Day 7: Still horrible wifi, but….today I have an adventure!! So who cares! 😀 Florian was kind enough to tell me that August 1 is National Day here in Switzerland, but there would be a celebration in Lucerne on July 31 at 4pm by the train station. Wonderful! The Lucerne Free Walking Tour didn’t fit into my schedule (too early), so I figured get into Lucerne around noon, give myself a walking tour based on the cool things Florian recommended and some things I found on my own, get to the festival at 4, hang out for an hour or so, and be back in plenty of time for cat o’clock (9pm when I ring the bell!). Warning: I’ve been cooped up and sitting on my ass for a few days straight, so this is a LONG post- I crammed in a ton of adventures!!
Took the train into Lucerne- it’s like $15 roundtrip, which for public transport to a place that is about 6 miles away is kinda pricey… And it doesn’t matter if you take the bus or the train- from everything I see on the sbb.ch website, it’s the same price! Stepped off the train into the city, and got a grand welcome! Turned left and walked along the Ruess River. You know how Disneyland separates its areas? Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, etc…? Well, I have already said that “Switzer” means “Disney”. I was in Basel-land for days 1 & 2. Now I am in Lucerne-land. I swear, everything here is just so well manicured and gorgeous and appealing and picturesque! I seriously expect Mickey Mouse to come popping out from behind a corner at any minute for a photo op! There was even what looked like the Cinderella’s Castle on a hill above the city (ok, it’s a hotel, but work with me). Even the water in the river is this weird blue/green hue- almost EXACTLY the color of the dyed water in the “rivers” and “lakes” at Disney!! Coincidence?? I think NOT! 😉
I had mapped out everything I wanted to see in Lucerne, so popped open Maps.me (I really need to do a blog post on how I create a google map with pinpoints, put it into Maps.me, and still use google maps to navigate (because Maps.me seriously sucks battery…). First up, the Jesuit Church. It was built in 1666-1677. I was on the same side of the street as it, so this pic is one I took later in the day from across the river. It was closed, so I couldn’t go in.
Next, I needed to get on the other side of the river. There were a few bridges, but I was going to take a very special bridge across- Spreuerbrücke. This is one of 2 covered wooden bridges. The first bridge at this crossing was built in 1408. It was destroyed in a flood in 1566 and rebuilt. Other than being a super cool, old, covered wooden bridge, there is something quite interesting in it’s rafters…a series of paintings called the “Dance of Death”. Originally, there were 67 paintings, 45 are left. And since they were painted in from 1616-1637, that’s quite a feat! The paintings depict death being present in many different situations, showing that it is constantly present, and no matter your status, death is there.
From this side of the river, I could head up to my next destination, Museggmauer & Türme (Town Walls and Towers). It was up, up, up hill!! Google maps tried to trick me, but I outsmarted it! (Follow the signs, not google) The fortifying wall and its towers were built in the 1300s (but still, they just look “Disneyesque” instead of “impressive historical monument”!). I walked to the end of the wall that was accessible, and went inside the first tower. Oh HELL NO!! These weren’t stairs, they were more like heavily tilted ladders! So steep- not my idea of fun…but I got here and had to do it. Fortunately, it wasn’t very crowded so I just waited for a few people to come down so I would have the stairs all to myself and could go just as slowly as I wanted and whimper as loudly as I wanted! Somehow I made it up about 4 flights of these to the top of the tower. Then, I had to go down, which is worse for my height-o-phobia than going up. I needed to go to the 2nd floor and then out on to the wall. Except I was so focused on looking at the step directly under my foot and nothing else, that I wound up back at the bottom and had to go back up another floor!! Got out on to the wall, and more traumatizing height obstacles. The wall had a rail on one side, which if you got too close and fell over, you would plummet to your death. Ok, not so easy to fall over the side (you’d have to physically try to fall over it!), but still. I hugged that wall like it was my long lost love….
