or pincery while up there with my kit off (or on, actually), but I did see jellyfish with the red bits, and I’ve got a feeling they’re nasty, whether afflicting an area likely to be Brazilianised, or infested with crabs, or anywhere else. I trod carefully.

Appy, the crab-argument does sound quite plausible, though I too wouldn’t have thought the volleyball-players were majorly likely to get crabs, but who knows in this day and age of alcopops and low common morals and all the sex on TV?

35. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 29, 2007

Brazilan, Australian or whatever (is there an I-Spy book? Click off all these pubic haircuts and related jewellery and get a certificate from Big Chief I-Spy (or David Bellamy; with his beard, I bet he’s a nudist. They seem to go together in the UK, no?); I can report that in the nude sunbathing part of Munich’s Englischer Garten, only 25% of the people I could notice without having to stare too much/use the zoom lens were indeed noticeably ‘shaven down below’. Who would’ve thought it? Nudity, in a park! In Bavaria! It’s not just a leftover of communism after all? Hang on, what about the Bavarian Soviet Republic….

36. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 29, 2007

Obviously I meant ‘tick off all these pubic haircuts’; unless there’s an internet version, but I suspect/hope that if there was/is, this particular title wouldn’t be accessible by the target age group of I-Spy books.

37. Appy Linguist - July 29, 2007

I remember hearing from a friend in Munich years ago about the problems the city was having with nudists. Apparently they used to float down the river and then get the tram back up to where they started. The problem was that they didn’t pay on the tram, as they had nowhere to keep their change…

38. pleite - July 29, 2007

Appy, excellent anecdote. My view of Munich is typically Berlin, i.e. that it is the height of poshness and stuffiness and sophistication. So I’m delighted to read about nudist tram-users. Though I think even the unflappable Berliners might be a bit disturbed by nude fare-dodgers.

Karl, are you in the Soviet Republic of Bavaria right now? What the bugger are you doing down there? Not entertaining European youths again?

39. bowleserised - July 29, 2007

Unity Mitford used to sunbathe naked in the English Gardens. TRU FACT!

40. pleite - July 29, 2007

Was she the one who liked Hitler? Remind me of the quote about Hitler being a poor lamb.

41. bowleserised - July 29, 2007

Yes, she adored Hitler and was a very outspoken Nazi. Shot herself in the English Gardens when war was declared, but survived (in not very good shape) till the 1950s.

Diana (wife of Mosley) was the “poor lamb” woman. Did I blog about that?


42. pleite - July 29, 2007

You did, you did. But have told me it ‘live’ too. I’ve tried to tell it to others live, but realise I had the quote wrong. I’ll try to learn it by heart now.

43. bowleserised - July 29, 2007

The quote about Uganda is also spectacular (but could have been a Mitford joke)

44. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 29, 2007

Mitford: conceived in the town of Swastika (Ontario).

45. Blonde at Heart - July 29, 2007

I was indeed visiting my roots. Think about doing it again as a form of low-budget vacation (as my aunt will not let me sleep in an hotel when I can sleep at her place). The old Erratus Blog still exists? Where? Oh, right, he “hid” it somewhere in the deep web. Would be great to find it, wouldn’t it?

46. pleite - July 29, 2007

Karl, no, tell me it’s a joke. It’s got to be a wikipedia hoax, hasn’t it? Not that the swastika had the connotation then, aber still…

B., speaking of jokes… the Uganda thing. Now, I would like to make it clear that I do not support any Mitford position on the Jews, but Jews founding a homeland in Uganda was a semi-serious, though temporary proposition. I’ve got a feeling Argentina was considered another option at some point. Anyway, the linked article gives examples of other places that were recced as a potential Jewish homeland.

47. pleite - July 29, 2007

BaH, look! There I am writing about alternative Jewish homelands and who should drop in but you. Well, the erratus blog I mean is the old one, but the only thing visible to us mere mortals is what the owner left up when he made most of it inaccessible, i.e. that single post. Mind you, I remember him saying once that he hasn’t deleted it all, so it’s probably sitting there somewhere, waiting to be revived.

48. bowleserised - July 29, 2007

Unity Valkyrie Mitford (yes, really, that’s how she was christened) was indeed conceived in Swastika, where her parents were trying to mine gold (and failing and obviously getting bored in the evenings).

Or maybe she wasn’t conceived there, but they did have a gold mining plot in Swastika.

I know too much about the Mitfords.

49. pleite - July 30, 2007

No, it’s all good stuff. Unity Valkyrie Mitford. Bloody hell. Well, if you say it and wikipedia says it, then I’m happy to believe it. She was conceived in Swastika, Ontario.

50. leon - July 30, 2007

[pleite] Yes, I’d never showered in a kitchen before. Everyone should try it at least once, though.

51. bowleserised - July 30, 2007

We had a shower in the kitchen in one of my student halls. Great days.

52. pleite - July 30, 2007

B., Leon, I’ve showered in a kitchen too. When we first came to Berlin, a friend found us a room in some local ‘youth centre’, which was super-basic. Ofenheizung, which was fun, seeing as it was just for a few weeks, AND a shower in the kitchen, and this was before I was happy to get my bits out in front of all and sundry. We only had one neighbour, and there was only one micro-embarrassing moment. But the shower was just a trickle of tepid water. Hopeless. I must have stunk for a whole month.

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