Luzern - Swans, Ducks and Charm
Luzern was the last stop on my trip to Switzerland and ended up being a perfect city in which to conclude our tour of this beautiful country. My husband and I had been lucky so far with the weather, but at this time of year, spring can be fickle and conditions can change quickly, which they did on May 17th. Because we wanted to see Mount Rigi, and spend a day traveling to and hiking that area, I stopped at the Tourist Information center located at Luzern’s train station. And, what an incredible train station it is, too. I’ll get back to this later.
I had not made a practice of utilizing the Tourist Centers in Europe, but realized its value to check out the conditions before taking the cogwheel train up the mountains. It was wise of us to talk to them - they discouraged us from purchasing a ticket due to weather conditions. This was most helpful, as it saved us from utilizing a travel day on our Swiss Rail FlexiPass. Heavy cloud cover was expected to move in and envelope the region, and had we gone up, we wouldn’t have been able to see a thing. The agent was even kind enough to check alternate areas of Switzerland to which we might take a day trip (e.g. Lugano and areas near the Italian border), but said that the weather there was no better. Though discouraged, we greatly appreciated her advice and reconciled ourselves to staying in Luzern. The agent recommended some lake boat trips that we could take advantage of. Even though the weather wasn’t due to be sunny and warm, we still could travel in the immediate area. We decided on a two hour round-trip boat ride to Küssnacht.
I know, you’re wondering when I’m going to get to the "Swans, Ducks & Charm". After we checked into our hotel, Hotel Waldstätterhof (which is conveniently located across the street from the train station), we headed out to see the city. Since the 19th century, Luzern has been a favorite of tourists, and understandable so. The Alstadt (Old Town) has retained its beauty and charm along the Reuss River. This lovely strolling promenade is where you will find inviting eateries on the riverbanks and many happy swans and ducks in the water. It’s a popular gathering spot where tourists marvel at the Chapel Bridge, the oldest wooden bridge in Europe (dating from the 14th century). Even though part of it was damaged in 1993 by fire, it was lovingly restored and remains a symbol of Luzern to this day. This city is a very comfortable walking city where you can roam the sidestreets and browse endlessly in the storefronts.TIPS:
One of the wonderful aspects to traveling in Europe is that many of the train stations serve not only as a transport location for travelers, but also as very inviting shopping malls. Train stations tend to be public meeting spaces where locals congregate along with arriving & departing passengers to shop for a variety of goods (bakeries, food stores, restaurants, electronics, liquor stores, etc.). I only wish that the bakeries in the U.S. were as attractive and as appealing as those I encountered in Switzerland’s train terminals.
Matter of fact, I came to rely on a convenience offered in the Swiss train terminals which was well worth the small fee required. For 2 CHF (Swiss franc), one can always depend on finding safe and sanitary bathrooms there as well. We encountered a chain called McClean at which for 2 CHF (Swiss Francs) you can utilize their facilities with confidence. Actually, this is not particular to Switzerland, many of Europe’s train stations also have similar facilities for the traveling public – many offering more elaborate facilities with showers and private locker rooms.
Don’t miss one of Luzern’s most interesting attractions: The Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), depicts a dying lion, pierced by a spear. This massive sculpture was carved into the sandstone cliff by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen, and was unveiled in 1821. The monument honors the memory of the Swiss Guards, who served and protected Louis XVI of France. These guards defended the Palais des Tuileries in Paris during the French Revolution and those that were not killed in that storming by revolutionaries were later guillotined. It is well worth the visit and is only a short walk up Lowenstrasse.