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Week 59 - Munich and Lucerne

Blog - Munich.jpg

Other photos for Munich and Lucerne are posted here.

Our trip was nearing its end as we left St. Gilgen, Austria for two shorter stays in Munich, Germany and Lucerne, Switzerland. We were building our energy for the grand finale of our grand tour-- a 100 mile walk in the Swiss Alps.

Saturday, July 23 - St. Gilgen to Munich

We were up early to finish our final packing in our St. Gilgen apartment. Charley had spoken to Theo the caretaker, and we left behind food and some clothes that he will get to a needy family. We also doubled the size of the apartment library with a great supply of books and left behind the Rummikub game that we’ve enjoyed since Provence. Our luggage continues to shrink as we get closer to our Swiss walk.

We left the keys in the apartment and drove down to the village for breakfast. We’ve really enjoyed staying in St. Gilgen and definitely will come back here again. We picked a café for breakfast (juice, coffee, rolls, meat and cheese), had a leisurely meal and then one last look at the village. Charley and Kelly stopped in a drugstore looking for shampoo. While I waited outside the shop, a woman walked by with her little dog. The dog was trotting along carrying a rolled up newspaper in its mouth. The paper was about the size of the dog!

We took a different route to the autobahn (by Fuschl) and then headed toward Munich. This was the last journey of our 14-month trip that we made by car.

About an hour from Salzburg we exited the autobahn for a brief detour at Bad Aibling. My parents lived in this village when I was born, and I lived here for a few months when I was a baby. (I was actually born at a military hospital in Munich.) My dad was in the army, stationed in Bad Aibling, and my parents lived in the village—not on the base. I think they actually rented a room in a woman’s house—they were just 22 and 20 when I was born, so very young and having their first of many European experiences. We returned to the USA before I was a year old, but I grew up knowing about Bad Aibling and Bavaria and perhaps that is one reason I feel such a strong connection there.

I visited Bad Aibling for a couple of hours on my first trip to Europe with two girlfriends in 1991. Charley, Kelly and I stopped there for lunch on our 1997 trip, but Kelly didn’t remember it, and I was anxious to see a little more of the village.

Bad Aibling is an old village that has developed as a health resort. After World War II it became a major location for US intelligence operations, which is why my father was stationed here. (How strange to realize that when I was born in 1955, World War II had ended just 10 years before!) The American intelligence operation here was just recently closed; at peak this operation involved about 2,000 Americans. About 18,000 people now live in the village. Other than the spa activities, it isn’t a tourist place, but it’s a picturesque and somewhat typical Bavarian village.

We walked around the village and took some photos of some painted houses and the main square. We ended up on a little canal and had lunch at the Café Rotte, the same place where we’d had lunch in 1997. It’s a simple place, and we all had soup or sandwiches. The goulash soup was good. Afterwards we walked across the street to a drug store with great prices and loaded up on a few toiletries for our walking trip. Before we left the village we stopped in the beautiful old church. The church had a typical onion dome and was beautiful and ornate inside.

After our two-hour detour we headed on our way to Munich. I had not planned well and didn’t have a map of Germany or Munich. (Just something I hadn’t thought about when we packed for this trip over a year ago!) We were actually going to drive right into the city, and although we’ve been there several times before (including to our hotel), we didn’t think we could find it without a map. So we stopped at a big rest stop on the autobahn to try to buy a map. It was extremely crowded (a Saturday during the peak European vacation season) and I decided that the maps were just too expensive to purchase for our three-day stay in Munich. Charley decided we’d just figure it out without a map. I was more skeptical, but I also didn’t want to spend $10 on a map of Munich!

And then amazingly—without a map—we managed to drive right to the Hotel Acanthus! Not one wrong turn! We got to a point in the city where Charley and I both knew actually where we were, and then we just “followed our noses” to the Hotel Acanthus. I know my way around the city where I was born!

