October 30, 2016 — Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne - Palace Hotel

Lucerne – Palace Hotel

Lucerne - Lion

Lucerne – Lion

Lucerne - Decorative Buildings

Lucerne – Decorative Buildings

Lucerne - Waterfront Cafes and Shops

Lucerne – Waterfront Cafes and Shops

We disembarked the ship at 9:00am and boarded a bus for the hour dive to Lucerne, Switzerland. Due to a large marathon in the city with 11,000 runners we were not able to reach our hotel. Instead we arrived at another hotel in the city where we started our walking tour of the city. Our tour took us through the old town where we enjoyed the views around Lake Lucerne and crossed the Spreuer Bridge. This bridge is the oldest covered timber bridge in Switzerland completed in 1408 as part of the city’s fortifications. It features 67 paintings depicting a macabre dance to indicate that even rich, wealthy people die. Nearby the bridge, is a dam known as the needle dam because of its needle like wooden paddles or needles installed in 1859. The water level of Lake Lucerne is still regulated manually by the removal or insertion of these timber needles.

Lucerne is located in central Switzerland on the shores of Lake Lucerne and has a population of about 80,000 inhabitants. The lake covers about 45 square miles of land and has an irregular shoreline with several outreaching arms. The surrounding countryside is extraordinarily beautiful with some of the shoreline mountains jutting skyward some 4,000 feet above the lake. It remained cloudy during our stay.

We visited the cities most famous landmark, the Kapellbrucke or covered Chapel Bridge that spans the Reuss River and was originally built in 1333 to connect the old town on one side of the river and the new town on the other. This foot bridge is 560 feet in length and is the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. Unfortunately, in 1993 a fire destroyed a large portion of the bridge and it was reconstructed at a cost of more than two million dollars.

Also of significance is the Lion Monument or the Lion of Lucerne. This exquisite stone sculpture of a lion was designed by Danish Sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn by Lukas Ahorn in 1820 to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. The sculpture is carved into a steep rock façade and measures some 32 feet in length and about 20 feet tall.

We had lunch at a small café bakery where we got a couple of pieces of pizza and a coffee and a hot chocolate for about $20. Prices for most everything are higher than we are used to as this is one of the most expensive cities in Europe.

After lunch we explored more of the city including the Museggmauer wall. This fortification wall built in 1535 includes nine towers, one of which houses the city’s oldest clock. We were able to climb up the interior of the clock tower and see the inner workings of the clocks gears and weights. This clock chimes one minute before every hour (and all other clocks) as a privilege for being the oldest clock in town.

Being a Sunday most of the shops and restaurants were closed but we still enjoyed wandering the winding streets of town.

In the evening our friend Matthias and Alain from Stuttgart in Germany drove five hours in traffic to have dinner with us. They made a reservation at a charming restaurant located in a half-timbered house right in the middle of Lucerne. The food and service were excellent, although like everything in Switzerland the prices are over the top. They said that this was one of the more moderately priced restaurants in town but the soups were about $17 each and many of the entrees ran upwards of $30.

After dinner we walked back to our hotel where across the street there is another hotel located high up on the hill with great views out over the lake. You need to take a funicular to reach the hotel. Once inside the hotel we had drinks in the Louis Armstrong bar where on Sunday nights a DJ plays oldies. The bar was intimate, traditional in style with ornate upholstered furniture, photos of performers and just a very comfortable old-world style.