and I spent
first week of our honeymoon in Luzern, Switzerland back in July of
After the week, we toured around central Europe, but it started in
When people ask me about some of the best places we visited, I will
put Luzern at the top of the
Luzern (spelled Lucerne in English) is considered a pedestrian town
that is fun to walk around in.
is not a large city with only 180,000 inhabitants (still, it's the 8th
largest city in Switzerland). The weather is fairly
mild with an average temperature of around 50°.
History of LuzernHistorians don't know the origins of Luzern. It's name probably comes from the Celtic word lozzeria, which means, “a settlement on marshy ground”. Benedictine monks built a monastery here around the 8th Century (on the site of the Hofkirche St. Leodegar). Soon it came under the control of the Alsatian Abbey of Murbach (Franciscan monks). A small fishing village grew on the northern shore of the lake. In 1220, the Gotthard Pass opened in the south making Luzern part of the Trans-Alpine trade route causing the town to grew significantly.
Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf I of Habsburg (the Habsburgs were the ruling family of Austria) bought Luzern outright from the Abbey of Murbach in 1291. In the same year, the peasant farmers of the forest cantons Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden on the eastern shores of the lake formed a pact of mutual defense at Rütli against the Austrian threat. Luzern joined them in 1332, the first major city to do so. This was the beginning of the Swiss Confederation, which still survives today.
The Habsburg forces, under Duke Leopold III, tried to destroy the confederation, but their defeat in the Battle of Sempach (about 10 miles north of Luzern) on July 9, 1386 ended the Habsburg claim to Luzern (Leopold III was killed in the battle). To maintain their independence, the people of Luzern built the Musegg fortifications, which survive today. Today, on the first Saturday in July, the people of Luzern commemorate their victory over Leopold of Austria at Sempach with a day of festivities. The festivities include people dressed as soldiers who fought at Sempach (pictured at right).
Luzern remained Catholic throughout the Protestant Reformation and, like much of Switzerland, was ruled by patrician families up until the late 18th century revolutions. The early 19th-century quarrels in politics and religion led to civil war. Luzern was in the center of the rebel Sonderbund (a league of Roman Catholic cantons). After Confederate forces had reasserted their control, defeating the Sonderbund in 1847, they decided to pass over Luzern for the choice of federal capital.
With the opening of the Gotthard Railway tunnel in 1882, Luzern grew as a trade and tourists center. Today, over 180,000 people live in the city.
on July 12, we rented a car and drove down to Luzern (about 36 miles
took us about an hour - of course I did have to get used to a manual
again). We stayed in Des Balances
Hotel, a 19th century building and
of the prettiest hotels in Luzern (photo at right is from the entrance
in the Weinmarkt - see Debbie waving). According to the history of the
hotel, there was an Inn here in the year 1200. In 1807, the
current hotel was built. It has had many famous guests including the
Irish poet George Bernard Shaw and Queen Wilhelmine
Netherlands. It is in the heart of the old part
of the city
(Die Altstadt) in the Weinmarkt (Wine Market) next to the Reuss River
cuts through the city. As you look at the
picture on the left, you can see that the building has a very
interesting exterior. The paintings on the facade — done in the
style of famous painter Hans Holbein — are among the most photographed
subjects in Luzern. The hotel also has an excellent restaurant called
Gatter" (Red Gate).
They serve a complimentary breakfast every morning (almost every hotel
we stayed in did this). Our room was on the other side overlooking the
The photo at
right shows our hotel from the river side. The hotel is the five story
building with balcony's toward the left of the photo. Our room is the
balcony with the red flowers (geraniums) that is second from the top.
There are geraniums in many window boxes and outdoor restaurants
throughout Luzern as well as on the covered bridge. There is no air
conditioning in Luzern so people keep their windows open to let the
breezes in. The geraniums are to keep the flies out (they don't like
the smell of geraniums.) We had the
hardest time finding the hotel with the car.
Many of the streets in Europe are small and some are open only to
Of course, the Weinmarkt was not open to cars, but you are allowed to
in and unload. They parked the car for us and we didn't see it again
the end of our stay.