This is our fourth family time in Munich (my fifth… well, sixth if you count my being-born time!) and our second time at the Hotel Acanthus. We really like this hotel. It’s an intimate hotel, located on a very quiet side street near the Sendlinger Tor. The location is great, though, because you can walk to the main square (the Marienplatz) in just about ten minutes. The public transportation system in Munich is also excellent.

We pulled our car up in front of the hotel and were greeted by Greg, the American expatriate who runs the front desk. We remembered him from our January 2004 trip. Greg gave Charley directions to the car rental return place near the airport. Charley didn’t think it made sense for all of us to go there and then pay for the three of us to take the train back to the hotel, so he planned to return the car on his own. After his success navigating into Munich, he was very confident—almost cocky—that he could find his way to the airport on his own.

Kelly and I made a few trips upstairs in the tiny elevator to get our luggage up to our room. We had a comfortable triple room, very pleasant and clean with a great bathroom. We unpacked a bit, since we will be here for three nights. We decided to walk to the main train station (the Hauptbahnhof) to buy our tickets to Zurich on Tuesday. It felt good to be back in Munich again, and fun to be here in warmer weather for once. We stopped in a large sports store on the main pedestrian street and found the hiking department—a big department. There were lots of things we could use on our walking trip. We managed to restrain ourselves, but did buy a waterproof map carrying case (ours is just about useless since wet ink has bled all over the inside) and a pair of hiking gloves to Kelly. She says that she needs them so she doesn’t get blisters on her hands while using the walking poles.

We were excited to see that the streets of Munich were decorated with large, brightly painted lions. Munich is having a “Lion Parade” in 2005/2006, just like the painted cows in Chicago and the bears we had in Knoxville a few years ago. Later I read that they plan to have almost 500 lions all over Munich—two different styles of lions. Apparently Munich was founded in 1158 by “Henry the Lion,” since obviously there are no wild lions in Germany! The painted lions were all so colorful and very clever. Kelly and I got caught up in taking photos of every lion we saw.

We used the automated kiosk at the train station to buy our tickets to Zurich. Kelly has become very adept in figuring out these foreign ticket machines. From the busy train station, we walked across the street to the huge Easy Internet Café—over 400 computers here! We hadn’t checked our e-mail for a few days. Charley met us at the internet café. He was keyed up from his successful drive to the car rental place and then his solo trip back to Munich by train. We all like Munich, but Charley is especially happy to be back here.

We walked around Munich a bit, and then headed back to the hotel. We had passed a Pizza Hut on the way to the hotel, and decided to make tonight’s dinner a treat for Kelly. So here we were back in Munich, having our first dinner at Pizza Hut. We told her this would be the last time for “American fast food” until we are back at home.

Sunday, July 24 - Munich

We slept in a bit and had breakfast at the Acanthus. The hotel has an attractive breakfast room and an extensive spread of breads, meats, cheese, and other delicacies. Charley loves the German breakfasts.

It was an overcast but warm day. I carried an umbrella, just in case. It is fun to be here in the summertime, since we’ve always visited in late fall or winter.

Our main destination today was the Deutsches Museum, one of the largest museums of science and technology in the world. We visited here in 1997, but Kelly was small and didn’t remember much. She and Charley are much more interested in science and technology than I am. The museum is located on an island in the River Isar. Kelly begged to take the bus, but we decided the walk would be good for us. Plus, I wanted to stop at the Marienplatz, hopefully arriving in time to see the morning “performance” of the Glockenspiel at the town hall. We passed several more painted lions and stopped to take pictures. Then I heard the 43 bells of the Glockenspiel beginning its daily 11 am show, and encouraged Charley and Kelly to move more quickly. We joined a crowd of tourists was gathered in the Marienplatz, all of us looking up at the old clock tower of the impressive Neues Rathaus, the new town hall which was built between 1867and 1908. The Glockenspiel has two scenes involving 32 life-sized mechanical figurines that dance around for ten or fifteen minutes while everyone watches and takes photos. Then as the show ends, the crowd starts moving again.

