As part of our trip to Mount Pilatus, we spent the night in Lucerne and toured the city the next day. Lucerne! The City of Lights! And a really long covered bridge.
Lucerne is a charming town and several of our friends here have named it as their favorite city in the whole of Switzerland. It’s a mid-sized city of about 76,000 people and within a few minutes train ride of two major mountains, Pilatus and Rigi, in the Alps. With the lake right there and tier after tier of mountain, Lucerne is just one great view after another.
The Lucerne area was probably populated forever, but a Benedictine monastery was founded nearby in 750 AD and in 1178 AD, the city was officially founded. Being surrounded by mountains and bordered by a lake gave them a huge strategic advantage. They were protected by the mountains and the lake is so huge and flat you are going to see an army coming for days. They built a wall on the hill at the back of the city around 1290-1300 and completed their fortifications. They were secure and a perfect location for commerce. In fact, Lucerne was part of the Gotthard Trade Route that took trade to and from Italy to Northern German.
Mark informs me that this platz and fountain is where the other Swiss Cantons met and decided to form the Swiss Confederacy and break away from the Hapsburgs in 1332.
Like all cities in Switzerland, Lucerne has an open-air market along the Reuss River. On one side is a flea market full of antiques, second-hand shoes and clothes, and hand-crafted goods. I actually found one of the cow bells that all the cows in the Swiss Alps wear. I wanted to buy it, but then I’d have to spend weeks explaining what happened to the cow that used to wear it to the 5 year old. So, no cow bell.
The other side of the river has all the food markets. One thing about Switzerland that I am amazed at is how lovely the produce is! It looks as if it were just picked that morning and carted in moments later.
A lot of the buildings in Lucerne have the look of 15th and 16th century buildings. And they probably are given that there were several wars in the 14th and 15th century and many buildings were destroyed or just torn down and rebuilt over the passage of time as the city grew and developed. One thing that I’ve seen a little bit around Basel is some ornate painting on the buildings. Lucerne has A LOT of this kind of painting. The figures look 16th century. Or maybe late-15th century.
As the last big thing we did in Lucerne we visiting the old city wall. The city has grown well beyond the walls, but the city wall is remarkably well intact. And there are llamas and longhorned cattle grazing in the pasture on the outside of the wall that provide a smell that brings you right back to the Dark Ages.
You would think that after hiking around Mount Pilatus being a measly 20 feet off the ground would feel like nothing. You would be wrong. Being up on the wall was just as hair-raising as being on the mountain. When you have children who like to run and jump no matter where they are and show absolutely no regard for their personal safety you, too, will feel the same way. But, as you can see below, the view is lovely.
The wall itself is built on a small hill just outside the old town. The hill adds to the walls height. I didn’t check to see if there had been a moat. I don’t think one was necessary.
We ended our tour with a look inside the Clock Tower. Everything inside is maintained like it should be and the clock keeps perfect time. Well, almost perfect. Being the oldest clock the town council has allowed its bells to chime 1 minute before any other clock in town. I was standing right be the mechanism when it chimed 11:00am. A propeller whirled around and moved an arm attached to a rope that ran up through the floor above to a metal hammer. Each time the arm moved the hammer above struck the side of the bell. It wasn’t the sweetest sounding bell, but it did the job.
We had a wonderfully British lunch of burgers and fish-n-chips at a pub next to the river. Then we set off for the train station and back to Basel.
And what will our next adventure be? Who knows! Perhaps Interlaken. Maybe more exploration of Basel. Maybe a quick excursion to Germany to prove that the Basel tram line actually goes across the border. Or perhaps somewhere more exotic.