The River Reuss is one of the larger rivers in Switzerland. Here the Reuss leaves Lake Luzern (in German it's called the Vierwaldstaettersee) and flows north through the city. The Reuss continues through the Schöllenen Gorge and under the legendary Devil's Bridge at St. Gotthard Pass before joining the Aar. The Reuss, the Aar and the Limmat come together in the town of Brugg in northern Switzerland at the "Watercastle of Europe". After the confluence the river continues as the Aar, which flows into the Rhine, which runs north through Germany into the North Sea.
with a balcony overlooking the river with an incredible view (picture
below). From our balcony, you
the covered bridge (in
the Catholic Church (Jesuitenkirche) across
from us and in the distance was Mount Pilatus. Luzern
is on Lake Luzern or called in German, Vierwaldstätter See (lake
of the four forest cantons),
surrounded by mountains. The sea empties into the Reuss River that runs
trough the city. The river is spanned by a number of bridges. Next to
sea to the east is the main auto bridge called the Seebrücke. The
Kapellbrücke, one of the two covered wooden bridges is next. Their
is another small pedestrian bridge near the Old City Hall (Altes
where you can get great pictures of the Kapellbrücke like the one
with Debbie and I below at right. Further downriver, next to our hotel
is a autobridge called the
Reussbrücke. The next is the second covered wooden bridge, the
There are some more auto bridges including the highway bridge further
The most famous bridge (seen here and above) is the Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, which crosses the river at an angle making it very long - 656 feet in length. It is the oldest wooden bridge in Europe, and one of Switzerland's main tourist attractions. The bridge was built in the 14th century to protect the town, however it was heavily damaged by a fire in 1993. Today, the bridge has been totally repaired. It was named after St. Peter's Chapel, which is located nearby. In the middle of the river, next to the bridge, is an 112 foot high octagonal tower covered in tiles called the Wasserturm (water tower) that was also built to protect the bridge and the town. It has been used as an archive, treasury, prison and torture chamber. Today, there is a gift shop there. If you walk across the bridge, look up into the rafters. There are around 100 triangular wooden panels painted with scenes of Luzern's early history and the lives of St. Leodegar and St. Mauritius (St. Ledger and St. Maurice are Luzern's patron saints). The tower and the bridge are Lucerne's trademark and form the most photographed monument in the country. Without a doubt, this has to be the most romantic bridge in the world. We do make a good-looking honeymoon couple, don't we?
A word about the two patron saints of Luzern. St.
Maurice (also Moritz) was the leader of a 3rd century Roman Legion
entirely composed of Christians. It had been called from Thebes in
Egypt to Gaul to assist the Roman Emperor Maximian. However, when
Maximian ordered them to harass some local Christians, they refused and
Maximian ordered the unit punished. In response to their refusal to use
violence against fellow Christians, Maximian ordered all of the 6,600
men executed. The place in Switzerland where this occurred, known as
Agaunum, is now Saint Maurice-en-Valais, site of the Abbey of Saint
Maurice-en-Valais. St. Maurice became a patron saint of the Holy Roman
Emperors. Saint Leodegar or Leger was a 7th Century Bishop of Autun in
Burgundy, France. He was martyred by Ebroin— the mayor of the Palace of
The other famous covered bridge is the Spreurbrücke or "Mill Bridge" built in 1408. It is called the Spreuer Bridge because it was only here that chaffs of wheat (Spreu) could be dumped into the river. It also has painted wooden panels. There are a series of 67 medieval-style 17th Century plague paintings by Kaspar Meglinger titled Dance of Death. The Dance of Death, or Totentanz in German, is a late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the dance of death unites all. Meglinger's paintings portray various conditions of men and women, priests and warriors, princes and men of learning, the young bride, the devout nun, the lawmaker, the hunter, the miller, even the artist himself, are all depicted at the mercy of Death, with his mocking smile and his ever-changing garb. In the middle of the bridge is a very small chapel that was added in 1568 (that's the red spire in the middle). There are some small boats that go out onto the river, but you have to be careful because the current is very strong (which you can easily see). All along this part of the river, they have life-preservers and and long rods with rope hoops to save anyone who is unfortunate enough to fall into the river.