We wandered on down the beautiful square, stopping to admire more lions, taking photos, and enjoying being back in this familiar city. At the far end of the Marienplatz is the distinctive tower of the Altes Rathaus, the old city hall built in 1345. The Altes Rathaus now hosts a Spielzeugmuseum or Toy Museum, and the sign said there was a special exhibit of teddy bears. Kelly and I decided we want to visit this. Charley decided that he’d rather enjoy one of his favorite pastimes: “watching the world go by.”

The museum was interesting, though Charley wouldn’t have enjoyed it, so it was good we saved the money on his admission. We rode a tiny elevator up to the top floor of the tower and then worked our way down each of the small floors. We learned a lot about how the teddy bear developed as such a famous toy (associated with U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt). Germany continues to be a major source for high-quality toy bears.

We met back up with Charley on the square. The day had cleared a bit, and we continued on our leisurely journey to the Deutsches museum. Just beyond the Altes Rathaus, we stopped in the oldest church in Munich, the Peterskirche. The church was originally built in 1180. It burned in 1327 and was rebuilt, then was destroyed again in World War II. We went on side, where Sunday services were still underway. A few other people were quietly looking at the ornate interior. We sat in the back and listened to the music for a while, pleased to see that there were quite a few people attending the service.

Beyond the Marienplatz, we passed through the impressive Isator or the Isar Gate, part of the old defensive system for the city. We also stopped to get Kelly some lunch at a Burger King—despite our intention yesterday that the Pizza Hut would be our last American fast-food meal. We sat outside. Charley and I were still full of our big breakfast, but we did share some good French fries.

Finally we arrived at the Deutsches Museum and bought our tickets. As we often do in museums, we split up once we were inside. I headed off in one direction, and Charley and Kelly went together. We are interested in different things, and I tend to move much more quickly through this type of museum. I picked out a couple of rooms that interested me and headed off on my own agenda. I especially liked a room about bridge-building, which featured several bridges we have seen on this trip and others—like the Pont du Gard in France. I also liked the exhibit on railways, which included a big exhibit hall filled with old rail engines and cars. I stopped in a small room to wait for a demonstration of a very elaborate model railway and briefly intersected with Charley and Kelly.

We had decided to meet up in an hour and a half. I was finished with my solo tour a bit early. Charley and Kelly weren’t ready to leave, so I decided to go on back to the hotel on my own. It was fun to walk back through the city on my own—more than a mile back to the hotel. I like the feeling that I can be in a foreign city on my own.

On the way back to the hotel—on a shopping street called Sendlinger Strasse—I decided to visit the beautiful church St. John Nepomuk, known as the Asamkirche. (A church service had been underway when we passed by in the morning, so we weren’t able to go inside.) This church is an incredible building that is very easy to pass by—it’s built right into a row of shops. But if you look closely, this building is distinctive because of its ornate exterior. The Asam brothers bought several buildings on this block between 1729 and 1733 and then converted two of them into an amazing rococo church (originally intended as a private chapel)… intimate and very very lavish. Silver and gold almost drip through the interior. This is considered one of the finest rococo churches in the world, yet because of its inauspicious exterior in an unexpected location, many people simply pass it by.

I checked my e-mail at the PC in the front lobby of the Acanthus and chatted with Greg for a while, then went back upstairs to work on my blog and wait for Charley and Kelly. They were full of excitement about everything they had seen at the Deutsches Museum.

We had dinner tonight at the Augustiner Bierhall, one of our Munich traditions. This big restaurant and beerhall is located on the main pedestrian street (Neuhauser Straße), between the Marienplatz and the Hauptbahnhof. The Augustiner Restaurant is a much more peaceful place to eat traditional German food, and we had good meals at a reasonable price. I had sauerbraten and Charley had sausages. Other than goulash soup, Kelly doesn’t care for many of the German dishes, so it’s a good thing she had Burger King for lunch. We had a friendly waitress tonight.

Monday, July 25 - Munich

We awoke to a rainy day. We had talked about going to Schloss Nymphenburg today, but scratched that plan due to weather.

