Thursday, 9 June 2011

Lucerne: Cowbells and Cuckoo Clocks

Off on our way to Lucerne after another early start. We stopped at a family run business in the Black Forest that has a wonderful showroom of all things Swiss from Swiss Army knives, cowbells, grandfather and cuckoo clocks and watches. I am amazed at the things people buy on tour and the money they spend! The grandfather clocks were quite magnificent and the cuckoo clocks intricate. However I am sure the cuckoo would drive me silly eventually and while they come with the ability to turn the cuckoo off I can't see the point of doing that. They sold plenty of clocks to our group as well as black forest cherry cake from the small cafe on site. The biggest Cuckoo clock was outside the store.
We had a short stop at Rhinefalls but it was raining quite hard and was not very pleasant. The falls were spectacular but there were so many tourists there in a small area all trying to use toilets and buy food.

Unfortunately it was still raining when we reached Lucerne and the cloud was descending upon us. It is not too warm and the rain meant it was difficult to see too far out on the lake. Our trip up Mt Pilatus has been put off till tomorrow in the hope that the clouds go away and the rain stops. We spent a couple of hours in the township today (reminds me a little bit of Queenstown) where there are huge stores that sell every brand of watch you can think of including some stunning Rolex ones. Stunning prices too. This is the one place where we are unable to use Euros and the Swiss Franc is the currency...or you use your credit card. We found a Starbucks today that took our Euros but the price was was average.

It was still drizzling and cold in the morning but Mark our tour director gave us the choice of backing out of the trip (at no charge or going).....unanimously we decided to chance it. The mountain was shrouded in some cloud at the very top and we were assured that we would still be able to have good views for most of the journey.

The myth is that the restless Ghost of Pontius Pilate has found its final resting place and others say it is haunted by a well-meaning dragon. Pleased to report I saw no dragons or PP. The trip involves a spectacular ride by gondola on the way up.

We had some stunning views until close to the top at 7000 ft. there was white out. Once we reached the cafe and hotel four of my tour buddies and I climbed up to the very top which was another 15 mins on foot. Unfortunately it was just white up there and extremely cold. Seeing as we lay claim to Sir Ed I could not let the side down.

A 4600 metre long stretch of railway allows the world steepest cogwheel railway to take you down the mountain. The gradient is 45% and believe me that is steep. The railway winds down through Heidi country, lush meadows, alpine flowers, cows, sheep and goats all wearing bells making their own music.... no it was not Edelweiss!! Not sure what the peacock was doing on the roof of one building, but it got there somehow.

I just love seeing the huge amount of perfectly stacked firewood outside dwellings. The scenery was everything you can imagine being that high up in Switzerland.

This afternoon was free time and it is nice to have the luxury of having some space to wander around without being on a timetable. I have walked through the old town of Lucerne, admired the Chapel Bridge (1333) with its 122 gable paintings and been transfixed with the powerful image of the Lion monument- the dying Lion carved into natural rock in 1820/21 in memory of Swiss heroes that gave their lives in battle in 1782.

 I walked back along the very panoramic lakefront having to remind myself of where I am the hotel to check on the washing! The rooms are of a luxury standard as as you would expect wonderful shower fittings!

We have been advised that our hotel in Vienna (Hilton Danube) has changed to a Hilton right in the city. Mark the TD seems very excited about that.

Marlyse  (the other NZ lady on her own) and I decided to go for a Swiss meal tonight at "The Fondue House" neither of us having had one before. It was quite an experience and one we have called our "Cheese on Toast". It is very expensive here and a lady in one shop (who was from Levin and been here for 27 years) said that the wages are high. They would need to be as I was forced to reduce my coffee consumption as it was hard to swallow the price of a cup. Dinner was along those lines as well and we were told we had to order a drink otherwise they would charge us 4.50 CF anyway, so with a VAT added onto the bill it was not inexpensive! We had a great night though and it was good to experience some of the more traditional cuisine.

We walked for a while along the lakefront, over another covered bridge with painted scenes and stumbled across a group playing the traditional Swiss Alpine horn making quite a unique noise.

The hotel is about a 15min walk along the waterfront so we made our way back after calling in to a tourist shop to spend some of our loose Swiss Franks that we had been given in change. We swapped the coins for Swiss chocolate :). I hope it makes it home.

1 comment:

  1. It rained for us too in Lucerne! Remember the Lion and the Chapel Bridge particularly. You might need some Swiss franks for Vaduz.