Thursday, April 26, 2012

June 10 - Day 3 - Lucerne, Switzerland

June 10 - Day 3 - Lucerne, Switzerland

We woke up early this morning to take the train to Lucerne. Our goal was to see the city, specifically Kapellbrucke, the most recognizable symbol of Lucerne, Lake Lucerne, hike around Mt. Pilatus, and see Lion Mountain.

Once we arrived we headed for the campground to make sure we had a place to stay for the night. We stayed at a place called Camping International Lido Luzern. Rather than pay for the campsite, you pay per person, so the campsites in Europe were pretty expensive, this one was no exception. Although they are all well maintained and included a shower, something a lot of campgrounds in the U.S. can’t claim.

After getting our campsite organized we headed for Kapellbrucke. This is a covered bridge that spans the Reuss River in the old part of town. It has flowers along it’s railings on each side with hand painted triangular roof panels on the ceiling. The images depict important events from Swiss history and mythology. At one end of the bridge is a water tower with Mt. Pilatus in the background. It is definitely worth spending some time to see.

I collect shot glasses so I purchased one from Lucerne outside of the Kapelbrucke. I think we also bought a few postcards as well. We also walked around the town along the waterfront to view some of the architecture and other sites. They included Kurplatz, St. Peter’s Church, Altes Rauthaus, Mills Bridge, Hirschenplatz, and panoramic views of the area.

After seeing all of these we headed over to one of the other main attractions of Lucerne, Lion Mountain. This is a lion carved out of the side of a sandstone cliff in honor of the Swiss Guards who died trying to save the life of Marie Antoinette. Mark Twain visited the site and said it was the saddest rock in all the world. I thought it was pretty cool. It's a little out of the way, but worth the walk to get there. It overlooks a small pond. I remember it being pretty warm for most of the morning and very clear.

After seeing the parts of town we wanted to see we took a 1 ½ hour boat ride on Lake Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus. The ride was free with our train passes. We crossed the river to arrive at Alpnachstad. Mt. Pilatus is named after Pointius Pilate. Mythology claimed it was haunted by the ghost of Pilate and was illegal to climb for centuries.

It was windy, cold, and rainy for most of the afternoon. It rained almost every day we were in Switzerland, but it made the scenery very green.

From here we took a cog railway, which has a 48% incline, the steepest railway in the world. At the top we had some great views over Lake Lucerne, the countryside, and the surrounding cities.

We must have spent an hour or so at the top. There were a lot of hiking routes you could take, some around the top to see different views. There was a small tunnel/cave you could walk into, a restaurant, and longer hikes that led to surrounding cities. Switzerland is very well designed for hiking, but the hikes are very steep. Luckily, they have cable cars connecting most of the country as well. You cold literally cross the country by cable car, with a few portions of hiking in between.

In order to come down we decided to take a different route. We took a cable car down the opposite side of the mountain, which included different views and ended up in Kriens. From here we did a little hike through the city to the bus stop. We caught the first bus we could back to Lucerne.

Since it was Sunday we decided to go to mass at one of the local churches. They had a number of Catholic Churches in town, but for some reason this particular mass was empty. There were maybe twenty people there at most. It was kind of sad since it was a beautiful church. The mass was done in German, but I could understand what was taking place. All Catholic Churches do the same thing all over the world, even the same readings from one church to the other.

After church we headed to the other side of town to see the city wall. We had to walk fast since it was going to be closing soon. It was dusk and getting dark, but we were still able to enter and walk around on the wall for about 20 minutes. We didn't see as much as we would have liked, but it was still neat. On our way we passed a weird hairy cow-like animal.

At the end of our day we decided to see the town at night. Like Zurich, Lucerne was very safe, clean, organized, and a great place. It was also very expensive.

Since the food was expensive we didn’t eat a whole lot, I don't even remember eating lunch. We did purchase a pizza at a local pizzeria for dinner. The restaurant was right on the waterfront across from the Kapellbrucke bridge.

Pizzerias are all over Europe and are much different than American pizza places. The pizzas are much larger, thin crust, and intended to be personal. We decided to share it to save money. We had pepperoni, which isn’t like the pepperoni you get in the U.S. either. It was about $10 for each of us. I was trying to keep my food expenses under $10 a day and so far it was going well. But to keep this up would mean starving ourselves, which we had no problem doing as the trip went on to the point of delusion.

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