Luzern is a great city to walk around in. The city is very old and cozy and much of the Old City is closed to cars. Remnants of the old town walls exist on the hill above Luzern, complete with eight tall watch towers. An additional gated tower sits at the base of the hill on the banks of the Reuss River. One of the best things about Switzerland's cities is the fact that they avoided the devastation of many European wars, especially World War II. Many of the buildings, like our hotel, have huge frescoes painted on the outside walls. They have a number of quaint squares with fountains and pedestrian only streets. On the right is a photo of one of the more colorful fountains in Luzern. It is the Fritschibrunnen (Fritschi Fountain) which represents carnival, spring and joy. Fritschi is a legendary character in whose honor a carnival has been held since the 15th century. It is in the middle of the Kapellplatz with St. Peter's Church (St. Peterskirche) behind it. One of the more pleasant walks is along the south side of the river opposite our hotel. You can't walk along much of the river on the north side since many of the buildings are on the waters edge. There are a number of good restaurants and outdoor cafes in Luzern, so we never had far to go to eat. We tried a couple of restaurants along the south side of the Reuss River across from our hotel. The city is not very hectic like Zürich so you can really slowdown and enjoy yourself.
is full of great places to eat. The first night there, we tried a small
restaurant along the bank of the Reuss River near the Kapellbrücke. It was
raining a little, but we were under an umbrella. It didn't seem to faze
the other customers.
One of the places
went to dinner at was the Stadtkeller
in the Sternenplatz in the Old City. You sit in a hall decorated in
swiss style. In addition to good local food, including the cheese
Debbie and I shared, they have a musical show. The singers use
Swiss customs with alphorns, cowbells, national costumes, flag throwing
and yodeling. Nothing like authentic Swiss yodeling. We had an
enjoyable evening of traditional Swiss food and
Of course, Luzern, like other European cities is
of outdoor cafes.
You can stop in for dinner or just sit down for a beer (or a soda for
those people who hate beer). As you can see,
I am enjoying my Swiss bier.
A popular sight in Luzern is the Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall) pictured at left. A renaissance building, constructed on the bank of the Reuss River between 1602-06 and is flanked by a tall square clock tower (which like every other clock in Switzerland - keeps very good time). The tower overlooks the Kornmarkt (Corn Market). The open arcades, beneath the building, facing the Reuss River are still used today as a weekly marketplace for food and flowers. Above the arcades is the Kornschütte hall, an earlier trading goods store, which is now used for concerts and exhibitions. There is also a great restaurant beneath the Altes Rathaus called the Rathaus Brauerei.
The blue and white flag hanging outside the Altes Rathaus (photo at left) is the flag of the Luzern Canton (at right). A canton is a region of Switzerland (like states) and there are 26 of them. The twenty-six cantons of Switzerland are the states of the federal state of Switzerland. Historically each canton in the then-confederation was a sovereign state, with its own borders, army and currency until the current federal structure was established in 1848. In 1332, Luzern became the third canton when it joined the cantons of Zürich and Bern in the Swiss Confederation. With over 576 square miles (about half the size of Rhode Island), it's the 9th largest canton in Switzerland and has a population of 350,600 (as of 2001). No one knows exactly why the Luzern flag has a blue and white stripe. Some suggestions have been that it represents the blue lakes and white snow covered mountains. Others say that it is the colors of the Virgin Mary or maybe that of an important Swiss family. It was first used after it joined the Swiss Confederation. The flag was carried at the battles of Arbedo (1422) and Murten (1476).
the river from our hotel is the white Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit
It is the first large sacral Baroque church built in Switzerland;
in 1666 by Father Christoph Vogler for the Jesuits. The outside has a
plain facade is framed between two tall towers surmounted by domed
belfries. The inside of the
church is magnificent. The
ceiling in the
nave is covered with frescoes and the high alter has a huge pink marble
stucco alter. This is the
view from the balcony of our hotel.
