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Is This Swiss Village Too Beautiful to Photograph?

A savvy, crazy successful publicity stunt made it seem like it was.

The lovely village of Bergün/Bravuogn, in Switzerland. Don't be sad.
The lovely village of Bergün/Bravuogn, in Switzerland. Don’t be sad. Hansueli Krapf

The mountain village of Bergün is—like many such villages in Switzerland—alarmingly picturesque. Green, tree-studded hills give way to swelling mountains. Small white houses dot the landscape and, every once in a while, a bright red train trundles through.

Unlike its fellow villages, though, Bergün recently engaged a bit of introspection. At a municipal assembly meeting this past Monday, May 29, villagers passed a law banning tourist photography.

Their stated intention? Cutting down on FOMO. “It is scientifically proven that beautiful holiday photos on social media make the viewer unhappy because they can’t be there themselves,” the village tourist office wrote in a statement translated by The Local.

Вы просто не можете не поставить лайк 💗за совершенно безумную историю про то, каков он #беспощадныймаркетинг в Швейцарии! 🙈🙈🙈 . «Научно доказано, что красивые фото из отпуска, опубликованные в соцсетях, делают других людей – тех, кто просматривает снимки, – несчастными, так как сами они не находятся в этом месте», – говорит администрация и запрещает фотографировать свою деревню из-за её исключительной красоты. 😂🤦🏻‍♀️ . Туристическое ведомство не отрицает, что это часть маркетинговой стратегии, но тут же уточняет, что запрет введён на законодательном уровне и имеет юридическую силу. Отныне тех, кто фоткается в деревне Бергюн, штрафуют. . И лично меня не столько возмущает сам штраф, как учёные, которые занимались исследованием инстаграма на наличие несчастных людей при виде крутых фотографий 😂 . Вывод какой? Фотографий из отпуска не будет!!! #снимитеэтонемедленно

A post shared by 💪🏽ЖЕЛЕЗНЫЙ МИР 📝Пишу 📢Пиарю (@propuskova) on

“We don’t want to make people outside the community unhappy by sharing social media photos of our picturesque landscape,” the mayor, Peter Nicolay, later added.

After the vote, the village moved forward quickly with the plan, and instituted a five-franc fee ($5.19) for shutterbug scofflaws. The tourist office removed photos from Twitter and Facebook, and began taking them down from the official website as well. They even installed at least one “No Photography” sign, at a scenic location.

There’s no better way to make someone want to do something than to tell them they can’t. The initial announcement spawned three days of diverse, widespread press coverage, by outlets from The Sun (“Swiss village bans tourists taking photos as it’s TOO PRETTY for Instagram”) to the International Business Times (“Swiss village bans cameras in bid to promote happiness online”).

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. -Franklin D. Roosevelt

A post shared by Maru Alvarez Morphy (@marualvarezmorphy_photo) on

All this is to say that the publicity stunt worked, well, beautifully. Three days after the ban was passed, the village overturned it.

“The commune never thought this initiative would generate so much media interest,” Nicolay said, in a new statement. “It seems there is huge interest in Bergün.”

There certainly is now. If anyone has photos of Nicolay high-fiving members of the tourism office, please post them.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.