Lucerne was one of my favorite places that we visited when I was a kid, and now it holds that title for me as an adult. We took the train from Zurich to Lucerne, which is about a 45 minute ride. The Lucerne train station is along the Reuss River, and when you walk out you see Mount Pilatus to the right and Lucerne’s famous Chapel Bridge to the left.
Before we set out on our city walk we stopped in the post office. It’s in my genes to buy and send postcards home to friends and family. I almost fell over (figuratively this time) when I bought six stamps for 12 Swiss Francs. The Swiss Franc was just about at parity with the US Dollar during our visit – basically we paid $12 to send six postcards home!
After recovering from our sticker shock we set off on our city walk. The city walk started with us crossing the famous Chapel Bridge. We were supposed to cross half way and turn back, but my eagle eyes spotted the Starbucks logo across the river. We crossed the bridge and went to Starbucks. After paying 16 Swiss Francs for two lattes we were off to cross the bridge again, but first we needed to recover from sticker shock number two after the stamps and the lattes!
We crossed back over the bridge. It is important to take time crossing this bridge. It is all wood except for its stone tower at the bend in the middle of the bridge. In 1993 the bridge almost burned down completely. The bridge was restored and reopened in 1994 and somehow still contains some of the paintings from the 17th century. Some are charred from the fire, and serve as a reminder of the survival of the bridge.
The rest of the walk took us along the river, into a few churches, and some shopping districts. All the while we were reading menus and not believing the prices. We didn’t want to pay over $100 for lunch. Finally we found the equivalent of a brew pub that was offering reasonably priced lunch options. I had a cheese sandwich on a pretzel (OMG! Yes), and my husband had a German bratwurst lunch – yes in Switzerland. Now that we were fortified we were ready to see the famous Lion Monument.
As a kid I remember seeing the lion and crying. The Lion Monument honors the Swiss Guards who were killed or massacred guarding French Royalty during the French Revolution. The monument depicts a lion that has been hit with a spear and lies dying on a shield bearing the fleur de lis — the symbol of French royalty. He is dying on the shield of those he was protecting. The monument was carved in such a way that the striations on the rock are on the same angle as the spear in the lion. Making it look like more than one spear is coming at him.
We approached the lion, and it happened again. This is such a sad monument; I can’t help but tear up looking at it, or even looking at pictures of it. Perhaps Mark Twain said it best when he said the monument is “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world”.
After some time along the river we decided to head back to Zurich and beat the train rush hour crowds. We definitely experienced Swiss sticker shock during our time in Zurich and Lucerne. That is the one tip we would give anyone going to Switzerland, be prepared, it is more expensive than France or Germany. If you use Starbucks as a guide we pretty much paid what we would pay in the US for a latte – around $4-5 – in France and Germany, but in Switzerland it was $8! It may be expensive, but the experience is worth it. This is why we go to work, to experience sights and trips like this one.