Wednesday 18th July,
Having missed the city last night due to weather the plan was to get skates on and get into Luzern see the sights and get back for a 12 oclock check out. Didn’t quite go according to plan A, and I am sitting here Wednesday night writing this, looking forward to another long hot shower and just ignoring the fact it is costing us again.
The reason, Luzern was a really great surprise, we decided to do a guided city walk, this is the first one we have actually paid for up front and started at the beginning, rather than tagging along quietly in the shadows listening intently.
Anna our guide was amazing and her commentary, stories and advice on what else to see and do does Luzern proud.
Mostly centered around the old city the tour included the covered bridges, the old guild buildings, the churches (we are back into Roman Catholic churches with the impressive marble facades and fresco paintings again), having said that we found out today that the impressive marble alterpieces that we have seen through Germany Austria and now Switzerland are actually wooden frames covered with marble colored and textured stucco. Due to the fact that in the centuries that these churches were built the Swiss Alps physically stood in the way to bring that much marble from Italy through. So we have been conned, and in fact people have been conned for centuries.
Never mind they are still a lot more impressive than the bland grey walls of churches through Italy and France.
Fire seems to have featured quite frequently in Luzern’s history with 2 modern ones that have had quite an impact on its public face, firstly the original railway station burned down, and as with good Democratic Switzerland, the local public had a referendum on what style to rebuild, either a direct replica or a modern design, The public chose a modern design, its not pretty so in frustration they rebuilt the front facade of the old station to remind themselves of their mistake.
The covered bridge also caught fire due to a cigarette butt (they believe), this they did rebuild as an exact copy, except for the replacement of about 1/2 the original paintings that were hung on the bridge that were lost.
The other impressive part of Luzern is the fresco style painting that covers so many walls of the old buildings in the old city, many of these paintings are on the old Guild Halls and depict what Guild it was as well as the “coats of arms” of the families belonging to that guild.
A couple of other interesting learnings, Luzern has been built on tourism right from the early 18th century, ( wealthy English Aristocracy came here first for the health benefits of the cold water springs on the surrounding mountains before heading back to the French or Italian Riveria’s), the only major industry is the lift maker Schindler.
And secondly is that the original Swiss Guard comes entirely from Luzern, they were often the 2nd,3rd,4th sons of families (the first born inherited the family trade) who became mercenaries, and the swiss have always been trusted to remain loyal to those they are contracted too. (Hence why they are they private guards to the Vatican).
An interesting story behind this is the Lion Statue. The Dying Lion of Luzern is one of the worlds most famous monuments. Carved out of a sheer rock wall near the end of the town Ramparts it commemorates the heroism in 1792 of the Swiss Guards who were massacared attempting to protect the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution. Mark Twain described the Lion of Luzern as “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the World”, we don’t disagree.
The other thing available from Luzern are trips by cable car, train and every other form of transport up the surrounding mountains, however in our view they seem rather insignificant compared to our couple of days at The Matterhorn.
So our planned return by checkout didn’t quite happen so we have paid for another night here, and spent the afternoon wandering around a lovely little city in the middle of the Swiss Alps.
As the guide told us the only thing free in Switzerland is the water.