A Postcard From The Alps – Part 1
My foray into Switzerland started at the most laughable border crossing just outside of Lake Constance. A wooden guard hut on the side of the road, with a painted line? Seriously? Whatever works for the Swiss, I guess.
I caught the train from Rheinfall (location of the Rhine Falls, surprise surprise), and gazed out the window until the train arrived in Zurich. Usually, train journeys are a great place to reflect on life. You know… all of the difficult questions. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What should I have for lunch? Unfortunately, this journey was interrupted every few minutes by two jackasses bragging on their phones loudly about some great business deal they were about to do. It was a welcome relief to see the shores of Lake Zurich roll into view in the distance. Here I had a few hours to pass, so I decided to walk around the city until I had to catch the next train that would deposit me in Lucerne. I’ve only been to Zurich once before, and it was in the dead of winter, so it was nice to stroll around in the June sunshine. Zurich was pretty much everything I remembered it to be: a big lake, stores selling Toblerone, and random art sculptures.
The next leg of the train journey to Lucerne was rather uneventful, as I had an entire carriage to myself. A bit weird, but couldn’t complain about comfort. I took the liberty of swopping seats every few minutes, hoping that it would drive the ticket inspector crazy when they eventually came to check. Unfortunately, they never arrived. Hmph. Other than that, the Swiss railway network is kind of like their watches. Clean, precise, and somehow just works.
Departing in Lucerne, I dropped off my bags at the hotel, and set about exploring. I knew of two famous sights that I wanted to visit. Firstly, the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), and secondly, the infamous Lion Monument (also known as the Lion of Lucerne). Knowing that these would not be able to occupy the three days I had booked in Lucerne, I also decided to look around for alternative attractions to visit – but more on this later.
Finding the Kapellbrücke wasn’t exactly the most difficult thing. Head along the lake shore towards the town, and there it is. Not exactly difficult. I walked up and down the bridge a few times to theoretically get my moneys worth (even though it was free admission). I also considered it to be a great potential candidate for some dusk/night photography later. With a mental note made, I pressed onwards.
As for the Lion Monument, well, that was a bit more of a search, but I found it entirely by luck. For the uneducated, the monument was completed in the year 1821, and it was built to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. The actual monument is incredible to look at, and it seems that the droves of tourists appearing every minute were in agreement with me. While it strikes me as the type of area that would be useful for some “quiet” reflection, that was never going to happen. Instead, I had a look, paid my dues, stocked up on my history knowledge, and continued on my now afternoon venture around Lucerne.
Returning to the Chapel Bridge that evening, I spent a large amount of time trying to capture that “perfect” image. Every exposure had something that was just ever-so-slightly wrong with it. You know the story… a shadow of a person in one, headlights from a car in the next, and so forth. Eventually, I ended up with one image that I was satisfied with, which is pictured above. During my time of capturing this photo, various groups of people approached me and asked me what I was up to, and some even asked for a photo with me (I’m not sure why). So if you spot any photos of me posing next to total strangers one day, now you’ll know why…
The next day, the looming massif of Mount Pilatus was on my “to conquer” list. Hearing that it was possible to ascend the mountain in decent weather conditions, I set out on a local train to try and make my journey to the top. Apparently, there is a “golden” round trip that tourists are recommended to take. It involves boats, a train, a cable car, and a bus. I was not aware of this, hence my journey was a lot less exciting. But its something to keep in mind for when I visit next time.
Turns out, in order to reach the top of Mount Pilatus, one has to catch the cogwheel railway from Alpnachstad. Incidentally, this railway is also the worlds steepest cogwheel railway. That is all well and grand, and I don’t doubt the engineering behind it. But really, its hard to not have visions of the cog system somehow failing, sending a barrage of tourists careening back down the mountain to inevitable death. Now that I’ve painted that nice picture in your mind for when you visit, lets continue our journey. Clearly, the train didn’t fail, and I made it to the top without incident.
I went back down the mountain the same way I had ascended it, on the cogwheel railway. Electing to sit at the back (presuming to fool myself into thinking it was somehow safer there), the small carriage made the way back down the mountain, showing us some amazing scenery that we had missed in the clouds that morning. Then, it was a short train ride back to Lucerne. I spent that evening examining random parts of the town, and watching Americans get drunk and fight at a local bar.
Unfortunately, my time in Lucerne was already drawing to a close. The next day, it was time to head even further south into the mountains, and explore the Interlaken region.
Part 2 here…