Luzern was very important during the
Counter-reformation (a movement within the Catholic Church to reform
itself and to protect itself from Protestant attacks). Calvinism (a Protestant religion influenced by John
Calvin) was sweeping across Switzerland in the
16th Century. After the Council of Trent, a papal nuncio (similar to an
ambassador) was sent to
Switzerland. In 1586 he chose Luzern as his seat making it an important center of Catholicism. A Jesuit
was established in Luzern shortly afterwards.
Another popular sight in Luzern is the Löwendenkmal (or Lion Statue). This statue, carved into the side of a hill next to a small pond (left), commemorates the heroism of the Swiss Guard who defended King Louis XVI of France during the French Revolution. In 1821, the monument was carved out of natural rock by the a Danish/Icelandic sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The monument portrays a dying lion lying across broken symbols of the French monarchy. It commemorates the more than 700 officers and soldiers of the Swiss Guard who heroically lost their lives defending the king during the Storming of the Tuileries during the French Revolution. The kings of France had been hiring the Swiss Guard since 1516 for protection.
On August 10, 1792, the 900 members of the Swiss Guard defended the Tuileries Palace in Paris against a mob of about 30,000 Parisians intent on capturing King Louis XVI. No one told the Swiss Guard that the king and his family had already fled from the palace. They held their ground and were massacred by the mob. King Louis XVI would die under the guillotine the following year. In 1874, the Swiss were forbade to serve in any foreign army. The only exception is the Swiss Guard of the Vatican, which protects the Pope.
The sad eyes and poignant expression on the dying lion's face is almost hypnotizing. During a visit to Luzern, American writer Mark Twain described the Lion of Luzern as "the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world." The inscription in latin above the sculpture reads HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI - "To the Loyalty and Courage of the Swiss" I put more pictures on another website if you want to see. The theme of this monument has been reused in a number of other monuments. One of which is the Confederate Memorial Lion in Atlanta, Georgia commemorating Confederate soldiers killed in the American Civil War.
the monument's park is the Gletschergarten
or "Glacier Garden". You can see ancient glacier potholes caused when
last ice age ended. The potholes are outside, but the entire exhibit is
covered with a permanent tent. You follow a path through the exhibit
tells you what you are looking at. The potholes were caused by the melt
water that was flowing on the surface of the ice and seeping into
in the glacier. The pressure of the churning water, mixed with sand and
small rocks, eroded these potholes within a few years. The largest
is 29.5 ft. deep and 16 ft. across. The cost to go in the park is CHF
(9 Swiss francs). Next to the Glacier Garden is a tall wooden tower
Debbie and I climbed. You get a nice view of the town but nothing great
you leave the
Gardens and go back down the hill toward the lake you will come to Die
Hofkirche, Luzern's cathedral on a small hill just above the lakefront.
The church, which
was founded in 735, is dedicated to St.
Leodegar (St. Ledger) and St. Mauritius (St. Maurice) who are the patron saints of
The cathedral is popularly called the Hofkirche (German) and is known
locally as the Hofchile (Swiss-German). In
church was destroyed by
a fire, with only the two Gothic towers (in picture at left and right)
The church was rebuilt in the Renaissance style using the existing two
towers. It gives the church a somewhat odd look with the two
contrasting styles, Gothic (towers) and Renaissance (center facade). To
go inside, you have
to climb a monumental stairway. It is very spacious inside and done in
late Renaissance style. The chancel is enclosed by a wrought-iron
grill. They have a large organ that was built in 1650
which contains 4,950 pipes. Outside the church they have an Italian
style cloister containing some tombs of the old families of Luzern. The
picture on the right shows a typical Central Switzerland house. It has
a steep roof which overhangs the side to protect the windows. These
houses are usually found in the countryside, but this is in the heart
of the city. Of course, they also have window boxes.
attraction and a must see if you are in Luzern is the Swiss
Museum (Das Verkehrshaus der
Opened in 1959, it is the most diverse museum in all of Europe covering
the history of transportation in Switzerland. Debbie and I spent half a
day in here. You can't walk here from the Old City (you could but it
be a hike), you have to take a bus or a boat across the lake (the bus
be quicker and cheaper but the boat is more scenic and fun). It is
of the city along the Vierwaldstätter See. Along with it's many
they have an IMAX Theater and a Planetarium. In the Aviation and Space
Travel exhibit they have 33 airplanes, including an old Swiss Air
F.VIIa passenger airplane that was used in the 1940's.
