Het Rutbeek, The Netherlands

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“I think those people are naked!” I exclaimed as I hauled my bicycle over a fence obviously designed to keep bikes out of the beach area in front of me. “But it’s only 60 degrees,” I pondered. Behind me, the Frenchman scrambled around, eager to get a better look. In front of us were several couples and older gentlemen, all completely nude and enjoying a manmade beach in the middle of the Dutch countryside. We backed away, slowly, hoping they did not hear our giggles or see our bewildered stares.

This was not the first time we have come upon nudists the last few months. In Greece, in a secluded cove near the Temple of Poseidon we were joined by a gentleman who paddled naked around the clear waters but decided to luckily put on some bottoms when he rolled over to chat us about about life in America and the troubles facing Greece. Ironically, on the rocks above us was graffitied “No Nudists.” Nudity in Greece makes sense: the weather is warm and the days perfect for sunbathing. In Netherlands, to be a nudist must mean a great devotion to the idea.

Het Rutbeek, a lake and recreation area south of Enschede, is, like all things Dutch, a place that accepts every person’s beliefs, desires, and lifestyles. As part of our weekly bike tour we decided to make a late-afternoon ride to the lake as we had been promised it was the perfect place to have a picnic and enjoy nature. Apparently, it is also a place for communing with nature in the nude, and, had we been able to read the signs, we would have discovered that the naturist beach is a landmarked area of the lake.

Deciding the day was too cold and we had not quite lived in Europe long enough to be that body confident, we quietly continued along the five kilometer path that surrounds the lake. Minutes later we came upon other nudists who had decided to venture outside of the designated clothing optional area and stroll along the waterside, partially hidden from tall grasses and reeds. Continuing on our way, we later stopped for more mature behavior than pointing at the naked people, having a “moo” off with some rambunctious and loquacious spotted cows.

Het Rutbeek is an interesting place; it is an all-purpose multi-recreational activity park with swimming, boating, water skiing, canoeing, a ropes course, paintballing, rock climbing, horse riding and running, obstacle courses and triathlons. During the winter, it converts to a ski center with three slopes and rope pulls where the Dutch can learn how to ski before heading further inland to countries with any sort of elevation.

Next week, we plan to return to Het Rutbeek for the area’s largest fall event, the Military Boekelo. Though we have not quite figured out what the Military is, it appears to be a multi-day cross-country and dressage horse event. Despite the fact that the promotional information seems to be mostly gentlemen in suits, we have been told that in truth it’s a muddy 6 km cross-country course with food and drink stops along the way where the locals come to mill about, eat and drink, and watch the horses. With all of the work I have been doing for equine-related tax suits lately, seeing the horses while drinking a Grolsch sounds very enticing.

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