Bliss in the Swiss sun­shine

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - ROSLYN JOLLY

The sun­shine feels sweet on my skin, and for me that’s a strange ex­pe­ri­ence. When I was 19 I went to see a der­ma­tol­o­gist, who clucked his tongue and shook his head over the mar­riage made in Eczemopo­lis be­tween my Ir­ish com­plex­ion and the Aus­tralian cli­mate. “The sun is your en­emy,” he an­nounced. I be­came the per­son who al­ways chose an in­door ta­ble, sat un­der a tree or shel­tered be­neath awnings. If there was a patch of shade to be found, I’d be in it. I amassed an ex­trav­a­gant col­lec­tion of hats.

But now I’m sit­ting, hat­less and un­shel­tered, on a ho­tel ter­race bathed in mag­nif­i­cent sun­shine at Muot­tas Muragl, 2456m above sea level in the Up­per En­ga­dine re­gion of Switzer­land. And I’m lov­ing it.

The Swiss are proud of their sun­shine, and nowhere more so than in the St Moritz area, which for more than 80 years has re­joiced in the mar­ket­ing logo of a gen­tly smil­ing so­lar face. So strong is lo­cal con­fi­dence that tourist lit­er­a­ture prom­ises an av­er­age of 320 sunny days a year. But I seem to have landed on one of the other 45.

The morn­ing is over­cast and I chuckle to my­self over the much-vaunted sun­shine’s fail­ure to ma­te­ri­alise. But at about noon, the fa­mous Maloja wind, de­pend­able as Swiss clock­work, be­gins to blow down into the val­ley, push­ing the equally cel­e­brated “clouds of Sils Maria” be­fore it. As a stream of vapour slith­ers be­tween the moun­tain peaks the haze over­head breaks up, the sky bright­ens and a heav­enly light shines on the land­scape.

There’s an en­tranc­ing soft­ness to this glow and warmth that feels so dif­fer­ent from the scorch­ing heat of our sum­mers, although it’s pow­er­ful enough to meet all the energy needs of the ho­tel and still re­turn a so­lar sur­plus. Peo­ple come up here to eat on the ho­tel ter­race, to hike the net­work of well-main­tained walk­ing trails, and to marvel at the panoramic view of Alpine lakes and moun­tains. But most of all, it seems to me, they come here to soak up the sun.

Who­ever main­tains this site has cre­ated won­der­fully com­fort­able ways to do that. There are elab­o­rate bas­ketchairs, rem­i­nis­cent of the English sea­side, wicker pods de­signed to block any wind while catch­ing the sun­shine. There are sunbeds where you can stretch full length, as well as com­pan­ion­able bench-seats an­gled to get the best views and the most rays. Sim­plest of all, you can just sprawl on the grass shar­ing the space peace­fully with glossy Swiss cows. Hu­mans and cat­tle seem to be do­ing the same thing, lux­u­ri­at­ing in thought­less, word­less so­lar bliss. See­ing the two species to­gether in this way makes me think of the Vic­to­ri­ans’ med­i­cal con­cept of “an­i­mal spir­its” and their be­lief that ex­po­sure to sun­shine was one of the best ways to ac­ti­vate that vi­tal energy.

Back in Aus­tralia, I’m at a rou­tine ap­point­ment when my doc­tor men­tions my blood re­sults are show­ing good lev­els of vi­ta­min D. Have I been tak­ing a sup­ple­ment? Not at all. I re­alise that since my visit to Switzer­land I’ve had a new at­ti­tude to sun­shine. I’m still care­ful but I’ve stopped hid­ing from it. I now think of its rays as a bless­ing, not a curse, and I linger a lit­tle longer in their warmth be­fore I move, re­gret­fully, into the shade.

My day in the Swiss moun­tains has changed the way I feel about the sun. We’re friends now.

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