Lucerne, the name originates from the word Lorezzeria which means ‘a settlement on marshy ground’, and is said to be the home of William Tell. The town is nestled in the Swiss Alps and has a fairytale feel.
All through the 20th C Lucerne has clung tight to its conservative and traditional roots, and these days it is renowned as the heartland of Switzerland’s SVP, an extreme right-wing political party with a strident and increasingly successful set of anti-immigration and anti-EU policies.
Top 5 sights
1. Lake Lucerne is the lake William Tell is said to have escaped from, and you can take a ferry ride on the lake for some amazing scenery views.
2. Chapel Bridge is the most famous and oldest surviving medieval wooden road-covered bridge in Europe. Once part of the city’s fortifications and named after the Peter’s Chapel which is located at the end of the bridge. It was originally built in 1333, but most of it has been replaced after a fire in 1993. As you walk over the bridge you will notice the difference between the re-built section of the bridge and the original. It is the most photographed object in Switzerland after the Matterhorn. There are 120 paintings on the rafters of the bridge that were painted in the 17th C and illustrate scenes of Swiss and local history. At the end of the bridge is the Wazzerturm (water tower). It also served as a prison, a torture chamber and once held the city archives. Today the tower is used as the guild hall of the Artillery Association.
3. Lion Monument is a sculpture of a slain and tearful lion built in memory of the Swiss mercenaries that perished during the French Revolution. The Swiss Guards are said to be the best guards in the world. They protected the French Monarchy before the French Revolution, and they have been protecting the Pope since 1506. When Louis the 16th was about to be invaded by the revolting French in 1789, the King told his guards to protect the Louvre where he was hiding, even though he had already fled. More than 700 Swiss Guards where slaughtered in the attack, without knowing that their royal employers had left the building. Switzerland as a country was devastated to see that the French King had left their men to die. The monument to the Swiss Guards of the French Revolution was carved out of natural rock in 1820. There is a legend that says the artist that was commissioned to sculpt the piece was not paid the agreed amount of money when his work was completed, so he vandalized the inset to resemble a pig’s silhouette. It may only be a legend, but if you look closely you will see the pig.
4. Jesuit Church is a great example of a baroque style of church. You will see a lot of these throughout Europe, and the style is usually depicted by a lot of cherubs and flower carvings in the foundations. The church was built in 1667 and is dedicated to Frances Xavier, a famous Jesuit in the 16th C. St Frances Xavier was a pioneering co-founder of the Jesuits. The church considers him to have converted more people to Christianity that anyone else since St Paul. The Jesuits (the Society of Jesus) is a Roman Catholic religions order founded in 1534 by a group of University of Paris graduates. Their motto: enter upon hospital and missionary work, or go without question wherever the Pope might direct. There are a few controversies about the Jesuits. In history they have been banned from 87 nations for political subversion in attempting to subvert the government to the temporal power of the pope. The main features of the church are the frescoes and the huge pink marble altar piece.
5. Mont Pilatus is located 9 miles south of Lucerne. Its name is derived from medieval times when the city fathers of Lucerne banned the travel up the mountain because they thought that its slopes were haunted by the ghost of Pontius Pilate. Even for many years after the ban was lifted few people were brave enough to climb the mountain. Today the climb is one of the most popular climbing expeditions in Switzerland. The best way to get up there is to catch the Cog Rail. It operates to the top from Alpnachstad, and it is the steepest cogwheel railway in the world, which runs at a 48% gradient – coolest train ride ever! The view from the top is from 7000 feet above sea level.
(A cog railway is fitted with one or more cog-wheels that mesh into the rail rack. This allows the locomotives to haul the train up the steep climb).
Another alternative to Mount Pilatus is Mt Rigi. It is 15 miles east of Lucerne, but you can stay at a hotel at the top of Mt Rigi, and to stay at the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps is an incredible experience, and one TravAddict highly recommends. You can catch a cog-rail to the top of Mt Rigi, or a cable car (gondola). If you are interested in staying at Mt Rigi, check out the Hostellerie Rigi.
It is a really cute hotel with great food and beer, and all the staff wear little Swiss outfits :) If you catch the cog-rail down the mountain early enough in the morning, you will sometimes see the milkman loading is milk barrels onto the back of the train….he usually has his dog and sometimes a cow with him. So Swiss!
Written and contributed by TravAddict