Lucerne: WOW. BEAUTIFUL. (Repeat)

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That is what I kept saying throughout my weekend in Lucerne (German: Luzern), Switzerland.

Wow. Beautiful.

I got as tired of hearing my voice utter the same words as the cows must get tired of hearing their bell necklaces forever clanging in their ears.

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(When hiking up in the mountains among the many cows, I wondered aloud to my husband if there was a greater incidence of mad cow disease – you know, from all the loud clanging inside the cows’ heads from the bells. I thought it was a kind of cute joke – granted, not brilliant, but still semi-amusing – until he soberly answered that, yes, there had been. Oops. No more bad cow jokes.)

(And, no, the “utter” was udderly unplanned.)

(Ok, I will stop now with the bad cow jokes. I promise.)

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Seriously, though, Switzerland has to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, made even more so by the Swiss’ care of their country. I didn’t see any litter. The streets are in good condition, as are the train stations, the airport and infrastructure in general.

(The airport’s train, in addition to being spotless and, of course, on time, also boasts a smiling buxom Heidi, mooing cows and yodeling to greet you as you travel from station to station.)

Most of the graffiti is artwork. The architecture is generally compatible with its environment, not trying to compete with the vast mountains or sparkling waters, but fitting in with well-placed visual punctuations by castles or palaces.

And that is just the inanimate side of things.

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The people were very friendly, and, excluding our taxi drivers, English was prolific (although I did try to resurrect some of the German I studied when I was on assignment in Wiesbaden for 4 months way back in 1992…needless to say, there wasn’t much to resurrect, my 23-year-old self dedicating most free time to more exciting activities than completing my German homework.)

But the crowning glory of Switzerland, this nation of around 8 million lucky inhabitants who speak up to four languages, if not more (the official four languages: German; French, Italian; Rumantsch), is its nature. A nature that includes pristine mountain lakes, river valleys, and mountains, the Alps being an obvious highlight.

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As for Lucerne itself, it is situated on the large Lake Lucerne and framed by glorious mountains, some snow-capped. Although the city boasts a population of under 100,000, its diversity belies that number – in culture, activities, and cuisine. In fact, as far as food goes, one doesn’t lack for places to fill the belly. And, if you want to literally put your money where your mouth is, there are even Micheline Guide star restaurants in the area.

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We didn’t go to an MG establishment, although we ate out a lot, including dinner at a castle situated on the slope around Lucerne, its white turreted structure looking down on the city like a sentinel. After all the fine dining, there was definitely more of me that returned to Istanbul than what went to Lucerne.

Even with the hiking.

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No matter how lovely the food, the meandering around the oh-so charming city, or even running in the morning along the lake with my hubby, my hands-down favorite outing was hiking in the mountains.

(It was when we were hiking that I was thinking that any blog should be titled “Life on a 90-degree angle.” Let’s just say that my glutes were feeling our “walk” the next day. Luckily, the center of Lucerne, where we spent most of our time, is relatively flat.)

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There are many hiking areas to choose from, but we chose Mount Rigi. To get there, we had a one-hour lovely boat cruise (if you care to dine, you will be given cloth napkins) to Vitznau, and from there, a ride up the mountain on a shiny red train whose brakes you hope are in as  pristine condition as the paint job.

(There are also areas with cable cars, and we watched the cars ascend the mountains, their cables lost in the glare of the sun so that they looked like some space age transport.)

We hopped off the train before the summit so we could “enjoy” the remaining walk up the mountain. The thinner air immediately hit my lungs, although thankfully they – or was it my heart – seemed to adjust quickly. Other parts of me, not so much. Even though certain parts of the walk were steep enough to give my muscles a souvenir to enjoy for the rest of the weekend, it was very doable and, more to the point, exceedingly lovely.

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Visitors from times before the train existed. Can you imagine hiking up the mountain in those clothes?

We weren’t the only ones with the idea for a mountain outing (the weather during the entire weekend was superb, apparently not the case the week prior), but it wasn’t busy enough to detract from our walk. Had we time to explore and wanted more solitude, we could have taken one of the many side trails or roads that sketched the area. We didn’t because we had dinner reservations and had to watch the time (plus, the exercise in the clear, fresh air had an effect like a sedative and muscle relaxant rolled into one – or as I assume they would have if combined – as we were so very, very relaaaaaxed, it was all we could do to stay awake on the boat back to Lucerne, walk to our hotel, and reach the pillows where our heads collapsed for a necessary nap before dinner).

And the scenery along the way?

Wow. Beautiful.

 

 

P.S. The times that I have experienced some travel, ahem, excitement, entirely unintended but also mostly (maybe) my fault, are difficult to count. The earliest recollection (because some I have no doubt suppressed) was when my new husband and I prepared to head off on our honeymoon (just 24 hours later). Only to discover that I didn’t have my passport. (And we weren’t heading just a few states away or to a near island…we went to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Oops.)

Or the time that our family of four was heading back to the US after our first year in Russia. To find out as we check in (or tried to) that I had thrown away the flimsy paper that was my entry and exit visa. (I blame this on the Russian government’s lack of foresight to make a visa that looks like a proper stick-in-your passport document.) Or the time I sent my son off on his first traveling volleyball tournament. Without his entry or exit visa.

There are more – including travel related to car, train and bus – but I won’t bore you. I will just say that this trip to Switzerland gave me my more recent memory because when I checked in, I was told that my flight had already left. The day before. Had I checked my ticket? No. I could explain why it happened, but, again, let’s not bore you with details. I will just leave you with a bit of travel advice: Check your itinerary, tickets, and the presence and validity of your passport and visas before you reach the check-in counter, preferably at least a couple of weeks in advance.