Making a splash in ‘safe’ Switzerland this summer
Switzerland was recently named the safest European country to visit this summer. Good news for families keen to get away for a post-lockdown break. There are plenty of reasons why Switzerland is the perfect destination for a summer family and you don’t even need a beach – there are plenty of watery pursuits here too. Oh, and chocolate!…
“Chocolate is happiness you can eat,” reads the slogan of the Aeschbach chocolate factory in Root, Switzerland. That is certainly true on its interactive Chocoworld tour, which features piles of glittering chocolate coins, oodles of the stuff moulded into sculptures, and seemingly endless samples.
Given the beauty of its mountains, lakes and vineyards, and the palpable purity of its fresh air, the country might wish to repurpose Aeschbach’s message to read “Switzerland is happiness you can inhale.”
The idea of breathing easy seems more apt still, given that Switzerland has recently been named the safest country in Europe to visit this summer. A safe option in which to relax with your family.
Not only is it on the FCO “safe” list of destinations that currently don’t require self-isolation on return, but Covid-19 numbers have been remarkably low. Granted, this is a small country with a population of fewer than nine million, but cases have totalled around 35,000 to date (compared to the UK’s 300,000) and deaths have remained below 10 per day for the past three months.
For plenty of other reasons, a trip to Switzerland seems like the ideal antidote to lockdown. From walking to picnicking and from swimming to cycling, it is almost laughably easy to enjoy the great outdoors here.
In many towns and cities, there is some form of open-air entertainment – most places (including Zurich, Luzern and Geneva) have a lake, pool or swimming baths complete with a wooden scaffold of stepped diving platforms, from low-slung to ear-popping, and with somewhere good to eat and drink nearby. Most lakes in town allow swimming and paddling; some have beaches and many hire paddleboards, canoes and other small craft. There’s no question of visiting Basel or Bern with out a dip in the Rhine or the Aare respectively. Indeed, swimming in the fast-flowing, freezing-cold (with glacial meltwater) Aare is the favourite summer pastime of the people of Bern, to head to the meadows and join the fun.
At the green, rock-lined pools of the Valle Verzasca, just 30 minutes’ drive from Ascona on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, the clear water is straddled by a double-arched pedestrian bridge known as the Ponte dei Salti (“salti” means “leaps”, this is the tiny Italian segment of Switzerland). If you are brave enough, you can jump from there.
Clear, pure mountain air is wonderful and it’s fun to enjoy the breathtaking vistas on foot, cycling or on e-bike. Many train stations hire rental bikes and e-bikes by the hour. Consider some white-water rafting in the Rhine Gorge.
Sporty kids will enjoy a visit to the ‘Olympic City’ of Lausanne, so-named as the Olympic committee (the IOC) is based there. If you’re wary of taking teenagers to museums, the Olympics Museum may well prove you wrong – it offers a clever combination of information and interaction to keep the most sultry teenager engaged… for a little while at least! Along with costumes, posters and information boards (did you know that the ancient Olympics always coincided with the second full moon after summer solstice?), there’s an absorbing room full of computerised Olympic activities.
Wherever you are in Switzerland, and whatever your age, be sure to enjoy the pure mountain air. Listen, look around you, breathe deeply and remember “Switzerland is happiness you can inhale”.
For the moment, this is surely the best antidote to Covid-19 we have.
How to get there in these challenging times
British Airways flies to Basel, Zurich and Geneva. Or take the Eurostar to Paris then the TGV-Lyria to Geneva, Lausanne, Basel or Zurich (both are running reduced services but the domestic Swiss trains are running normally).