Have you ever been some place that has dropped your jaw the moment you stepped off the train? To get that supreme, one-of-a-kind feeling is both special and unforgettable. When Jessie and I first saw Chapel Bridge surrounded by gorgeous Lake Luzern in Lucerne, Switzerland we were so moved we could barely speak. Our minds were in a frenzy to process the immense beauty that giddied us so. Every turn of the head aroused another ooh and ahh – I mean we really hadn’t seen anything quite like it before! Surely, there are other towns and villages equally as quaint and charming throughout Europe, but for us it was a first and we were extremely impressed. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of our brief, but lovely two days in Lucerne and offer some recommendations for first time visitors!
First Impressions of Lucerne
Traveling from Amsterdam, we had to take a direct flight to Zurich from which you take an approximately one hour train ride into the countryside of Switzerland to Lucerne. The train fare was about thirty Swiss francs per person (about $30 US dollars each), which was our first-hand glimpse into how expensive things are in Switzerland. However, we were able to cut this cost in half on our train ride back to Zurich by buying our tickets on an app called SBB Mobile which was recommended to us by a local.
Fresh off the train from Zurich, we immediately started snapping shots of the scenery surrounding this remarkable town. The lush green of the mountain ranges encircled us and made for great scenic photographs and backdrops. The weather seemed to just be recovering up from an overcast morning and it was actually a bit warmer than expected which was a nice change from the cold of Amsterdam and Paris.
Most of the people in the center were obviously visitors, travelers from around the world gathered to explore this marvelous place. One of the historic sites of Lucerne – Kapellbrucke, or Chapel Bridge spans diagonally across the Reuss river and was built in 1360. Mounted on several triangular panels along the pathway of the bridge are original 17th century paintings illustrating the development of the city and the republic of Lucerne from a Counter-Reformation perspective. Other pictures depict the life and suffering of the town’s two patron saints, St. Leodegarand St. Mauritius. In August 1993, 81 of the original 111 paintings were burnt in a fire that destroyed a great portion of the original bridge’s infrastructure. Now, the original paintings can be found at the bridgeheads and the middle of the bridge with a long gap between them symbolizing the damage done to one of Lucerne’s historic treasures.
One thing to keep in mind is Lucerne doesn’t really have a wide selection of monuments to choose from. But it doesn’t need countless touristy spots to make it remarkable, it’s just an amazing place on its own. The Chapel Bridge is the main attraction, followed by the Lion Monument located about a mile from the bridge. This grand sculpture from the year 1820 features a lion hewn in stone commemorating the Swiss soldiers who were killed protecting the royal family during the French Revolution (1792). The moving piece reflects the courage of the Swiss officers through the symbolic strength of a lion and yet the hurt inflicted on their country with a spear impaled in the animal’s side.
Eat Like a Local!
During our Europe trip we tried to get to know the local lifestyles of the cities we visited and in Lucerne that required venturing away from downtown and exploring the outskirts of the city. Once we left the hub, we noticed almost no one out walking the streets and everything seemed to be closed – it was really quite like a ghost town. That didn’t stop us. We were hungry and wanted to try some authentic Swiss cuisine. We finally came upon a restaurant on yelp supposedly serving traditional Swiss dishes but from the outside it didn’t appear to be open – doors were closed, no restaurant sign and no cars parked outside – and it was meant to appear that way! It turns out the place was packed with neatly dressed locals gathered for lunch who immediately stopped what they were doing and stared us down when we came in.
The vibe wasn’t all that great at first and I felt pretty awkward but Jessie insisted we stay since we had already been seated. I’m sure glad she did, as we ordered two delicious meals and conversed with an older couple who disclosed that the locals are ashamed of the tourists who come and go, bringing their own food and not making any effort to get in touch with their culture or traditions. They were pleased to see us venturing off the beaten path to explore what Lucerne was really about. By the end of our lunch, we were laughing and practically being cheered for as we waved our last goodbyes. Quite an unexpected, revealing and memorable experience.
Some things to expect in Lucerne:
- Absolutely stunning scenery and fresh air
- You will be charmed by this lovely town!
- Unpredictable weather; clear skies will turn to rainy overcast unexpectedly
- Immensely steep prices; be prepared to pay around $40 US dollars for a single meal
- Much of the local cuisine includes meals made with veal and venison
- Local language is Swiss-German, but Switzerland’s population is made up mostly of French, Italians, and Germans
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