It all started with my wife and I driving from the Musee De Louvre in Paris. It was a hectic drive out of the car rental place under the museum. With half an hour of crazy bumper to bumper driving we made our way out of Paris and on to the highway toward Switzerland.
Some hours later, we followed the instructions of the TomTom and didn’t even realise we were about to enter Switzerland. Coming from Australia, we have never experienced driving from one country to another and did not even click when we pulled up at what looked like some roadworks. “Where are you going?” Said a young blonde woman in a uniform. “Switzerland!” We replied cheerily. The woman gave a roll of her eyes and asked us for money and passports. So it turns out that was the border and we looked like idiots, of course we were going to Switzerland 🙂
Anyway, that was our grand and elegant entrance to Switzerland, a country of rolling green hills, impressive mountains, rivers cows grazing and green forest. I had never seen such beautiful countryside and was excited to reach our destination, a little town named Lucerne.
I remember seeing a beautiful statue of a lion carved out of a rock wall. I soon learned this was ‘The dying lion of Lucerne’. Having arrived in Switzerland late in the day we stopped at a Movenpick Hotel which turned out to be very comfortable, a few hours drive from Lucerne. The following day we headed toward Lucerne and took in the brilliant scenery and stopped at a few little towns before arriving in the afternoon. Lucerne turns out to a rather expensive town and attracts a lot of tourists so we resorted to staying at a backpackers in a private room. The room was close to everything and looked out on to the water, mountains and popular Chapel Bridge and the many old buildings along the waterfront.
We spent a few days here and found most of the town is best seen on foot exploring old winding streets and medieval buildings. A short walk from the lake up hill we found the Lion monument tucked away in a quiet spot. This statue was described by Mark Twain as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world” and most would have to agree when they see this beautiful sculpture up close.
The text HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI above the lion means “to the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss” and the statue commemorates the Swiss Guards who defended the Tuileries Palace in Paris from Parisian revolutionaries in 1792 during the French Revolution.
Interestingly, if you look at the statue and the cave outline around the lion, it resembles the shape of a pig. A few stories are floating around about the artist not receiving payment and carving this out of spite. If anyone knows more details about this feel free to share, I would love to know more.
For the rest of our time, we explored more of Lucerne and followed Lake Lucerne for a great drive through small villages nearby. Even with average weather for a few days, Lucerne and the surrounding area is so picturesque and I can only imagine it gets better throughout spring.
One downside to Lucerne, and probably the only one was the cost. Lucerne is one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist attractions and the locals know it. Even a meal at Burger King is pricey (~$18 AU) and as with most cities, waterfront restaurants are way up there. The best advice I can give is to look down the backstreets for the places where the locals eat. As for accommodation, it is going to cost either way you look at it. Having said that, it is well worth the visit even if for only a day or two.
With our time in Lucerne over we headed north towards Germany and made a quick stop in Zurich. This is a city I would love to explore, but due to bad weather and a tight schedule we kept driving and decided we would return another time. Switzerland, what I saw of it, was an incredible country and one with so many more cities and wilderness I want to see. I still need to return to see the Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn, does anyone want to accommodate a couple of wide eyed Aussies? 🙂
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