Made it to Tower #2 and started climbing. The last section was the worst, because it went from wooden stairs to metal grid stairs that I could see through, with the open room and potential death on the other side of the handrail. I honestly had to talk myself into going up those. Glad I made it, because the view was awesome!
Back down, back along another section of wall, to tower #3. This is the clock tower, and whereas the other towers are basically empty rooms, this one had several clock mechanisms in it! It was all in German though, so I couldn’t understand what each one was. The top floor required a new type of death obstacle- rock stairs that were like a foot and a half high each! No way was I going to navigate that, and no amount of talking to myself could convince me otherwise. I turned around and went back down to the wall.
Got to the final tower, and was pretty damn proud of myself for dealing with all of these insanely steep stairs!! Made it to the top, and inside of being in an enclosed room with windows, you were actually on the top of the tower! The views were IN-CRED-I-BLE!!!
I will say, it wasn’t terribly crowded, but I encountered several American families here. I haven’t heard ‘merican English for quite some time! It’s ever long enough…. The next destination was one I was really excited about, because it had direct ties to one of my French kings!! Unfortunately, though, it’s a rather sad connection… The kings of France routinely hired Swiss guards. Even Swiss soldiers to help out in wars. Versailles was guarded by the Swiss- in fact the direct guards for Marie Antoinette were Swiss. I always knew they had been killed with the palace was mobbed and broke into Marie Antoinette’s bedroom (she barely escaped with her life). Hundreds of Swiss soldiers also died during the subsequent attack on the Tuilleries Palace (where Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and their children were held under watchful eye during those early years of the revolution). This is the Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), in honor of those Swiss soldiers who so bravely tried to protect monarchs that weren’t even their own. The dying lion is laying on a fleur de lis crest (symbol of the French monarchy), with the Swiss crest next to him. Super, super sad. 😢
I google mapped my next location, and I was right on top of it! Gletschergarten- a glacier museum!! I was really excited about this, because it would fit right in with the stuff I filmed in Iceland and Romania for my Earth Science class that starts this fall!! And for $15, I couldn’t beat the price!! And my, oh my, but it turned out to be so super cool that I would have paid twice that if I knew what all was in here! There were basically 3 different parts. The first part was the glacier garden. Only 20,000 years ago, Lucerne was covered in glaciers. As those glaciers moved and scraped their way across the landscape, they left this area which was discovered by a man excavating for a wine cellar in 1872. The huge boulders are actually several different types of rocks- dragged here by the glacier as it moved past different mountains. I found that to be so fascinating!! The really cool thing though are the glacier pots. I had never even heard of such a thing! Melt water from the glacier runs through crevasses, getting underneath the glacier. Under there, the pressure is ENORMOUS, and whirlpools of melt water can be created- swirling at about 125 miles per hour! The meltwater is filled with dirt and pebbles, which along with the swift water carve out the rock below into a “pot”. So cool!! From there, I walked the second area- the Glacier Museum. I wasn’t expecting much. Um, I was blown away! I wanted to bring my students here so bad!! It was a really well done museum, with great information (in English!!), awesome exhibits, and even a hands on area! I learned so much and did a ton of filming for class. Wanna see inside? Take the class. 😜
The museum kind of emptied out into a mansion kind of thing with a lot of different exhibits. Unfortunately, the vast majority of it was in German. There was an exhibit that showed you how Lucerne looked 20,000,000 years ago- a tropical beach!! I found a gorgeous mermaid chandelier. And then, even though I couldn’t read anything, I saw something from across the room and immediately recognized it- VERSAILLES!!! I practically ran over to it, and it was in German- but I could read Louis XIV and Versailles. 😊
I don’t even know how to describe this next part!! It didn’t fit in with the theme of glaciers or history at all, but it was SO. MUCH. FUN!! It was a mirror maze. It was built for a national exhibition in Geneva in 1896, and moved here in 1899. Go. Just freaking GO!! Because you HAVE to see this! You walk in, and are surrounded by mirrors and designs, and you have to find your way through it all (hopefully without knocking yourself out by walking into one of the mirrors!). It really distorts your perceptions to the point where you second guess yourself a lot! It’s just gorgeous inside, and sometimes there are things you can see from a distance (like the peacocks), but it takes a while to actually reach them because you’re just seeing their image reflecting down tons of corridors! It feels like some Middle Eastern palace inside…I freaking LOVED this!!!!!!
