In one of my earlier posts for Valentine’s day, I mentioned a town called Lucerne from Switzerland as one of my 10 romantic destinations. A few days back, I was browsing through my memories of Europe and that got back to my visit to Lucerne. I honestly, spend only half a day here but that was enough for Lucerne to charm me – so much that I dream of going there again.
So,what was it about this quaint town of Switzerland that had me captivated? Let me start with a quick introduction to the town itself.
Lucerne is a small town in the German speaking part of Switzerland. It is quite popular among the tourists owing to its location – it is more of a gateway to popular places like Mount Titlis and Mount Rigis. It is almost like a nodal center for Central Switzerland. It’s no wonder that you will find that a lot of travel companies take this town as a obvious halt.
In my case, this was a town that we spend an evening in after our visit to Mount Titlis. After the crazy snow experience at Mount Titlis ( Oh yes, one of these days, will share that too) , this town was a welcome change. Surrounded by the same Swiss Alps and a bright blue lake in the middle, the town charmed me as soon as our bus drove in. And as I set about exploring it, I fell in love with it. Here goes my list of things that added to the Charm and Lure of Lucerne –
I finally understood the meaning of crystal blue water when I saw Lucerne Lake. With the Swiss Alps as the backdrop, the lake was just stunning. Add to that the white cruise liner zipping through and the various boats around it, the scene looked like straight out of those stunning Hollywood and Bollywood movies where the rich and famous just spend a day on their yacht. I understand that you can book a cruise here but with the little time that we had, I could not experience the same. However, even standing by its shore and gazing out at the infinity was good enough.
The Lion Monument
This monument earned itself the tag of being the “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world” from none other than the famous author – Mark Twain. One look at it and you will know why. A dying lion in a battlefield denoted by shields and spears. The mournful expression of the lion really evokes some pity within you. And with its history, you feel even more sad.
Swiss guards were well known across Europe for their discipline and bravery and hence, were frequently employed by the other European Royals for their protection. The French too, had done so and the Swiss Guards were the key guards at the Palais of Versailles for King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Almost the entire lot was wiped out by an attack from the French revolutionaries. A commander was actually guillotined along with the Royal family. As a memorial to these brave soldiers, one of the Captains – Captain Carl Pfyffer von Altishofen, who happened to be home for a holiday and hence, escaped this wrath – commissioned this monument. It was designed by a Danish artist – Bertel Thorvaldsenwhilst and given this history, you can well imagine the significance of the dying lion.
If you notice, you will see these words inscribed on the monument, just above the lion – “Helvetiorum fedei ac Virtuti”. This basically means “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”. Below the lion are inscribed the names of the Swiss soldiers. Also, notice two Roman numerals DCCLX (760) and CCCL (350). The first is the number of soldiers who died while the latter indicates the number which survived.
Around here is a small park and with the limited time that we had, we had to skip it. When we got back into our bus, the tour guide asked us to see our photograph again and guess if there was another animal that we could spot. None of us got it right, but as informed by the guide, the alcove where the lion was resting was shaped like a pig. There is quite a vengeful story around that.
It seems that the sculptor was not paid or honored as promised by the Swiss authorities and in a fit of anger, carved the alcove to denote what he thought of the authorities. Can you spot it now?
This monument is one of the most popular ones in Europe and is around 20 ft high and 33 ft wide. It is built out of the quarry stone that was found in this town.
The Historic Chapel Bridge
The Kapellbrücke or the Chapel bridge connects the Old Lucerne Town to the New across the river Reuss. The 14th century bridge is one of the oldest in Europe and was named so owing to its proximity to the St.Peter’s Chapel. The most charming part of this bridge is the fact that it is a wooden foot bridge, with beautiful paintings adorning its roof. These were painted by a local painter – Hans Heinrich Wägmann and depicts scenes from history of the town itself. There were around 147 such paintings but sadly, a fire destroyed most of them. Somehow, they managed to save around 30 of them and as you walk along the bridge, you can admire the same.
