Switzerland is a country known, if not for its peace, at least for its neutrality during war. To look around the landscape of Switzerland it is hard to imagine how anyone could feel anything but peaceful when surrounded by such sheer, crisp beauty. Lucerne is an interesting mesh of old and new, the old covered bridge and medieval tower stand in juxtaposition to the thoroughly modern thoroughfares lined with high-end stores. While life whizzes by at the uber-punctual Swiss pace, the transparent blues of the expansive Lake Lucerne create an oasis of peace. Surrounded by towering Mount Pilatus and the snow-capped Alps in the distance, Lake Lucerne is nothing if not breathtaking.
My favorite thing we did in the very outdoor-loving and active country of Switzerland was to rent bicycles from the train station. Once we had navigated the streets—those busses whiz by inches from your bike—we began pedaling around the perimeter of Lake Lucerne. Soon the precarious bicycle lane of the highway faded into tree-covered bike paths alongside the water. We pedaled around the flora and fauna, paused to dip my feet in, pedaled to a different pier, paused to eat ice cream in the green grass while we watched the children swimming and the sailboats gliding over the waters.
After sampling some of the trademark Swiss cheese and chocolate fondue (one guess as to which was my favorite) we turned in so we could begin the grand Golden Loop early the next morning.
The Golden Loop begins with a steamer ride across Lake Lucerne. We grabbed up a wicker love seat on the stern and watched the swans duck and bathe and glide along, watched the mountains grow larger, watched the Swiss flag wave in the wind that the boat created. The second leg of the Golden Loop is a trip aboard the world’s steepest cogwheel train to the top of Mt. Pilatus. An engineering feat, the train uses a herringbone locking mechanism to propel the train cars up the mountain sometimes at an incline of 48 degrees.
On top of Mt. Pilatus was an other-worldly experience. We watched paragliders jump off the mountain and go gliding off into the horizon line. We hiked to the second tallest point on Mt. Pilatus—Esel. From this vantage, you can see out over six lakes, the Swiss Alps, the Black Forest, and most of Switzerland. Our pictures, unfortunately, do not do it justice.
After hiking down, we took an air gondola down the mountain a ways to Frakmantugg where we ate a light lunch on top of the world before we headed to the summer toboggan run. Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan run finds you careening down a metal half-pipe perched on a small sled trying not to fall down the mountain. It was exhilarating. The best part is you don’t have to cart your heavy sled back up the mountain. Instead they hook it (with you still on it) to a cable that conveys you back up the height of the toboggan run to the starting point. On the way up you are left to the peaceful quiet of the mountainside, the tinkle of the Alpine cow bells as herds graze by, and the splendor of the peaceful view. A cable car then takes you all the way down the mountain where you catch a bus back to Lucerne, thereby bringing the Golden Loop full circle.
That evening we sauntered down to the lake to enjoy a lovely meal and a walk around the Lake once night had fallen. The play of starlight and lamplight on the glassy surface of the water created an ambience of peace and feeling right with the world.
On our final day, we went to mass at the local church then returned to commune one last time with Lake Lucerne. We rented a paddle boat and went efficiently spinning out onto the crystalline lake. After a leisurely lunch and purchasing the requisite Swiss chocolates, we were off to Munich to catch our overnight back to Italia.
Everything is clean, sharp, even pristine, in Switzerland—the streets, the parks, the bathrooms, the hotels, the landscape. And if indeed cleanliness is next to godliness and God brings peace, then Switzerland is one of the most peaceful countries on earth. If, though, financial concerns disturb your peace of mind, don’t come to Switzerland. Besides the exorbitant amount of Swiss Franks you have to pay (they are not on the Euro) for everything, you must have correct change for every public service—busses, bathrooms, telephones, because you don’t get change back. Maybe the surplus goes to those mysterious Swiss banks?
Lucerne, while not in the heart of the trademark Alpine Jungfrau region, does afford a splendidly peaceful stay beside the placid waters of Lake Lucerne and the commanding vista of Mt. Pilatus.