We have had an amazing day today that is going to be hard to describe and we know that the photos certainly will not do it justice!
After an early breakfast, we walked to the station at 7.30am in 1° temperature and it was still dark. We caught the 8.04 train to Lucerne that took us up through the mountains. We watched the sun come up over the mountains slowly illuminating the lakes that we were travelling beside. When the train reached Meirengen, they shunted the engine off the front and put it on the back, which then became the front and the train headed off out of the station the way we had come in, but then headed up the mountain.
We were amazed that the engine managed to pull the train up the steep incline to Brunig Hasilberg, which was almost 500m higher than where we started. However, at times, it was slow going.
As the train headed up the mountains, the scenery changed from beautiful to stunning, with thick snow everywhere, including hanging off the trees and on rooftops. At times we saw buildings with snow up past the windowsills. There were whole villages that were covered in snow and looked like something out of a Christmas card. As we passed through Brunig station, the railway workers were shovelling snow off the roof. As the train made its way slowly back down the other side of the mountain, we had spectacular views of villages and lakes. At one stage, the train came around a corner and there before us was another picture postcard – the Alps reflected in Sarnesee (Lake Sarner) – absolutely beautiful!
The train journey took 2 hours and one hour of that was spent in the mountains amongst the snow.
We arrived in Lucerne just before 10.00 and decided that we would go to Mt Pilatus while the sun was shining and the Alps were not shrouded in clouds, and then we would look at all the things in Lucerne that had attracted us there.
What started off to be a side trip became the main event!
We got directions from the Tourist Information office at Lucerne Station and caught a public transport bus, Bus no 1 (very brave of us) to Kriens, which is about 15 minutes from the town centre. From there, we walked about 10 minutes to the Kriens Gondola Station for our ride up the mountain. We have been in gondolas previously but nothing like this! It was a two stage journey – the first stage by gondola took us to 1416m, which was 1000m higher than where we started; and the second stage was in a cable car, which took us to Mt Pilatus – 2132m, a further 716m higher.
The first stage lifted us up over meadows, through snow covered pine trees and over the village of Frakmuntegg and the second stage, which rose much more steeply and swung over snow covered gorges, cliffs and rocky outcrops, took us to the peak of Mt Pilatus. The two stages took approximately 40 minutes. Once again the scenery was breathtaking.
We were expecting a small observation area at the top but we were totally taken aback to find not only an observation area, but two hotels! When we first arrived we were not allowed to go outside because there had been extremely heavy snowfalls yesterday and last night, with high winds, and the staff were still busily trying to clear a pathway for the visitors to access.
Before too long, a path was cleared, using a hand operated snow plough, and we were allowed outside to take in the absolutely amazing, stunning, unbelievable view (no words can come close to describing how beautiful if was!!)
We had a lovely lunch in the Hotel Pilatus Kulm restaurant overlooking the Alps, looking down on the valley and with a log fire to complete the picture. Richard had an Eichof Braugold beer, which he said was very nice.
We finally tore ourselves away from the views and headed back down the mountain to Lucerne for some sightseeing.
Firstly, we saw the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), which was constructed in the 14th century as park of the city’s fortification. Then we visited the Jesuit Church, which was constructed in 1666 and walked across the Spreuer Bridge (Spreuerbrücke) where we could see parts of the Old Town wall, which was built in 1386. We walked through part of the Old Town, which is now a shopping mall, to the Lion Monument. The “Dying Lion of Lucerne” is a famous monument, hewn out of natural rock in memory of the heroic death of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in 1792. It was quite moving as the lion had an incredibly sad expression on his face.
We walked past the Hof Church, originally a Benedictine Monastery founded in the 8th century, and then walked along the shore of Lake Lucerne to the station to catch our train home late in the afternoon.
As we travelled through the mountains, the sun set and the last hour of our journey was spent in the dark, catching glimpses of little villages with their lights shining on the snow.
Our trip through the mountains to Lucerne was in a First Class carriage, which for the greater part of both journeys, we had to ourselves. We are so pleased that we bought our First Class Pass before we left home – it has been invaluable because it has given us unlimited First Class rail travel as well as buses and boats.
We have spent a couple of hours since we got back to the hotel, sorting through our photos – what a task as Richard had 274 and Sandy had 113 photos that we need to cull for our gallery on the blog! At one stage, Richard was taking photos out one side of the train while Sandy was taking photos out the other side.