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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Border crossings

Flags

Three weeks on, I am still waiting to find out whether I’m actually going to be allowed to be allowed to stay in Switzerland. In the meantime, we’re acting like we assume we will, taking trips and joining in with local customs. Last weekend, we thought we would take a tram to Weil am Rhein in Germany to see what’s there. The original plan was to take the tram to the train station and go from there, but when we reached a stop called Dreiländerbrücke (Three Countries Bridge), it seemed like a good place to get off. Technically the name of the bridge is misleading… one end is in Germany and the other is in France (although Switzerland is about a 2 minute walk – if that – from the German side). This is the German side of the bridge:

Over on the French side (Hunigue for those who are interested, or Hüningen in German), the first thing we spotted was this:

On the French side
A ship

We then walked down to the river where there were a few ducks and loads of swans! Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many swans in one place.

In the background of the picture with the many swans, you can see Switzerland. And behind the bridge is Germany. Here’s some more Germany:

We also spied an interesting looking pigeon. And a crow.

Once we’d finished admiring the wildlife, we crossed back over the bridge into Germany. There’s a shopping centre right on the border and inside it is a Marktkauf so we popped in to buy a few relatively cheap bits, including toppings for the homemade pizza we planned to have for tea the next night – relatively cheap because, although it’s cheaper than Switzerland, Marktkauf is one of the more expensive German supermarkets.

It only cost me just over 10 Swiss francs for a 24 hour ticket that included all of Basel plus the area just over the border so it most definitely won’t be the last time I pop over the Germany for an afternoon (provided I actually get my residence permit at some point…)