They have a collection of about 40 automobiles and 50 motorcycles on the ground floor. They have a 1877 Genevese Thury-Nussberg motorcar, a 1908 Zürich taxi, a 1968 Lamborghini and my favorite, a 1933 Mercedes Benz Silver Arrow. They also have numerous sleighs above in the mezzanine.In the Rail Transport exhibit fills two halls and a square. They have around 60 railway vehicles, including locomotives, some of them that you can climb up on and go into. The oldest locomotive dates back to 1858.
One of it's
more interesting exhibits is "The Gotthard
Show". It's a 30-minute ride that simulates a construction train during
of the Gotthard Tunnel. It has dioramas telling you about the life of
people who built the tunnel.
The construction of the Gotthard Rail Tunnel represents
the achievement of a century and in its day the Gotthard tunnel was
Switzerland's largest construction site by far. It connects the towns
of Göschenen with Airolo. Construction of the 9 mile long tunnel
began in 1871. The two ends of the tunnel broke through and met on
February 29, 1880 and by the end of March 1882, train service between
Luzern and Milan had started. The highest point in the tunnel is 3,776
ft. above sea level. Over 200 workers died in the construction. Even
the Swiss engineer Louis Favre, who was surveying construction,
suffered a fatal heart attack inside the tunnel in 1879. A strike of
the workers in 1875 was crushed by military force, killing four and
I found the "Gotthard railway model"
interesting also. It is a large model train layout depicting the
to the St. Gotthard Tunnel. It was built in 1959 and is quite large.
The model shows the station of Erstfeld, the two imposing bridges over
the Chärstelenbach and the Intschireuss and finally the three
helical tunnels near Wassen. The layout is 18 feet wide and over 42
feet long. The exhibit has 1,148 feet of track and has 16 trains
There is another exhibit on paddle-wheel
that still transport people on the lake. An old paddle-wheel steamship
called the Rigi, built in 1847, is in the museum courtyard and
used as a self-service restaurant.
Cable-cars are featured in another section on the second floor. The Alps make cable-cars a necessity. They have a display of the first public cable-car built back in 1908. They have come a long way since then. After leaving the museum, we took a paddle-wheel steamship across the lake back to central Luzern. It leaves you off next to the train station.
The train station (Bahnhof) is very interesting. The original train station was destroyed by a fire in 1971. Between 1984 and 1991, they built a completely new and modern station. The transparent entrance hall of the new station, with its elegant curved roof, is architecturally unique. The old granite entrance to the train station survived the fire and has been left intact as an arch in the square in front of the station. Next to the train station is the large Luzern Culture and Convention Center on Europa Square. It has a gigantic overhanging roof and a large circular water fountain that shoots streams of water straight up into the air. At night, it is all lit up and is quite stunning. Inside is, among other things, a large concert hall and the Museum of Art. In front of the Convention Hall are the docks for the steam paddle-wheelers.
some shopping. Debbie bought me a swiss watch. As you can imagine, they
sell a lot of watches here. Some of them are incredibly expensive.