After breakfast at the hotel, we talked about possible plans for the day. I decided to stay in most of the day and work on my Umbria blog. Charley and Kelly headed out to have a Munich adventure, maybe to go to one of the art museums. Since we’ve been here so many times, we decided to have a low key day, a bit of a rest day as we gear up for our walk in the Swiss Alps.

The hotel has wireless internet, and I bought 24 hours of access and borrowed a wireless card. I ended up working in the room most of the day… actually had a decent day on my own. This was my last chance to do a major posting to the blog while we are in Europe.

Charley and Kelly arrived back mid-afternoon, bringing me a sandwich. They didn’t have too much to report and hadn’t gone to the art museum after all. They did some shopping, and went back to the big sports shop to exchange Kelly’s hiking gloves.

Tonight we had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus. The rain had stopped, but it was still very overcast. I remember the first time I was in Munich with my friends Cheryl and Ginny we walked all around the center of Munich trying to find the Hofbrauhaus. Now our family can walk right to it. It’s one of those famous places that every tourist heads to—just as we have on previous trips. The Hofbrauhaus seats over 2,000 people and was packed tonight. They even have their own gift shop selling Hofbrauhaus souvenirs. We wandered around for a while looking for a table. I would have liked to sit where we could see the band (and maybe some dancing), but it was especially crowded there. A waiter tried to point us toward an outdoor beer garden, but I was afraid it would rain… and then where would we go? We ended up sitting at a table with a German couple. We were too far from the band to watch them, but we still had all the “benefit” of the music—and noise. There were lots of Japanese tourists. I was amazed that the waiters and waitresses can even keep up with their tables.

The food is decent—large portions and reasonably priced. Of course Charley and I had big mugs of the famous Hofbrauhaus beer. We all ate big pretzels, placed on the table in baskets like bread. (But not free like bread—you pay for the pretzels as you eat them.) We all had goulash soup. Charley and I had sausage plates and Kelly had chicken. It was a good meal, but I don’t think I’ll come here again. I prefer the quieter, not-quite-so-touristy atmosphere of the Augustiner.

Tuesday, July 26 - Munich to Lucerne

Breakfast was served at the Acanthus beginning at 6:30 am, and we were there waiting. We carried our luggage downstairs when we went down to breakfast and asked the nice woman at the front desk to have a cab for us at ten minutes of seven. It was only about five minutes to the station by cab, and we had a few minutes to wait until our track was posted.

It was a four-and-a-half hour train ride from Munich to Zurich. We read and enjoyed looking at the scenery. Charley slept. Kelly worked much of the time on a summer project she’s supposed to have for school back home. She has picked out photos from all parts of our trip and is making a scrapbook that will show our trip from A to Z.

We actually took the train all the way to the Zurich airport, a bit beyond the main station. I wanted to buy special passes for the Swiss transportation system, and these have to be bought at an entry point to Switzerland. There was a Swiss Travel Office at the airport. We were interested to see that Zurich had its bears, just as Munich had the lions.

A very nice man in the Travel office waited on me. I explained our plans, and he recommended a pass called the Swiss Half-Fare Card. The card gives Charley and me a 50% discount on almost all public transportation in Switzerland (trains, city and rural buses, boats, mountain railways). We paid a small amount to get a different card for Kelly; now she will travel for free. The man sold me my first tickets using the cards, for our train to Lucerne.

We had some time before our train, so we went to a big food court in the airport/train station and ordered a couple of things from an expensive Italian stand. Kelly is always happy to have pizza. Then it was time for our train—just a 45 minute ride to Lucerne. Kelly was excited about this trip because the train passed through Zug, where her Provence friend Alayna was born.

I visited Lucerne in 1991 and then we came as a family in 1997. I remembered more about the trips up to the top of the nearby mountains (Rigi in 1991 and Pilatus in 1997) than I remembered about Lucerne itself. I had difficulty finding a moderately priced accommodation, and finally booked the Pension Villa Maria, a small B&B type place.