Outside, the grounds are lovely. And there’s even a gnome trying to lure you into some cave. #becauseDISNEY
Next stop, Old Town. Which should be called “Old Town Land”, because again, this place is straight outta Disney!! You’d never imagine these buildings are from 1300s-1600s. They’re all painted with these fairy-tale like designs and script. It’s just…I don’t know. I keep saying this, but it’s just so whimsical and doesn’t even look old. It looks like someone built it new to make it look old!
Time to head back across the river to the other side, where the National Day festival was. I had mapped all this out…I crossed back over on the 2nd of the 2 covered wooden bridges- this time the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge). This one was built in 1333- Almost 80 years OLDER than the other bridge!! It also has paintings in the rafters, but these depict various scenes from Swiss history and saints instead of death. Those saints didn’t stop the bridge from being severely damaged by a fire in 1993. Ugh. I seriously cannot imagine seeing something that old and beautiful on fire!!! Beside the bridge is a tower from the 1200s.
My timing was spot on perfect! I got to the festival area at like 5 minutes after 4. There were little picnic tables set up and a stage, where there was some live music playing. This is a hard situation for me, one where I feel very socially awkward being alone. But by god I was determined to sit down, have an early dinner, and listen to some traditional music, dammit! Early dinner…eeks. The hardest of social situations to overcome. There were some food vendors on the side of the venue, so I walked by them every so slowly, trying to see if there was any English (no), and then trying to determine what other people were getting so I had some kind of clue what was being served. Ooooo!! Bratwurst looking sausage! Score! I went up and spoke English to the lady. She didn’t speak it, but another guy in the booth did. They had a few types, and I chose beef. A nice sized brat and a piece of bread- only $7!! Which considering this is
Disney Switzerland AND a special event is a freaking steal! I was quite pleased. Except the lady told me $9. I really didn’t feel like arguing it, so I handed her a 10. She gave me 2 back and a green plastic chip. The English speaking guy explained that when I was finished, to bring my paper plate and napkins back, give them the green chip, and I’d get my extra $2 back. He said, “To keep the city clean.” HOW FREAKING AWESOME IS THAT????
I went and sat at one of the long picnic tables with some other people and ate. OMG, it was soooooooo good!!! The band on stage ended, and some guys started playing traditional alphorns!! Not only that, but guys in front of them were twirling flags!! (I was a total band geek and in the flag core during marching season. And people wonder why I’m socially awkward…). Then, a woman YODELED!! Oh my god, the whole thing was just so much fun!! (🎥Watch the videos below!!) It was just so stereotypically Swiss, that I was eating it up! Speaking of eating, after I ate I actually had enough confidence to go find desert, and lord oh lord did I find it. A piece of the most delicious, delicate, moist chocolate cake, with some kind of melted chocolate on top that was still soft, but not runny, sprinkled with coconut. $2.50. I seriously cannot tell you how good that cake was…Holy crap, I could eat here every freaking day and not complain about the prices!! The first band came back on stage and played a set.
I had been there a little over an hour total, so when they were finished I decided to head back. Hopped the train, quick 15 minute ride, walked home full, happy, and thrilled with my day!
Days 8-10 consisted of me staying in the apartment trying to work while fighting the internet. I even had a replacement modem sent that I installed. It helped, but didn’t fix the problem. Work that should take 2 hours to do was taking almost or more than twice that. Extremely frustrating, especially when I had deadlines to meet…