Tales of a non-Swiss miss in Switzerland - part Lucerne (March 12-13, 2012)

Day 1 - March 12, 2012

I might not be Swiss, but I sure like Swiss chocolate!

And Lucerne is quite lovely too.

I've gotten all of my lacking sleep, irritable Kristy pre-trip gripings out in a previous blog entry which I may or may not even post. Now it's time for the wondrous. (I will, however, put some photos in from the pre-wonderous. They do tell a story.)

We left Dallas and went to Pittsburg. We barely made our flight. In fact, we were on our first flight still when I took this photo of our next flight already in the loading process.

When we finally got on our Pittsburg - JFK and saw them walk our bags over to our flight. PHEW!

Landed in New York.

Smelled the Big Apple...

and grabbed an airport Italian lunch before heading on our flight to Zurich.

Customs was super easy. Then we purchased our train tickets to Luzern. (We would start using our Swiss passes the next day.)

The airport and train stations were so very clean...

and we were so very tired. I did manage to have my first pretzel of the trip though.

Zurich has motorcycles hanging from the ceiling...

and German-Swiss doppelgängers of my friend, Laura.

We tried waiting around outside of our apartment for a while before check-in, but I was getting weird looks from people on the street.

So we tried giving Bill (who owns Legends and was renting our apartment to us) a call, but we couldn't figure out the phone booth.

In lieu of other ideas, Kris and I went to the Lion Monument. I've seen many statues and carvings, but this one is super impressive. They actually carved the lion into a gigantic wall of stone. Superb!

When we were done, we ate lunch at a local Co-op (called Coop - and is the local cost saver grocery and more store) and then headed back to Legends where we were able to find Bill...and a Swiss wooden carving of a gnome.

Bill, an English transplant with a seriously interesting background as a world traveler, bar owner, and boat captain, regaled us with a few tales, jokes, and a welcome glass of cold Coca-Cola before showing us to the apartment. 
Bill (from his AirBnB profile)

The people who frequent Bill's bar are big fans of our current president.
We rented Bills's apartment via AirBnb (http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/99351). Great place with great reviews...deservedly. There was a fast elevator to take us to the 8th floor, and we only had to walk one flight of stairs up to the apartment. The only thing that was missing (other than an ice cube tray for us crazy Americans) was the guitar shown in a few of the photos. (But I imagine that is called staging.) Bill's photos don't show that he provides a couple of oscillating fans for those requiring air movement. Great stay! 

If you do decide to use AirBnB, please use my referral link to book. 
It saves you $25 and me $25 off my next stay:  http://www.airbnb.com/tell-a-friend?airef=qok3zd875ezz5
Living room and kitchen
I loved the decor.
Kitchen decor


The apartment even had a great view from the bathroom!

It did take a little while to figure out how to use the outlets.
And it was a bit strange to us that the elevator was outside.

But we couldn't have been happier with the apartment and included amenities (towels, linens, pots/pans, dishes, silverware, microwave, stovetop, fridge/freezer, kettle, tv, free fast wifi, etc.). We took a nap before heading out to explore a bit. 

A very nearby church chimed at every quarter hour. I really liked the toll, but I imagine others might not be as fond. The church that chimed was pretty to look at as well.

And a local store made Kris feel right at home.

We were able to walk from Bill's apartment to the train station sans luggage in under 10 minutes...the walk to the Chapel Bridge was quite short too. 

Along the way we saw glimpses of mountains and plenty of swans.

We saw a local game of Bocce...

and a slightly used lock bridge.

The Chapel Bridge was quite lovely and serene.
Kapellbrücke - Chapel Bridge
A short stroll through Old Town (Altstadt) really revealed what I had to look forward to the following day...
*lovely scenery

*people watching

*unique fountainheads

*interesting artwork

*intriguing advertising

We went to a local coop to grab items to make dinner at the apartment since the sticker shock is gasp inducing. 
Can someone please tell me what American sauce takes like?
Kris tested out the kitchen in the apartment. We were so lucky to stay where we did. There was garlic, tomato, mushroom, mustard, eggs, and more in the fridge, plus salt and pepper, olive oil, coffee, sugar, and tea in the cabinets. Bill stocked quite a few things and the people who stay leave anything they don't use. Works out great.

Kris made brats and mushroom in olive oil.

Then we made spätzli two ways - pan fried some in some olive oil and garlic & boiled with tomato sauce. We donated our leftover tomato sauce to the fridge.


Day 2 - March 13, 2012

First thing this morning, we walked to the train station to validate our Swiss pass.

Our pass can be used on trains, buses, and even boats. We also got a Museum Pass with our pass...getting us admission into many museums free of charge. Of course, the weather was so nice we'd spend as little time inside as possible.
Our Swiss Pass was well worth the expense
The train station had McClean pay toilets

After the train station, we went to Old Town to peruse the farmer's market. In addition to food, people were selling flowers and Easter crafts.
Easter crafts for sale at the Lucerne Farmer's Market

At the Lucerne Farmer's Market
Kris grabbed a coffee as we strolled through the streets.

