Trip: Switzerland May 2022
May 4-7 Arrival and Lucerne
We flew to Zurich on May 4th on a flight with American Airlines. Everything perfectly on time, as if a preview of the orderliness we would find upon arrival! We picked up our rental car at the airport and drove to our first stop, Lucerne.
Though our hotel was not legally accessible by car, we were able to drop our suitcases off at the door and then find parking at the train station – just 5-minute walk away. Our hotel, Hotel des Alpes, was quite nice thought the rooms were small. We rested that first afternoon, hoping to catch a few hours of the sleep we missed the night of the flight, but we were out of the hotel by 5:00pm and exploring.
It seems that whenever I come to a new city, I am drawn to visit the cathedral first. Lucerne was no exception. This is a habit I developed early in my traveler’s life, mostly because I was drawn to the churches that are significant in the story of art and architecture. Even though the churches in Switzerland are not renowned for this, it still seems fitting that the introduction to a new city should start at the cathedral.
Most of the two days we spent in Lucerne were spent walking the streets, crisscrossing the river on covered bridges, discovering wonderful little shops. The weather was grey and drizzly; but the drizzle did not stop us from walking. We were forewarned and brought (in my case, bought) umbrellas.
From my first steps in Lucerne, I was captivated by the painted facades of the buildings. You’ll see that they never ceased to attract my attention and my camera lens! (be sure to click on those side arrows to see the additional images.)
Because of the rainy weather, we visited the Sammlung Rosengart (museum), famous for it’s collection of Picassos and Paul Klees. I found the exhibition quite interesting. Herr Siegfried Rosengart was an art dealer, which explains his access to these two painters in particular, but also to the other works in his collection. The museum and the collection are the legacy of his daughter, Angela Rosengart. Her importance in the scheme of the museum is evident in the number of paintings that feature her! (Can you just imagine having Picasso paint you, again and again?)
One of the features of Lucerne are the covered bridges that span the River Reuss. One was right in front of our hotel, and we crossed it often, just for the fun of it. It turns out that “our” bridge was destroyed by a fire caused by a cigarette, but it was rebuilt from “inventory” (that’s according to the guide book) and so looks very much the same as it might have were it the original. The bridges are notable also for the painted inserts in the roof beams that depict scenes from the history of Switzerland.
We also explored the Musseg Towers, the remnants of the medieval fortress walls of the city. And of course, we sought out the Lion statue and the Glacier Garden (Gletschergarten). The Lion Monument is an impressive(and expressive) sculpture that commemorates the 850 Swiss Guards killed in Paris protecting the Royal Palace during the revolution in 1792. The glacier park is interesting because of its origin as an amusement park in the 19th century. You can imagine ladies with parasols wandering around on the paths and enjoying the gimmicks of amusement park of the day – many of those “gimmicks” are treated more scientifically today, but they are equally entertaining. We enjoyed the Hall of Mirrors (built in 1896), and a long, deep, dark stairway that took us backward in time through the ages of the rock formation, complete with dooming, gloomy music. It was eerie and a bit terrifying.
Our final morning we were treated with a market along the quay in front of our hotel – abundant with flowers for Mother’s Day.
We have found food to be considerably more expensive than we are used to, but prices are consistent. They are on a different scale, so it has had a higher impact on the budget than we imagined. I might guess that it is about 25% more expensive than either Wisconsin or Puerto Rico, our comparison points (though Puerto Rico has gotten a lot more expensive since the pandemic!).
One dinner, I tried raclette. The waiter was kind enough to show me how to do it: Grill the slice of cheese, combine it with pickled onions and (cucumber) pickles, scrape it onto boiled potatoes. It was very good, but a lot of food, definitely enough for two – particularly when you consider we could have had bread with it, too! Gerry had a delicious wurst in a brown onion sauce with rosti. (Also, delicious.)
You will find that there is plenty of Italian food in Switzerland – pasta and pizza options abound – especially if you are looking to spend less on food.
We arrived on Thursday, and spent all day Friday in Lucerne, and left Saturday late morning. We loved the town, even without being able to take advantage of the lake or the mountains because of the rain and the low clouds. The most famous thing to do in Lucerne is take a boat trip on the lake and the rack rail up Mount Pilate. The weather was not conducive to getting anything out of those activities, but the lake and the river Reuss are features of Lucerne that add to its mystique and allure. We are here at a good time of year (good year?) because there are relatively few tourists (not even our plane was full).
In Lucerne, most people speak to us in German, thinking (?) we are German tourists. Everyone speaks English, too – and Italian – and French – and Spanish, and who knows how many other languages! It is amazing to find and hear so many multilingual people. Though the people in Lucerne were not so friendly on the street, once you engaged with someone, they were extremely affable and friendly, and helpful. I felt very welcomed in Lucerne.