A walk to Mariastein Abbey and Landskron castle ruins

It’s time for another entry in my series of “persuade everyone that Switzerland is worth visiting” posts 😉

Before I came to Switzerland, I joined a meetup group for Basel. We’ve been to a couple of the meet ups, but have yet to really “click” with anyone in a manner that would lead to further meetings outside of the group. However, last time we were there, one of the other members suggested Mariastein Abbey as a good place for an afternoon out. When we decided to get out of the flat for a bit yesterday evening, we remembered this advice and decided to check out, so we hopped on a number 10 tram and headed off to Flüh from where we walked the roughly half an hour to Mariastein (there’s also a bus if you don’t feel like the exercise). First, some photos from the walk up. Jan told me not to take the one of the garden full of gnomes, but how could I not?

Apparently, the Mariastein Abbey is the second most important pilgrimage site in Switzerland. People come from far and wide to worship there. Obviously we couldn’t go into the actual abbey since it’s full of monks, but the basilica is open to the public and the inside is gorgeous! There were so many little details that I just couldn’t stop taking photos! Apologies in advance for picture overload…

We decided to take a different route down, which took us into France. When we realised that the ruins of Landeskron castle – which we had seen a sign for on the way up – wouldn’t take us much out of our way, we decided to go there. The castle stands on the border between France and Switzerland and is owned by both countries. From the top, you can see Germany, France and Switzerland but don’t ask me which is where! The only thing I can reliably recognise is Basel (thanks to the Roche tower). The light was really too bright at the castle, so it was pretty much a case of keep changing settings, pointing, clicking and hoping for the best. I’m afraid I did rather a lot of clicking. What can I say… I love castle ruins! Again, I apologise for the number of photos. And believe me, this isn’t even all of them. I reluctantly narrowed them down for this post 😉

On the way back down from the top of the castle, I spotted some bees enjoying the flowers. Obviously I had to photograph them too!

We then walked back down to Flüh via the woods, took a tram home and enjoyed a well deserved dinner!

There’s not a huge amount to do at either Mariastein or Landskron, but it was perfect for our requirements – a chance to stretch our legs and something interesting to look at along the way. The walk was fairly easy and I’d say most people could probably do it. There are a few restaurants next to the abbey where you could stop for something to eat or drink, or you could stop for refreshments in Flüh – it only took us about 15 minutes to get back down from Landskron.

And once again, I can’t believe such beauty is pretty much on my doorstep (although Flüh is in canton Solothurn, so slightly less on my doorstep than other places).

I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. To see where everyone else’s travels are taken them this week and add your link, click the button below.

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Mount Pilatus and Luzern

DSCN150523-25 May saw yet another long weekend – the final one for a while – this time for Pfingsten (Whit sun or Pentecost). We decided to make use of the time off and nice weather and take another day trip. We chose Mount Pilatus in the canton of Luzern (or Lucerne) because Jan wanted to go up somewhere high where he could get a good view. Unfortunately for him, the top of the mountain was actually in the clouds 😉 Mount Pilatus is home to the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, so we decided to buy a ticket for a circular route which involved a train from Luzern to Alpnachstad, the trip up the mountain with the cogwheel railway, back down the mountain via cable car to Kriens (a neighbouring town of Luzern) and then a bus back to Luzern proper.

On the way up, there were some lovely views of the surrounding countryside and the mountain we were on.

Down on the ground, it had been a gorgeous sunny day, but the higher the little train climbed the colder it got, until eventually we saw snow.

As I mentioned, up at the top we mostly saw cloud, and most of the routes were blocked because of the snow. However, what we did see were birds. I’m pretty sure they’re a type of crow (my friend looked them up after seeing one of my photos and they appear to be an Alpine chough or yellow-billed chough). There were loads of them hovering around, sitting on the railings and trying to get people to feed them scraps – it was like gulls at the beach, but less noisy and prettier.

At some point, the cloud below cleared slightly and we were able to see some of what was back down the mountain – there still wasn’t much of a view, but it was certainly an improvement! I also attempted to take a few photos of the cogwheel trains heading back down, but my camera just couldn’t do justice to the steepness.

Since there was nowhere to walk to and we’d seen everything we could, we decided to head back down with the next cable car. First of all, a large cable car took us down to Fräkmüntegg. There’s a restaurant at that stop and a rope park. Photos taken through glass are never the best, but have a few of the view from the cable car anyway:

From Fräkmuntegg, smaller gondolas take you back down to Kriens at the base of the mountain. They also stop at Krienseregg, where the map says there’s a children’s play area, but we didn’t get out there. Here, have some views from that cable car. Actually, the route went through the trees, so what you’re really getting is a bunch of pictures of trees with the occasional view when a gap between them allowed us to see something!

On arriving in Kriens, we walked the five minutes to the bus stop then took the number 1 back to Luzern. It was still fairly early, so we decided to have a wander around there. We’d been before when I was living in Austria, but other than the wooden bridge, the town hall clock and the city walls neither of us remembered much. We tried to find the restaurant we ate at back then – where I tried cheese fondue for the first time – but either it’s closed down or we have no idea where it actually was. What I did remember is that the lake is beautiful, and I wasn’t wrong! Also, swans. Last time we were there I remember seeing a swan building a nest. This time, they were just swimming around. We also decided to stop for a beer before heading back to the train, which we did at the Rathaus restaurant. The beer there was pretty tasty.

Fun fact – although the lake is just called Lake Lucerne in English, its German name is Vierwaldstättersee, which means Lake of the Four Forested Cantons. The original Drei Waldstätten (three forested cantons) were Uri, Schwyz and Unterwald – the founding cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy (basically the original Switzerland). They were joined by Luzern in 1332 and that’s where the lake got its name. End of today’s Swiss history lesson 😉

Luzern is an absolutely gorgeous city and well worth a visit by itself. And if you’ve got a little more time I would definitely recommend the trip up Mount Pilatus. Hopefully you’ll pick a day with less cloud at the top 😉

*I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. You can join in here.*

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