What we saw of Switzerland was undoubtedly beautiful but came across as a little opaque – tastefully coloured patchwork of gleaming, impeccable, impenetrable surfaces, be it the facades of the Altstadt, the Alpine slopes or the aquamarine lakes and streams that
alternate between gushing from one precipice to another, or placidly gliding in the scorching sun. Everywhere one is constantly surrounded by relaxed, happy faces – no distracted gazes, no clockwork grey suits in sight. One climbs up the stairs to the viewing platform at Jungfraujoch, past the promotional posters of China’s Huangshan, and gets the sensation of walking into a virtual reality vestibule.

But then it is so beautiful outside the glass walls that it is easy to block the awareness out for a while – one looks down between the shoes, through the holes of the latticed floor of the viewing platform 3.5 km above sea level, vision diving headlong down the steep drop onto the snowy depths pockmarked with angry-looking holes and protruding rocks. One gazes beyond the cord barrier at the cold and barren glacier, arrested mid-journey as it tried to snake between the valleys into the unknown faraway somewhere. Dazzled by the magnificence of such rugged, dangerous beauty – one forgets.

Then the next moment one’s view is disrupted by a train of tourists parading past, packed snugly into quilted jackets – and one wonders, where and what is Switzerland amidst this perfection that was manifestly manufactured for tourists?

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