Before moving to Berlin this August, I lived in Geneva and travelled a fair bit around Europe: Prague, Barcelona, Marseille, Portugal, and beyond. But my last few trips were all within Switzerland, where things were under control at the time.
I chose my first post-lockdown journey to be a day trip to Fronalpstock in the Swiss Alps, so I could hike and meet fewer people. It was a two-hour train ride away from Geneva. While the hike itself typically takes four-five hours, I had planned to take the gondola to the peak from the halfway point. But the gondola was shut, even though my very reliable Swiss transport app said otherwise. A rarity.
To be honest, I wasn’t particularly anxious while travelling. Everyone around me followed guidelines, and the trains were practically empty. The changes seemed fairly standard after a point: you’re more cautious, masks and sanitisers are everywhere, you stay within your own group of people and interact less with others. The big surprise was realising that summer travel around Switzerland was cheaper than previous years.
Emboldened after visiting Fronalpstock, I went for a four-day trip to Interlaken in early June. It was peak summer in the country’s most popular tourist spot, yet I got away with impromptu bookings at great deals. I was spoilt for choice in apartment rentals and toyed with the idea of a staying in a hotel. But when you go to Interlaken, you want to stay in a chalet. So I booked one for myself in the idyllic village of Grindelwald, which had a shared entrance and lobby with the host. The host left masks outside and was particular about me wearing them while entering, and sanitising of course.
I covered a fair bit on a three-day train pass across the Interlaken region, including the cable car ride up Harder Kulm, a stunning viewpoint overlooking Interlaken’s two lakes: Thun and Brienz. I also walked around Grindelwald, and hiked up the Grindelwald First mountain. There were hardly any people around.
Reaching the otherwise ultra-touristy town of Jungfrau usually requires multiple train changes and queues at each station, but without the people it was a breeze this time. I was able to visit the local museum, observatory, all the viewing platforms, and the Ice Palace with ice sculptures.
While things had started to open up, a lot of the smaller, local shops and restaurants remained shut when I visited. I didn’t have to pre-book tickets or make restaurant reservations. I still bought tickets online, mostly on the same day, but that was largely for convenience. All in all, it seemed like everything was in control, and I got a lovely Swiss vacation out of it.
Lubna Amir is Assistant Digital Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.