Don’t say cheese! Swiss village bans photos of scenery to avoid upsetting people who can’t visit

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A Swiss village has banned taking photos of its picturesque landscape, saying people who can’t visit might feel “unhappy” when viewing them online. Social media users have snapped back, with some saying the village should be relocated to North Korea.

Authorities in the village of Bergün/Bravuogn, which has a German/Romansh double name, made their decision at a municipal assembly, the village tourist office said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It is scientifically proven that beautiful holiday photos on social media make the viewers unhappy because they cannot be there themselves,” the statement added. They especially deemed this to be the case with Bergün/Bravuogn, which has “a particularly picturesque landscape to offer.”

“Bergün/Bravuogn is beautiful. We don’t want to make people outside the community unhappy by sharing social media photos of our picturesque landscape, and we cordially invite you to visit Bergün to experience it for yourself,” Mayor Peter Nicolay’s office said in a press release.

“I am very pleased that the inhabitants of Bergün have the happiness of all people at heart. That makes me very proud,” it added.

Those who are not as concerned with humanity’s happiness – and continue to take photographs of the village’s landscape – will pay a “symbolic” fine of 5 Swiss francs ($5), according to the authorities.

“Mayor Peter Nicolay calls upon all inhabitants and visitors of Bergün/Bravuogn to respect the cordial prohibition of photography and to enjoy the unique landscape of Bergün with their own eyes.”

Somewhat ironically, the ban itself made social media users unhappy. Many called it “idiotic” and “shameful,” saying that tourists will simply stop visiting the village.

“In general, a person has a right to take photos of nature everywhere… If you want to make it illegal, relocate [your village] to North Korea. No doubt they will welcome you there,” one person sarcastically wrote.

“There is neither common sense, nor [reason] for this law. I will take and share photos further, and gladly will pay a fine,” one person wrote. “I … hope it [the ban] will immediately be lifted.”
Some people wondered if the ban would concern webcams, security cameras or police surveillance operations.

Bergün/Bravuogn’s tourist office addressed all the comments, admitting that “the new law would not appeal to everyone.”
Others, though, got the picture and suspected clever PR… and were at least partly correct.

“In the background of course the idea is that everyone talks about Bergün. So it’s a combination of both – we made the law and also there’s some marketing [aim] behind it,” Marc-Andrea Barandun, the Bergün/Bravuogn director of tourism, told the Local. He added that it was unlikely that anyone would actually be fined.  

Bergün/Bravuogn has some 700 inhabitants. The 67km Albula Railway which crosses the village has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008. 

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