The bridge itself used to be 660 ft but owing to the developments on the banks of the river, is now reduced to only 550 ft. A water tower or Wasserturm is constructed near it. Contrary to my expectation of it being a water storage tank, it was in fact, used as a prison and a torture chamber. There is a fair amount that went inside and well, unfortunately, you are no longer allowed to visit inside. It now functions as a municipal chamber.
My walk along this bridge was just so amazing. With gorgeous waterscape around me, historic paintings along my path and pretty swans gliding around, what was there not to like. We spend quite sometime leaning over and watching these graceful white creatures showing off their beauty.
One thing that I will always associate with the swans and the river is this incident. I was so intent capturing them that my camera cap tipped over and fell into the lake. How I wished the swan would have given it back. The only consolation I have is that thankfully, my camera was still with me 😀
The time I spend here was just so peaceful and tranquil. The town also, has another popular bridge called Spreuer Bridge. That I have left for my next visit.
One of the things that we managed to do is get lost in the small little streets of Lucerne. There was an old world charm to them with cute colorful buildings and its sloping roofs on each side. The houses reminded me of the stick drawings that kids make of houses.
I could not really explore them in detail but I believe they are quite special. I also, could not go to the Old town with its ancient wall but from the glimpses that I got in these streets, I could well imagine what that part of the town would have looked like. The heritage buildings totally appealed to me. I believe there are free-walking tours in Lucerne that help you discover these. Again Time was my enemy and well, am glad at least I got to see a little.
Close to the lake is where I discovered the joy of Swiss shopping. From cute little Swiss bells to Swiss crockery and Swiss watches, there were just enough shops to browse and buy stuff. One of the reasons that Lucerne is very close to my heart is the special watch that my hubby gifted me with. Was the watch unusual? Nope. It was just the magic of the place, the romantic vibe in the atmosphere and the thoughtful gesture that made it all so perfect.
Right from the Lake to the small alleys near Lion Monument or the banks of the River Seuss, there were people enjoying the mild sun at these cute open-air cafes. There was something charming about them – like they were not in a rush and that they wanted you to just sit around and enjoy the gorgeous landscape around. I really cannot comment about the food but it was just the atmosphere in these cafe that beckoned and charmed me. I could have spent hours just lounging around with a cup of coffee or even better – Swiss hot chocolate.
Lucerne has an inexplicable draw – a tranquil and romantic feeling that lingers in its air. All the reasons that I have mentioned so far are a lot more appealing owing to this mystic aura of Lucerne. So, if you are headed to Switzerland, it is definitely one of the places that are a must-visit and a must-experience. After my visit here, I truly feel that Lucerne is definitely one of the reasons why Switzerland is considered as a romantic destination. What do you think? Do you concur ?
Getting to Lucerne:
- Zurich is the nearest international airport to Lucerne.
- From Zurich, one can either take a bus or a train to Lucerne.
- As mentioned earlier, Lucerne is also, a nerve center for Central Switzerland and hence, is equally well-connected to the other parts of Switzerland by both – road and train.
- Refer to this link for an official website of Lucerne. You can get information on all events and tourist attractions here.
- You can download an app from the website as a guide to this city.
- The best way to commute within the city is to walk around. It is a small town and extremely pedestrian friendly.
- English is well understood here.
- The best currency to transact here is Swiss Francs. Though the shops accept Euros, they will likely return back the change only in Swiss Francs.
- Summers are the best season to enjoy the outdoors and the Lucerne lake.
- There are plenty of festivals and free walking tours of Lucerne. You can look them up on the website mentioned above.
- Plenty of accommodation – from basic bed and breakfast to high end hotels, is available in Lucerne.
- Food options are in plenty – from traditional Swiss breads to Indian cuisines. Lucerne has it all. Remember to taste the berries – Strawberry and Blueberry, when here in Summer. They are the best that I have tasted across Europe.