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A Swiss Kind of Quarantine

Text and images by YOHAN DELA CRUZ

My friends and family would often ask me what the Covid-19 situation is like in Switzerland. The usual questions are “How are you there?” “May ECQ ba dyan?” “Ilan na ‘yung cases dyan?” or a combination of all three. And the answers I give usually end up surprising them.

Switzerland has handled the situation very differently compared to most countries. For one thing, Switzerland didn’t impose a community quarantine or a lockdown—people are still free to go outside and do as they please, albeit with a few social distancing measures such as keeping at least two meters apart and avoiding groups of more than five.

Signage in public areas regarding social distancing measures

Signage in public areas regarding social distancing measures

A lot of the establishments did close, such as restaurants, tourist attractions, and shops. But then Switzerland is also one of the first few to start loosening restrictions. In fact, while videos of people cutting their own hair were trending on social media, I had already been able to get a haircut from a barbershop early in May. Recently it was announced that by the end of June everything would be open and back to normal.

In terms of Covid-19 cases, Switzerland has one of the highest in Europe, but with thousands of tests being done every day—one of the highest per-capita in the world, mind you—this is to be expected. While the cases in Switzerland have peaked to more than 30,000, I have never seen any news about overcrowding in hospitals. Amazingly, I have even received a few newsletters from Swiss NGOs asking for donations in order to help those infected in other countries.

I must admit that, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was still frustrated and it took me a while to realize how fortunate I was to be in Switzerland during this Covid-19 outbreak. Here I was, a few months into my job, and a pandemic unexpectedly hit. Several of my personal plans to travel around Europe were canceled, as well as my business trips to Barcelona, Chile, and South Africa, all of which I was really looking forward to.

I have come to realize that I never would have appreciated simple pleasures such as watching the sun set over the lake as much had we not been given this time to pause.

Then suddenly inspiration hit me. It took one random Instagram story post for me to realize that I wasn’t taking full advantage of the opportunity of being stuck in Switzerland. The post showed a video of someone walking along a beautiful valley somewhere in Lauterbrunnen, and when I Googled the place I realized it was close to where I was!

I decided that I would try to explore Switzerland. While indeed many tourist attractions are closed, a lot of the beautiful places in this country have remained accessible. Switzerland has hiking trails spanning over 60,000 kilometers. It boasts of over 1,500 lakes, most of which are surrounded by the famous Swiss Alps.

Mürren

Me in Mürren

One of the places I visited at the height of the pandemic was Mürren, a village located on top of a mountain, accessible via train. The first thing you would see stepping out of the train station is the breathtaking views of the Alps surrounding you. I’ve learned that Mürren is usually crowded with tourists, but when I arrived, the place was practically deserted and I had the place all to myself.

One of the many waterfalls found in Lauterbrunnen

One of the many waterfalls found in Lauterbrunnen

With no clear plan of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, I decided to take a cable car going down to Lauterbrunnen. This led to my most memorable moment in Switzerland so far! Walking through the valley was such an amazing experience for me, the way the sunlight filtered through the clouds and hit the rock face, the white noise coming from the waterfall, the way the flowers moved with the wind, the unknown fragrant scent I kept smelling—everything was magical!

Me on Top of Interlaken

Me on Top of Interlaken

Some tourist attractions could still be visited even if they are closed, although a little effort is required in order to reach them. One example would be the top of Interlaken, a famous platform with a view to the Jungfrau region. But given that the cable cars were not operating, I decided to hike all the way up instead. My four-hour hike was rewarded with an amazing panoramic view of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.

When I was not traveling, I was either jogging, reading, or biking along Lake Geneva in Vevey, which was a few minutes’ walk from my apartment. One would think that spending my time here almost every day I would already get tired of looking at the lake. But every single time I would go out, I would always see something new and beautiful. The sunsets alone have been enough reason to keep going to the lake.

Sunsets in Lake Geneva, taken at different periods and locations

Sunsets in Lake Geneva, taken at different periods and locations

The sunset is a constant thing in the lake. Even when it’s raining or cloudy, you can still see it. I am not exaggerating when I say that, depending on the season, weather, time, or your location, the sunset along Lake Geneva is different every single time!

I have come to realize that I never would not have appreciated simple pleasures such as watching the sun set over the lake as much had we not been given this time to pause.

I would probably have been too busy planning for my trips and traveling outside Switzerland. For this, I am most thankful for how efficiently Switzerland has handled the situation. I’ve never really seen paranoia happen here, and most of the people here don’t even wear masks. This is not to say that I’m against lockdowns and all the other preventive measures being implemented in other countries. But given how the number of new cases in Switzerland has tapered down to the low 10s, perhaps there is something we can learn from this country?


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/06/08/a-swiss-kind-of-quarantine/)

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