Last Stop: Lucerne

Lake Lucerne

We were nearing the end of our tour and finally we’ve arrived in the last country, Switzerland. From Vaduz, it was supposed to be a non-stop drive to Lucerne. Instead of being welcomed with a view of Lake Lucerne, we were first greeted by members of the Swiss police.

The short version of the story is that we were on the highway, just a few miles outside of Lucerne, when we (and a truck driver) noticed there was something wrong with the bus. Our driver stopped and stepped outside with our guide and after taking a look, the conclusion was that our bus was breaking down. The goal was to try to drive slowly and make it into the city; we would not need the bus for the rest of the afternoon after we checked into the hotel. About ten minutes after getting back on the road, we were flagged down again but this time by the police. Apparently, they saw smoke coming out from the back of the bus and would not permit us to go further. Instead, they escorted us to the nearest police station.

Our bus and the police car

In the meantime, our guide Kate telephoned the other tour group (they had already arrived ahead of us) and explained the situation. Once Dean’s group was dropped off in the city, their driver came to the police station to pick us up so we weren’t stranded for too long. Our luggage would follow later on and suffice to say, it definitely made for an interesting conversation with members from the other group when the two tours had to share one bus and one guide briefly in the afternoon on our way to the hotel.

There was no introductory tour once we arrived in the city. Those who decided not to participate in the optional lake cruise (M and I did not) were on their own for the rest of the day, including finding our own dinners. Since we were unable to check into the hotel just yet, we began to wander around the streets of city. Our first tourist stop ended up being a visit to the Lion of Lucerne.

Lion of Lucerne

The monument commemorates the deaths of Swiss Guards during a great battle at the Tuileries Palace in Paris, in 1792. It’s a magnificent sculpture though the scene is somewhat sad; the Lion isn’t sleeping but dying, a spear driven in its side.

Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge)

We retraced our steps back to where Lake Lucerne meets the Reuss River. There are several beautiful bridges the span the river; the most famous and photographed one is the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge). According to Wikipedia, it’s the oldest covered bridge in Europe, dating back to the 14th century. The stone structure in the middle of the bridge is the Water Tower, named for its location in the river and not as a building that stored water for use. And nearby is another old wooden bridge, the Spreuer Bridge, which was completed in 1408. Both bridges are decorated with beautiful paintings, in the towers and in the gable of the roofs.

Spreuerbrücke (Spreuer Bridge)

We strolled through some of the narrow streets near the river but didn’t really venture too far. The skies were grey and the rain came down all afternoon, mostly a light drizzle though it was heavier at times and it grew dark very quickly

Walking on Kramgasse Bridge

Evening on the Reuss River

After checking in at the hotel, we ended up walking back towards railway station. I love wandering through train stations when I’m abroad because usually they are far more grand and stately than what we have at home (Grand Central Terminal being an exception). I can’t remember much about it, except that it was dark thanks to shorter daylight hours and there were plenty of people milling about at the time of day. There are shops in the concourse of the station, which were far more interesting, and a mini Christmas Market was set up as well. The holiday market did not interest me much but I very much enjoyed exploring the supermarket at one end of the concourse.

Lucerne Railway Station

And it was at the market where we procured our evening meal. As I walked up and down the aisles of Coop, it reminded me of upscale markets like Whole Foods and other international markets I visit elsewhere (like the CitySuper chain in Hong Kong). Coop’s prepared foods section was pretty awesome; M and I both ended up with a quarter roasted chicken, while I grabbed a small organic salad (fresh veggies at last), a dinner roll, green juice and a chocolate mousse for dessert. Unsurprisingly, I bought quite a bit of chocolate as well.

Supermarket Dinner

We headed back to the hotel afterwards and it was nice to just plop down on the bed or at the desk and eat without making small talk with others. And out of all the meals we’ve had on this trip, it was one of the better and more pleasant ones. I really, really missed having vegetables and a simple salad was pretty satisfying. The chicken was delicious (I wanted seconds), the bread roll soft and tasty, but my dessert was a bit too boozy for me. I didn’t think to read the ingredients (in French no less) beforehand but I was drawn to it regardless. With the exchange rates nearly equal, my meal cost about $15 USD, which wasn’t bad at all and sadly, cheaper than some of my lunches in midtown Manhattan.