There are also flea markets and outdoor
stands. So if you like to shop, there are a lot of places to go. As you
can see, I found a large watch. According to my "new" Swiss watch, the
larger watch was very accurate. Lets face it, the entire country is
On the last day in Luzern, we decided to take a trip to Mt. Pilatus. We took what is called "The Golden Roundtrip" (there are special tickets you buy for this). We took a paddle-wheel steamship from Luzern to Alpnachstadt (about 90 minutes by boat). They have a total of five paddle-wheelers that cruise on the lake. We were on the Stadt Luzern pictured at right. The scenery is incredible. The mountains come down to the lakes edge. At Alpnachstadt, we took the cog-railway up 5,570 ft., the steepest in the world (at one point the gradient is 48%), to the summit of Mt. Pilatus (6,985 ft. high). In 1868, Queen Victoria of Great Britain rode to the summit on a mule, however, the cog-railway is much more convenient. As it climbs 5,570 feet up, you get beautiful views of the Alps. There are mountain goats prancing about along the tracks. The speed of the railway is between 5 and 8 miles per hour. Believe it or not, people have farms up here. The trip up takes about 30 minutes. At the top is a large building complex that houses the cog railway station, cable car station, a couple of restaurants with incredible panoramic views, scenic terraces and a 3-star hotel. It had some clouds during the day we were there so we didn't get great views or pictures. The funny thing was, to the north near Luzern it was mostly cloudy, but to the south it was clear and sunny.
From the building complex (in center of picture), you can hike up to the very top of Mt. Pilatus. There is a path and stairs that go all the way up (that you can see in the picture). You can also hike along alpine trails (to the right in the picture). There are trails that lead to the base of the mountain, but we are not that adventurous. There are actually two hotels you can stay in at the top of the mountain. One is the Hotel Bellevue in the main building seen here. For 92 Swiss francs (per person) you can stay in this modern 3-star hotel. The other one on the summit is called Hotel Kulm, which is a separate building (to the right out of the photo), built around 1900. This one is cheaper at 62 Swiss francs (per person). Near the hotel, there were men playing long alpenhorns. At night they have powerful floodlights from this building that we can see from our hotel room miles away.
in the Alps along marked trails. On our hike, we saw black birds and
flowers (even some Edelweiss), but no dragons. The sun came out for
awhile as we hiked, but only for a little while. As you can see in the
photos, the clouds are descending again. On the left, it is sunny, but
the clouds are closing in from behind. By the time Debbie and I
switched for the next photo, the clouds had
moved in. We are actually standing in the same spot in both photos.
Debbie looks like she's having a good time. You would never know that
she hates being in nature.
According to legend, Mt.
Pilatus is inhabited with dragons. They
even use a red dragon as their
symbol. The other legend is that a small lake near the summit of Mt.
holds the spirit of Pontius
Pilate. His body was brought here,
by the devil. For centuries it was
forbidden to climb the mountain and
enrage the ghost, who would unleash deadly storms. Some say that is how
Pilatus got it's name. Others say it comes from the latin word for
a cap (pileatus) because the top of the mountain seems to have a cap
out of clouds most of the time.
Most of the time we spent in Luzern, the top of Mt. Pilatus was covered with clouds, even on the brightest days. They have a proverb in Luzern which says:
hides his head,
Sunshine below will spread;
When Pilate's head is bare,
Of rain beware."
When it was time to go, we continued the "The Golden Roundtrip" by taking the cable car down the other side of Mt. Pilatus to the town of Fräkmüntegg (alt. 4,650 ft.). These are large cable cars that carry about 40 people in them. Debbie wasn't overly thrilled with this aspect of our trip. On the way down, we saw a small church all by itself on a ridge. It must be for the few farmers that live in this fairly isolated place. The cable cars travel at 21.5 feet per second and the trip to Fräkmüntegg takes about 5 minutes (just don't look down). Normally, you get great views, but with the clouds, we didn't see too much outside the mountain ridges nearest to us. They also have a small hotel in Fräkmüntegg. From there, you switch to small gondolas for the 30 minute trip to the town of Kriens a couple of miles away just outside of Luzern. From there we took a 15-minute bus ride back to the Luzern train station. It was great trip, even if the weather didn't co-operate very much.
is well lit at night and gives you the chance to take some great night
photos. This was the best one I took during our stay. It just seems
that no matter how long you are here, you can't get enough of it.
The next day
and left beautiful Luzern on a beautiful day to continue our honeymoon
trip through Central Europe. Our next stop was further south in
the mountains of Interlaken.