Mountain Adventures with the Ruzicka Grandparents!

My folks, including my afraid-of-heights Dad, actually braved the 8 hour flight from Minneapolis to Basel for a second time. Just to see us! Oh, and probably because I promised Mom loads of chocolate.

They were here at Christmas to visit and decided that they should probably also see Switzerland in the summer.  We talked a few times and they mentioned some things they kind of wanted to see. An Alp was mentioned. As were “chocolate factory” and “cruise on the Rhine.”

Very doable.

I gave them a day to adjust and then took them right up Mt. Pilatus.  It was going to be 99F in Basel. Since we do not have air conditioning here, heading to a mountain where it is about 15 degrees cooler is pretty much necessary.

I chose Pilatus for a couple of reasons.  1) We’ve been there before so I know the terrain. 2) There is a cog-wheel rail available so you don’t have to climb all the way up on your own two feet. Great for people with some mobility issues. 3) There is food up there. 4) The view is outstanding.

Really, if you have people who come to you and say, “I want to see an Alp,” but they don’t want to go all the way to Interlakken, direct them to Pilatus.  It’s an easy day trip from Basel and Zurich and once you are done you can take a boat ride across Lake Lucerne and have dinner along the river in downtown Lucerne. It’s a complete Swiss experience.

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The cog-wheel train that hauls us up the mountain. It’s the steepest in the world at 48% grade in some places.
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The seats are stair-stepped up. It allows everyone to have a great view and to sit relatively upright.

Here is the other option for getting up Mt. Pilatus.  The trail!  Look at it zig! Watch it zag!  There were people actually running up the trail.  Running.

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The backside of that zig-zag trail. There were people *running* on it.

Of course the first thing we saw were parasailers.  Parasailers are a very common sight in Switzerland. Many of the mountains in Switzerland have platforms or mildly sloping hills that allow people to run, jump off the mountain, and trust meteorological physics to overcome the laws of gravity.

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The next thing we saw were alpine horn players.  We got to sit down and listen to these two musicians perform duets as we ate lunch at the outdoor restaurant. It was almost as if I had planned and organized it myself.  It is a shame that Americans only know the alpine horn through the Riccola commercials.  It is such a haunting and lovely tone that drifts through the mountains.

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The alpine horns make the view even better.

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We took these pictures from the Dragon Path at the top of Pilatus.  The Dragon Path begins as a tunnel with large windows at semi-regular intervals before it connects to a stairway and an open path with only thin metal rope between you and death.  My kids love it.

IMG_2226The tunnel portion of the path makes it perfect for people who have a mild to serious fear of heights, like my dad.  You get to feel like you are on a porch and it’s so high that the scene is too surreal to really sink in.IMG_2233  IMG_2231IMG_2217  IMG_2241

Dad’s friends won’t believe it, but here he is! Up high! And near the edge!

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But not that near the edge for long ….

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That is a looooong way down.

There is another way up or down Mt. Pilatus.  It’s the gondola.  We skipped that pleasure this time as it is very high and actually very long. It is almost 5000 meters long and takes about 20 minutes to get from the top to Kreins, a city just north of Lucerne.  The view must be spectacular and there is always a line to board.

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Once we were done taking in the sights we took the train back down the mountain and started the next part of the tour: a boat trip across Lake Lucerne to the city of Lucerne.

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I think this was a real highlight for my parents. My dad loves to fish and my mom has always loved being near the water.IMG_2250

We even found a dragon near Heiligsweil. IMG_2252

Dad's first selfie. It's a truly historic moment.
Dad’s first selfie. It’s a truly historic moment.

We cruised for an hour all across the lake and then came into the beautiful port of Lucerne.

IMG_2253I was so excited to show my parents the parts of Switzerland I really loved the best.  And one of my favorite places is the Kapellbrücke in Lucerne.  It is the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge and is an icon of Switzerland.

IMG_2256 IMG_2258 IMG_2259I took them over the bridge and then around some of the old town before we headed back to Basel to rest and recuperate.

And boy! did they need it! Our next adventure involved making chocolate and cruising on the Rhine!  Coming soon!


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