The Jewel That is Luzern
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Luzern is the jewel of the Swiss countryside, the essence of a Swiss postcard. It has a traffic free historic Old Town, medieval wooden bridges with beautiful triangular paintings on the ceilings, river water so clear you can see the grasses growing on the river bed or watch loons as they swim below the surface fishing for their next meal. All this is at the foot of spectacular alpine mountains.
It is easy to spend hours walking along the waterfront, past buildings with facades barely altered from when they were medieval guild halls. The wonderful wooden bridges with their covered arches and enclosed paintings are such an important landmark of Lucerne they were quickly rebuilt after a devastating fire. Still two “must see” sights on every visitor’s list, including mine, are out of town.
The first is the Lion Monument. The huge sculpture of an anguished dying lion, carved into a ledge at the edge of town, is emotional and powerful. The lion is a proud testament to courage and loyalty, and to the pride of the Swiss Guards. If today the Swiss Guards are mostly known as the ceremonial guards of the Vatican and the Pope, their history is long and filled with sacrifice. They were the guards of Louis XVI and massacred during the French Revolution, refusing to abandon their duties even when faced with certain death. The symbolism is strong. The lion rests on top of a broken shield with the fleur-de-lys of the French royalty. Another shield, just behind the lion, displays the Swiss coat of arms. Regardless of opinions on the French Revolution and the excesses of the royalty, the Lion Monument is a tribute to honor and dedication.
In addition to the beauty of the city and the famous Lion Monument, people flock to Lucerne to experience Mount Pilatus. Thanks to some impressive engineering, the “Dragon Mountain,” nick-named after a medieval legend of a resident dragon with healing powers, is accessible to almost everyone. Switzerland is defined by its mountains but tackling one of them can involve more than non-skiers and non-mountain climbers can handle. Enter Mt Pilatus which makes adventure convenient. Up the 4-passenger gondola with fantastic views, then the larger cable car to a comfortable enclosure with floor to ceiling windows and climate-controlled viewing. The challenge then is to get outside, grab the railing, and push through the wind, up the stone steps, to the top. The views are priceless, the wind non-stop, and thankfully my hat was secured under a hood firmly attached to my wind-proof jacket. Not being a sure-footed mountain goat, on the way down I held tightly onto the one railing next to the path, leaving everyone else vying for an anchor on their own. Once back in the enclosed viewing area I thought of getting something stronger than the offered hot chocolate.
To celebrate our modest Alpine adventure, we had dinner at a historic restaurant in the old town. In case there was any doubt about lineage, a large plaque proclaimed the restaurant’s origin from 1602. Considering the difficulty of getting food delivered to tables in a timely manner, and the very ruddy complexion of our white-haired entertainment, I acknowledge the accuracy of the claim. Still, as the saying goes, a good time was had by all.