I annoyed him by taking photo after photo of the amazing murals painted on the walls through old town.

Just as intriguing, the fountains in town had so much character. I never saw two fountains that looked the same and some even had fountain additions for your pets. (Switzerland seems very dog friendly.)

We spent hours walking through old town. There are two wooden bridges in old town. Chapel Bridge is better known and more picturesque from the outside. 
Chapel Bridge (also photographed the previous day)

Chapel Bridge and part of Old Town
However, the other, Spreuerbrücke or Mill Bridge, had so much more character inside. There are paintings placed on the ceiling panels that tell the story of - well, I can't read the language so I'm making something up - a skeleton who liked to kill people almost like a Dance of Death.  I found the panels quite fascinating...and think it's amazing this bridge was constructed in the 1400s.
Spreuerbrücke (or Mill Bridge)

Kris inside of the Mill Bridge
Painted panel in the Mill Bridge

Dance of Death inside of the Mill Bridge

Tile work at the end of the Mill Bridge
We headed up to walk along the walls of the town. Unfortunately, due to the season, the museum was closed and we couldn't go inside. It didn't detract from our enjoyment. 

Kris sits along the walls

There was a track from a school or rec center alongside the walls and a great view of the town from the top.

I found some of the artwork in the town strange. It was exciting to be in a place without the typical artwork.

*Statues had red eyes

*men wore grass skirts

*someone put a happy shark on the wall

Skitler even found a friend.

The playground had an interesting sifting toy. Ooo - what fun. Let's sift the rocks out of the dirt!?! There were painted tiles next to the playground illustrating acting, math juggling, and infinite tug-of-war.
Sifter in the park

Anyone up for some math juggling or infinite tug-of-war?
I also got to see the anointed golden pretzel...which made us hungry for lunch.

We grabbed food from a local "to go" cafe and sat on a bridge by the riverbank eating our food while a lady blindfolded above us sketched.
Locals eating their lunch by the riverbank.

A blindfolded lady drawing?
Shortly thereafter we got a free show as we watched a lady try to get a swan back into the river.

We went across the Chapel Bridge to go to the Rosengart Museum to see the largest one building Picasso collection.

Along the way we were distracted by a local toy store and went in to explore. In addition to many amazingly well-crafted handmade items, they had some strange toys that I don't quite understand.
Really - a school toliet as part of a playset???
The Rosengart (free with our Swiss Pass) had works by artists other than Pablo Picasso (such as Klee and Matisse). One of my favorite parts of this museum was that there were walls of photos of Picasso. It was nice to get some insight into the life of this very interesting man; we got to view him doing daily things like getting a haircut and having a dinner party but also saw some photos of him working on or posing with art.
from the Rosengart Collection - linked from another source as we weren't allowed to take photos inside
Picasso painted this portrait of Angela Rosengart, founder of the museum
After we were done with the Rosengart Museum, we went to the piers to await our boat to do a tour of Lake Lucerne as it visited the towns of Weggis, Vitznau, and Beckenreid before turning around. There were a few other small town stops along the way as well.

While waiting on the pier, we ate some chocolate and witnessed an impromptu wrestling match between two young females. Some random guy ran over to act as referee. They were at it a while.

While on the boat, we saw towns pass by, heard snippets of random conversation, saw people come and go, and had a conversation with two teenagers (male and female) who graduate from high school next year. She has plans to travel but her boyfriend had fewer options. The Swiss government requires all freshly graduated males to spend a year either serving the Swiss military or serving the Swiss communities by doing some other community service assignments. The young lady I was speaking to had strong opinions on how she thought making the men serve in an army they don't use is a waste of resources. She also was strongly opposed to the Lucerne regulation that no mosques be built. It was a pretty enlightening conversation. She said she and her boyfriend have been inspired to learn to speak english, because they like our television shows. In school they all learn German first (spoken widely in town) and then either Italian or French (two of the other official languages of Switzerland). There is a later option to learn English and/or Romanish in addition to the language you didn't first choose.

The boat tour was really quite a lovely way to see more of Switzerland.  (Extra nice since it didn't cost anything extra but gave us 2.5 hours of entertainment.)

We enjoyed our time on the boat (even though it was rather nippy). Sunset is always a beautiful time. 

We went grocery shopping at the train station Coop when we arrived back and picked up Gruyere agnolotti and chicken breast stuffed with feta and ricotta and wrapped in bacon and sage/rosemary. A bit of olive oil and some pan frying later and we had one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. Seriously wonderful.

Lucerne on our walk back to Bill's apartment
One of the best meals I've had in a very long time.

We leave you tomorrow Lucerne, but I've enjoyed you.

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