It was quite a scenic drive from Venice to Lucerne, especially once we crossed the border for the first time today from Italy into Switzerland. We stopped at Lake Lugano for our lunch stop and this is quite a picturesque little town. The houses are quite different here – kind of look like chalets you see on the side of mountains at ski resorts, very cute. Also saw the first cows in Europe, as they were still out in the fields however most of Europe they are brought in under shelter for the winter. We also drove through the third longest road tunnel in the world (St Gotthard) 16.4kms long which took 6 years to build and has a speed limit of 50kms/hr.
What a beautiful city Lucerne is with the backdrop of the mountains and the lake… First of all we visited the Lion Monument and heard the history of how this came about and did a small walking tour of Lucerne making our way back to the Hotel for next 2 nights – Astoria was a really awesome hotel, great location and was huge – couple of restaurants and a bar/night club right on the top.
I spent the next 2 days with the Springholz family – we had a 15 year old German exchange student living with us for 5 months (Jan - June 2012) and unfortunately as our tour did not visit Germany, I approached his parents to see if they were willing to come down to Lucerne to meet me and bring Lukas with them as a surprise. It was an awesome surprise for him and really good to see him again. As there were no compulsory activities planned for the following couple of days I just spent the time with them…
We went out for dinner the first night to a local restaurant and had a typical German meal with them of ‘wiener schnitzel’ accompanied with spatzle – which is very popular in the Black Forest of Germany where the Springholz family live. This is a type of plain pasta like dough which you eat with lots of gravy.Mt Pilatus
The following day we ventured up Mt Pilatus on the world's steepest cogwheel railway (gradient of 48%). This was such an amazing experience – awesome view and feeling being on top of the Swiss Alps!!! Once again words can’t explain… What a view!!! It was such a nice time of the year to be here, autumn colours against loads of snowcapped mountains and Lake Lucerne below. We probably spent about 4 hours here including about 1 hr 15 mins travel time in total on the cogwheel railway. Normally you would take the railway up and then the Panorama gondola’s back down, however they were closed for maintenance as they were getting ready for winter.
Once back in Lucerne, we took a leisurely walk along the old Musegg city wall and around the city for a look in some of the shops. I brought some Swiss chocolate (as you do when in Switzerland) – Lindt which you can buy here anyway and was CHF3-4 per small block (approx NZD$4-5 which is about normal I guess to buying here). I also brought some handmade chocolate that the shop made themselves and that was quite unique although very expensive. We also had a look in the Bucherer store which sells famous Swiss watches, jewellery and gems/diamonds.Pfistern Restaurant
Lucerne is such a relaxed city, more like a large town. Tonight we went in search of some dinner and ended up at the Pfistern Restaurant Christmas Forest which was a very unique experience. It is located in a makeshift Christmas setting outside (only set up from 1st November to 31st December each year) with loads of fairy lights and large Christmas trees set up. As it is located outside, they provide you with blankets and wheat bags and they have 100 fondues to choose from. We had the basic cheese fondue which you share with one other person and dip squares of bread and small potatoes into, and all I can say is wow Swiss cheese is strong and very expensive!!! Cost was CHF35.00 per person (x2) approx NZD$50.00 per person. Was definitely an experience and I love cheese, but not that much, I was definitely all cheesed out after trying to eat the whole pot full!!
My favourite so far...
Lucerne is a very picturesque, relaxed city and I would have to class this as my favourite place that we visited on the tour and so far my favourite in Europe!!!