After leaving the river boat behind in Basel, Kongo traveled on to central Switzerland to the city of Lucerne for three days. My, oh my! This beautiful city may be the monkey’s favorite on this trip. Charming, old world, beautiful, friendly, and exotic — all at the same time. Basel was interesting but a dreary drizzle and an unforgiving guide made Kongo glad this border town was in the rear view mirror. But Lucerne? Lucerne was a completely different thing altogether.
This iconic Jesuit church on the Reuss River shortly after it leaves Lake Lucerne is the first baroque church built in Switzerland. Although it was built in the 17th century the distinctive onion domes were not added until 1893.
The Chapel Bridge, a wooden structure that crosses the Reuss River, is perhaps Lucerne’s most famous landmark. It was originally built in the 14th century and is the oldest truss bridge in Europe. A fire in 1993 destroyed much of the bridge but it was rebuilt. The tower in the center of the bridge was built about 30 years before the bridge and is known as the Wasserturm, which literally means water tower. It was never used as a water tower as we think of them today rather it meant a tower standing in the water. It was used as a prison and torture chamber. Today its a gift shop.
Inside the bridge are paintings that date back to the 1700s and depict events in Lucerne’s history. Local families sponsored the paintings and were allowed to add their coat of arms to the artwork.
There is one other wooden bridge in Lucerne and it dates back to the 1300s. It is known as the Spreuer Bridge. It too has the triangle paintings but these are a bit macabre. In fact, they are known as Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) and are intended to convey that wherever you go, death is lurking. Kind of a sobering thought when you’re on vacation.
Another interesting monument in Lucerne is the Lion Monument, carved in 1820 to commemorate the massacre of hundreds of Swiss Guards during the French Revolution.
When Mark Twain saw the relief during a visit to Lucerne he said of the wounded lion that it was “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” It used to be that Swiss farm boys were hired out as mercenaries to foreign powers. This practice brought much needed income to the families as at this time Switzerland was not a rich country. There were several hundred of these Swiss mercenaries defending Louis XVI and the royal family when they were overwhelmed by a Parisian mob at the Tuileries. More than 600 were killed and it caused the Swiss to rethink the practice of sending their young men off to fight other countries wars. Today, Switzerland only supplies troops to protect the pope and they still wear their traditional uniforms at Vatican City.
All along the Reuss River are inviting sidewalk cafes where you can have a coffee or glass of wine and watch the world go by. The old town north of the river is filled with winding streets, brightly painted murals on buildings, and the remnants of the city’s old fortifications.
The city is dominated by Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi, part of the Swiss Alps, and Lake Lucerne.
Beautiful Lake Lucerne is filled with pleasure boats and ferries that shuttle people to different towns on the lake. Steep, snow covered mountains surround the lake and provide an unending panorama of spectacular views.
Lucerne is a great city for walking, shopping, eating, and just hanging out. The next time you go to Switzerland, be sure to plan to stay for a few days.
Travel safe. Have fun!