Lake Lucerne and the Alps

Here’s a second post from our recent trip to Switzerland. It’s taking rather longer than intended to turn these round, but fine polishing my notes has meant revisiting Switzerland on a grey February day in Denmark, so maybe not such a bad idea after all. Although our trip was mainly centred around cities, it was hard to avoid the constant presence of mountains. Not necessarily in a hearty “let’s get up there and do some sport” way, but integrated into Swiss culture rather more subtly. How does a country’s topography affect the people who live there? It may be one of those things you don’t notice until you don’t have it any more. Growing up in Edinburgh, one of many cities built on seven hills, views of the Pentlands from our house or driving down Kaimes Road, walks with the dogs up Costorphine and Blackford Hills and the occasional foray up Arthur’s Seat were the norm. It took quite a while for me to realise just how flat Denmark is – but we’ll leave that for another post. Having missed the opportunity to visit Chalet School favourite Interlaken while we were in Bern, we decided to take a day trip to Luzern, partly inspired by the mural in Basel station:

Photo 03-01-14 19.13.10

Luzern itself tended to the pretty pretty and was a bit Zurich without the grit (of which more later), but the views of the Alps were just what we were looking for. We took a boat trip on the ink blot shaped Vierwaldstättersee, one arm of which offers the 35km Weg der Schweiz, a national path opened in 1991 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the founding of the Swiss Confederation in the meadow of the Rütli:

The route recognises each of the cantons making up Switzerland, with markers announcing each canton along the route. The length of route for each canton is proportional to the population at the time of building, and the order is determined by the order in which the cantons joined the Swiss federation.

Mount Pilatus, a destination in itself, reared up behind us on a 40 minute voyage to Weggis, at the foot of Mount Rigi, with its own cable car to Rigi Kaltbad. How delighted was I to discover that the area had been visited not only by Mark Twain but also by Goethe – both of whom have their own trail. For more see Rigi: Koningin der Berge, with a timeline of the area’s development, cogwheel railways, aerial cable cars and all.

Factoid corner Wanderland.ch has a wealth of information on the mountains plus an interactve map. Webcams galore – Bergfex.comSwiss Panorama, plus My Switzerland.com has 32 walks on an app. Switzerland has a total of 62,500km of marked trails which would stretch around the world 1.5 times, in the following designations:

  • yellow: easy
  • white-red-white: mountain trails, some experience required
  • white-blue-white: high Alpine trails, some climbing or glaciers involved
  • pink: prepared winter walking trails

Updates: nice post from Kulturflaneur on Die Erfindung des Gruppentourismus…the area is also one of A literary atlas of Europe‘s model regions – see the literary hiking guide (publisher’s info)…lovely piece on walking in the footsteps of Jemima Morrell, who went on  one of Thomas Cook’s earliest tours to Switzerland in 1863…Inspiration in the Alps, reviewing The gilded chalet: off-piste in literary Switzerland, ooh!

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