The Swiss Family Carlson go to Lucerne!

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.

 

Me in front of the Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke. And, look! Mountains!
Me in front of the Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke. And, look! Mountains!

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 curve in the Kapellbruke. It was such a lovely walk.
The curve in the Kapellbruke. It was such a lovely walk.

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.

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The fountain in the Platz.
the
The Rathaus, or city hall. A center of trade and government in Lucerne. And center of the revolt.

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.

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You can really tell the change of the seasons by what appears on the vegetable carts. Cabbages, onions, potatoes along with pumpkins and squash.

 

Fresh Bread!  We buy bread every day during the week, but Saturday morning bread cart is incredibly important. The bread you buy Saturday has to last until Monday morning since no shops are open on Sunday.
Fresh Bread! We buy bread every day during the week, but Saturday morning bread cart is incredibly important. The bread you buy Saturday has to last until Monday morning since no shops are open on Sunday.

 

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A rare sighting! Chilies! They are sold in firework bouquets and can be dried or used right away.
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Fresh Cheese! There are about 30 different varieties of cheese in the cart. And along the right is fresh milk, cream, and spreadable cheeses like mascarpone.
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The Swiss love lavender. Lavender is planted along paths, in public gardens, and front box gardens throughout Basel. Lucerne doesn’t have quiet as much, but you can buy these lovely bouquets and sachets in any market.
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The lovely city along the Reuss River. The architecture dates from the formation of the city and through the 16th century.
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Swans! I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. There were swans everywhere along this part of the river. They added a wonderful charm and beauty to the city.

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.

The whole building is painted in a beautiful 16th century theme.
The whole building is painted in a beautiful 16th century theme.

 

A metal work phoenix holding a lantern on one of the buildings.
A metal work phoenix holding a lantern on one of the buildings.
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I was thinking this sort of design might look good on Mom and Dad’s house. They are remodeling and re-siding the entire house. I’m sure this won’t cost very much and can be done in a snap! Even the bricks on the side are painted on!
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Or maybe something like this, Mom? The “Tree of Life” motif for a farm house?  As you can see this building dates to 1530 and the building was repaired in 1895.

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.

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The wall. Tall. Long. Effective.
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The walkway at the inside, top of the wall. I imagine the archers and soldiers on watch had more room than this to work with.
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The tower portion of the wall.  We clambered up some wooden stairs and poked around. The boys were overly curious about the windows and I think I have about 30 new grey hairs.

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.

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The impressive view from the wall. You could see any army coming for about a week before they got to you.

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.

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E and Mark on the outside of the wall, talking about battle strategy and historic generals and conquerors.

 

The oldest clock tower in Switzerland. Possibly in the whole of Europe.  It is extremely beautiful and the climb to the top is extremely high.  The children enjoyed it very much.
The oldest clock tower in Switzerland. Possibly in the whole of Europe. It is extremely beautiful and the climb to the top is extremely high. The children enjoyed it very much.

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.


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