We got an early start out of Bern, hiked to the train station, and got on our train to Luzern. We were early enough to get pretzels at Brezelkonig, which are delicious, and really more of what we were expecting along the lines of food in Switzerland. Also cheap, only 2 CHF a piece. That’s bargain when you consider the fact that the most expensive double expresso/cappuccino combo we had was the equivalent of $15 or more…
The train ride to Luzern is, like most train rides in Switzerland, predictably gorgeous. We got off the train, quickly found our bearings, and made our way to the hotel a short distance away. After checking in, we set off to wander. Luzern is set on Lake Luzern and the Reuss River, which makes it particularly picturesque. This becomes more apparent when the clouds clear and you can see the mountains that surround the city.
Luzern also features a number of bridges across the river in the old town, the most famous of which is the Kappelbrucke (Chapel Bridge). Most of it burned down in 1993 (it was rebuilt), but it’s still an interesting attraction, if only for the fact that you’re crossing a wooden bridge in an old European city and you can suspend disbelief for just a moment and imagine that you’re in 1563 and not 2011. The bridge also has a number of paintings (some of which survived the fire) that depict life in Luzern which are cool to look at. In addition to the Kappelbrucke, there are a number of buildings in the old quarter of Luzern that are decoratively painted, and lots of murals as well.
For lunch, we found a cheap-ish sandwich place (relatively, anyway) and took our sandwiches down to the lake to engage in our new-found Swiss activity: sitting on the water and bird-watching. It was crowded down by the water, and it was a nice day. Sarah and I are sort of convinced that this is really the Swiss equivalent of watching TV. The swans are pretty big.
We decided that we needed to see the weeping lion—a monument erected for Swiss soldiers that died protecting the French aristocracy in the French Revolution—as that’s what everyone always talks about in Luzern. Bigger than we thought. Next we wandered up to the old city walls and checked out the park at the top. The ramparts themselves were closed, but the park is worth a hike. I think the big thing that Sarah and I realized on this trip is that the main attractions of Switzerland really are the landscapes (and probably the skiing and hiking too). They’re all on display from this park: quaint medieval city, alps, lakes, and the river.
After a long day of wandering through the streets, it was time for dinner. Before dinner, we got the two most expensive beers of my lifetime by the river and people watched. Sarah has a theory: the reason that you see so many people drinking and smoking outside in Switzerland, is that people-watching really is the cheap entertainment in Switzerland. And everyone can afford to have a beer if they can’t eat out at the restaurant, but still take advantage of the locale to watch the people wandering by.
I wanted to repeat the experience that we had in Lausanne for dinner with the middle Eastern Kabab shop…only to find that the place that I had scoped out earlier in the day closes early everyday. Plan two: grocery store. Cheese, bread, and cured meat is always good, or at least, it’s hard for it to be bad (at least in Europe). I also got a green papaya salad, but since I can’t really read German, didn’t realize that I had to make the dressing myself. That didn’t turn out too well in a hotel room. We drank a bottle of Swiss red wine (got to try the local products, and not a lot of Swiss wine comes to the US), which was a good match for cured meat and cheese. Sated, Sarah and I went to bed.