First thing the next morning, we rode a bus around Vierwaldstättersee, a.k.a. Lake of the Four Forest Cantons, a.k.a. Lake Lucerne, to the foot of Mount Pilatus, where we boarded tiny cable cars for a long, slow, and (for some, though not for me) nervewracking ascent.
At 7,000 feet (2,120 meters) in elevation, the air atop the mountain was dry, thin, foggy, and CHILLY! Kim, Robin, and I hiked up a steep, narrow rock staircase to the highest point to which one can climb. Even though we couldn’t see all the way down the mountain, the view still took our breath away (well, the view and the low-oxygen atmosphere).
Psst…there’s a “weather station” inside the top/side of Mt. Pilatus, but an anonymous source informed us that it is also a military installation, due to its clear view to the Swiss borders. Anti-aircraft guns are supposedly hidden there, ooh. Sharleen and I explored the caves briefly, but no military personnel intercepted us.
After warming up in the little café at the summit, we rode a cogwheel train back down to the edge of Lake Lucerne (which took 25 minutes!). It was hard to believe we’d just descended that majestic peak in the background. Crazy as it may sound, my feats-of-athletic-endurance-geared mind wished I could have had a go at climbing the thing.
The short walk to the dock took us beneath a couple of underpasses, one of which contained this graffiti. I don’t advocate defacement of public property, of course, but this gave me a smile.
We boarded a small boat for a leisurely 45-minute cruise back across the lake. The scenery was, again, stunning.
Puttering around the edges of the lake were dozens of swans! I was surprised at how big some of them were. (In case you were wondering, I did take advantage of the moment and told one of them “Stop looking at me, swan!”)
We walked across the 200-meter Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, at the junction of the lake and the river. Looks old, right? Well, it was—it was built in 1333 and stood firm until 1993, when some idiot dropped a cigarette and burned it down. What’s there now is a restoration/reproduction of the original.
Our group visited a couple shops together to check out authentic Swiss watches and army knives, and then split up. I headed out on my own for a snack. I randomly selected a bright little café/bakery, where I ate a slice of pizza with tomatoes, yellow peppers, carrots, jicama, and very little cheese. Odd selection of toppings, but tasty.
I had to eat some pastries in Switzerland, so I bought a slice of delectable baklava-esque walnut pie, a moist, dense, moon-shaped brownie with a cookie crust, and a toaster-strudel-style apple turnover. Oh my YUM. I didn’t eat them all at once, don’t worry, but after sampling a bit of each, I still went for a 6-mile run along the lakefront paths of Vierwaldstättersee; ’twas beautiful.
You probably saw something like this coming—for dinner, we went to Fondue House.
This was quite a unique dinner. I didn’t participate in any cheese fondue action, but I was delighted to find that the family-style main course included (besides chicken) spaghetti marinara and oven-roasted potatoes. Not traditionally Swiss, but certainly delicious.
I would’ve been fine with just that, but the staff told me they’d prepared a “vegetable cutlet” for me. With such an ambiguous and vague description as that, I didn’t have high hopes, but it turned out to be absolutely fantastic—it was like a big, homemade veggie burger patty, breaded and pan-fried to perfection. Wow! I only wish I could’ve gotten their recipe.
And dessert? Sliced apples, bananas, and strawberries with rich Swiss chocolate fondue. Um, need I say more?
Next, we leave Switzerland via Strasbourg, France, and then dip back into Germany.