The gateway to Central Switzerland, Lucerne is a centre of Swiss history and legend.
The Swiss are renowned for their caution and reserve, but as we emerged from the train station in Lucerne the exuberance of the city struck us with breath-taking force. Here, before us, is the celebrated lake, with its glittering surface and undulating shoreline. There, flanked by an ancient octagonal stone tower, is the covered medieval Chapel Bridge leading across the Reuss River, where an array of stately hotels evokes the gilded age of the Grand Tour.
The best way to uncover Lucerne is on foot. A nice stroll through the “City of Lights” is an ideal way to discover its trademark Chapel Bridge and octagonal Water Tower and many other beautiful sights.
The Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke, as they call it in German, was named after St. Peter’s Chapel, which is located nearby. The bridge is unique since it contains triangular trusses, decorated with paintings dating back to the 17th century, which span the upper interior of the bridge.
The Chapel Bridge is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe. It was originally built in 1333, as part of the bridge includes the octagonal Water Tower. This octagonal tower is over 34 metres high and predated the bridge by about 30 years. It was built as part of the city’s fortifications. It has been used as an achive, treasury, prison and torture chamber and is now Lucerne’s trademark attraction.
We continued our walk along the Reuss River and see Needle Dam, which was built in 1859 and renovated and extended in 2009. It is interesting to know that even today the water level of Lake Lucerne is still regulated by hand, by removing or inserting needles (wooden planks). The atmosphere along the river is so vibrant as people do their own thing, from tourists taking pictures to local enjoying a coffee in the local cafés and restaurants and the swans swimming in the river.
We concluded our city tour at the “Dying Lion of Lucerne,” one of the world’s most famous monuments. It was hewn out of natural rock in memory of the Swiss Guards who fell at the Tuileries in 1792. American author Mark Twain described the Lion of Lucerne as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”
Being in Lucerne, you can’t miss the famous Mount Pilatus. Although the first written reference to Mount Pilatus came in the 13th century, it is believed that Celtic herdsmen inhabited Mount Pilatus even before that. It was with the completion of the Gotthard route that the real story of Mount Pilatus began.
Soon after the death of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, the myth spread that he had met a disreputable end. Since the 15th century, it had been said that Tiberius Caesar had had Pontius Pilate thrown into chains as a punishment for condemning Jesus Christ, whereupon Pilate committed suicide. His body was thrown into the Tiber, but the river rebelled against it with great floods. The body was pulled out again and sunk in the Rhone. Alas, the ghost of the damned once again caused trouble. It was then decided to sink Pontius Pilate in a tiny remote lake on Oberalp on Mount Pilatus. This apparently resulted in some degree of peace. Once a year, on Good Friday, did Pilate allow himself to be seen, during the Passion, seated on a chair in the middle of Lake Pilatus – with flowing grey hair and wearing the purple regalia of a judge. He is said to rise from the waters every Good Friday to wash the blood of Christ from its hands.
The Place Luzern
During our time in Lucerne, we stayed at The Place Luzern, one of Switzerland’s legendary luxury hotels. It is located on the scenic shores of Lake Lucerne in the very heart of the country, surrounded by idyllic Alpine landscape. Yet it is only a leisurely stroll from an enchanting city centre steeped in centuries of history. Behind the hotel’s imposing neo-classic façade, stylish suites and rooms radiate an aesthetic elegance, with the finest furnishings and fabrics and décor of distinction. Contemporary interior design is combined with light and airy spaciousness. Couture’s colours were inspired by the green-and-blue shadings of Lake Lucerne, the anthracite white hues of the surrounding summits and the nuanced serenity of sunrise and sunset. The hotel is a haven of rest and relaxation.
Text by Melani Semuel | Photos by Ika Damajanti