After leaving the City of Lights, we traveled for six hours on the tour bus until we reached Lucerne, Switzerland! Since Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, we did have to go through border control.
We first stopped at the Lion of Lucerne monument (in German: Löwendenkmal) on the way to our quaint hotel. This monument was created in 1820-1821 to commemorate and honor the 760 Swiss Guardsmen who died trying to protect King Louis XIV of France and his wife, Marie Antoinette, during the French Revolution in the assault on the Tuileries Palace (1792). The enormous monument (33 feet x 20 feet) carved into a sandstone cliff face shows a dying lion with a spear protruding from his body and symbolizes loyalty and bravery. The lion’s shield is decorated with the fleur- de- lis which represents the French monarchy. There are rumors regarding the meaning of the pig-shaped cave or outline which surrounds the lion sculpture. The shape may be unintentional, but some say that it was the sculptor’s revenge for nonpayment.
We then checked into our hotel and took a walking tour which was cut short by a deluge of rain. After twenty minutes of huddling under store awnings, we were lucky enough to find a chocolate shop. You can’t go to Switzerland and not buy Swiss chocolate! Our guide had also given us promotional slot machine vouchers for the Gubelin watch store; you choose three numbers for a chance to win a watch worth 3,500 Swiss Francs (about equal to US dollars). If you don’t win the watch, you get a free bar of chocolate. Secretly, that was my whole motivation behind going to the watch shop – the chocolate! We then headed back to the hotel and had a simple but delicious dinner!
We spent our next and last day in Switzerland on a morning excursion to Mount Stanserhorn. I had always heard that Switzerland is beautiful, but it really was awe-inspiring! We first took a small train with four compartments part way up the mountain and then took the CabriO ® cable car to the top. The CabriO ® began service to the top of Mount Stanserhorn in June of 2012 and holds up to 30 people (standing-room only) in each of its double-decker compartments (the top deck is ‘open-air’ and the first of its kind). WOW – the tiny cable car was practically flying up the mountain, it was that fast! When we arrived at the top, we took advantage of the outside seating area that overlooked the lush green mountains in the distance (some were snow-covered). You can see as far as Alsace, France and the Black Forest in Germany. I also got the chance to play the alpenhorn or alphorn which was, again, awesome and quite unlike playing my flute. The excursion to the top of Mount Stanserhorn was one of my favorite sight-seeing experiences.
Now, before we move on to Italy, some fast facts about Switzerland:
- Switzerland has a small but formidable army – all males are required to serve for two years from ages 18-20
- There are four official languages: French, German, Italian, and Romansh (a language descended from common Latin)
- Switzerland is the world leader in road tunnel construction
- Velcro and Cellophane were invented by Swiss
- The Swiss Guard was founded in Lucerne in 1506
- The Swiss have buses that ran on electricity provided by two overhead wires
Next – Venice, Italy!