Switzerland Part IV

Today we took a train south to Luzern, perhaps the biggest tourist destination of Switzerland. This was our first chance to really see the country side along the way. The movie Heidi isnt far off. Rolling green hills and old farms with interspersed forest. Although agriculture doesn’t make up a large part of the economy any more, the government heavily subsidizes it to maintain the tradition. I can see why as it really adds to the charm of th environment.

Luzern is a beautiful city. It became important in 1220 when St. Gotthard Pass opened up and later led the Catholic resistance during the Reformation. Again, you have a mix of ancient city with modern flair and technology. This is the perfect city to wander around in, with lots of shopping available, which Beth took advantage of. We also discovered our first Starbucks here and introduced Raphael to the frappacino.

There are two really important sites within the city. The river Reuss cuts through the city center and one way to cross it is the oldest wooden bridge in Europe, Kapellbrucke, or Chapel Bridge. It was originally part of the old town’s fortifications and is a wonderful feature to stroll along. Artistic wooden panels line the roof beams displaying the history of the city. Attached to the bridge is an octogonal stone tower, the Wasserturm, which served as a lighthouse, prison, and treasury. As you cross the bridge you can gain a 360 degree view of the city and surrounding hills while swans and ducks swim along beneath you.

Another spot we visited was the Lowendenkmal, or Lion Monument. This a sculture, thirty feet long by twenty feet high, of a lion, its head resting on a shield and a broken off spear piercing its side. On August 10, 1792, the Swiss Guard of Louis XVI defended the Palais des Tuileries in Paris from revolutionaries. Most died in the attack and the rest were arrested and sent to the guillotine. The lion represents the courage and nobility of the guard. Its a striking sculpture.

These were the only two real sites we visited in the city as we were scheduled to take a boat tour on Lac Vierwaldstattersee. Despite our brief opportunity to explore, it was here that I made another shameful discovery: I am horribly unfashionable. Everyone in Luzern, and Bern, Fribourg, and Zurich, is better dressed than me. 97 year old woman chain smoking outside the fromagerie: better dressed than me. Train steward checking our tickets: better dressed than me. Here I’ve spent the last few years putting my money into books and education when it should have been spent on designer clothing. I would certainly gain points with my 6th graders if I looked hip; they’ve never really appreciated my witty erudition. So, when we visit Zurich on Friday I’m going to be on the lookout for a way to transform myself. But I digress.....

The real reason we went to Luzern was for the boat trip. A two hour ride up the lake, stopping at the various towns lining either side. The Swiss are not afraid to build on the steepest of slopes, no matter the altitude. You honestly have to wonder how they got up there, let alone the building materials.

Im sure there is more but its quite early here and my brain is feeling fuzzy. Stay tuned for our trip to Castle Chillon and the heart of cheese land....

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