We arrived at the station and picked up a free map of Lucerne. I found the Pension Villa Maria on the other side of the lake, and it didn’t look too far from the station. We decided to walk instead of taking a cab. The station is right in the middle of the town, which is right on the lake. The ferry docks were actually just across the street from the station, and there seemed to be tourists everywhere. Lucerne is really a town—not a city—with a population of about 61,000. There might have been 50,000 tourists here today. The German name for the town is Luzern, and what we call Lake Lucerne is really called the Vierwaldstättersee. (Charley and I find it very interesting that we “change” the names of places when they are translated into English.) The wooden bridge across the lake is so simple and beautiful. About half-way across the lake, a stone water tower stands nearby.

We headed across the lake and then down the street toward the Villa Maria. It turned out to be quite a bit farther than it looked on the map. Thank goodness we had managed to cut back so much of our luggage. We struggled on our way, stopping occasionally to rest. Finally—just beyond the casino—we found the Villa Maria, a pleasant looking house on the lakeside. Maria herself greeted us—a friendly and jovial woman who spoke good English. She showed us to our large triple room on the second floor, overlooking the back garden. The room included a sink and a shower, but not a toilet! We have to use a toilet in the hallway, shared with one or two other rooms. The information had said private shower, but it never occurred to me to ask about a private toilet, which I know is important to Charley. Oh well, it is just for two nights, so we will make it work. The shower is actually inserted into a closet—even has a window!

As we were dragging out suitcases against the walls, Kelly let out a horrifying wail. “My Venice bag!” She didn’t have one of her bags… a shoulder bag she had bought in Venice with a tapestry-type scene of Venice. The bag was a loss, but more important was what was in it—the school project she had been working so hard on and her colored pencils and other supplies. She burst into tears. All her work, plus the bag she liked so much and her colored pencils.

We decided to go back to the train station and see if we could locate the bag. As we reconstructed our day, Kelly thought she had the bag when we had lunch at the Zurich airport. She thought she left it on the train between Zurich and Lucerne. There was a bus stop right across the street from the Villa Maria, so we decided to take advantage of our passes and take the bus this time instead of another long walk.

We found a lost-and-found counter at the station, but the Venice bag had not been turned in. The woman told us we could file a lost-and-found report on the SBB site on the internet. We found an expensive (very expensive) internet center at the tourist office and I managed to file a report within the 15 minutes of computer time I purchased. We also picked up some tourist brochures.

Kelly was still upset about the loss of her bag and all the work she would have to potentially repeat, but we tried to stay positive that the bag would be turned in. Since we were back at the center of the city, we took the opportunity to walk around Lucerne. It was a somewhat overcast day. The town is situated around the lake… very attractive, with colorful buildings. There are two old famous covered bridges that cross the lake and a stone water tower in the lake. There were lots of swans—and lots of tourists.

We decided to have an early dinner before going back to the Villa Maria. I had a directory of restaurants from the tourist office, and Kelly and I wanted to try to have fondue. Surprisingly, there weren’t too many fondue restaurants in Lucerne—the selection of restaurants was quite cosmopolitan, and many were very expensive. We walked over to one place that sounded interesting in the restaurant list, but the fondue dishes were very expensive and the place seemed filled with Japanese tourists. (The menu was posted outside in several languages, including Japanese—not the sign of an inexpensive local place!) We wandered around the streets, looking at the menus of various places, hoping to find something that would be reasonably priced and would work for all of us. In the process of wandering, we did walk down to the Weinmarkt, the pretty square where our 1997 hotel (the Hotel Krone) is located. It had just been too expensive for us this time.

We finally ended up in a place described as “traditional Swiss” that had fondue on the menu. The owners might have been from the Philippines, and once we were seated I decided the fondue was too expensive for our budget. We had an okay meal, but nothing really special.

We walked back to the Villa Maria along the lake. There was a huge festival underway in the lakeside park—booths selling clothes and jewelry, food stands, loud music… lots of people. The signs said this was the “Blue Balls” music festival. It was very, very crowded and noisy. I would have preferred to just skip the route through the festival, but Kelly was intrigued by the jewelry stands. Charley had promised Kelly we’d buy her a good silver bracelet for her birthday a week ago, and she’s been on the lookout since we were in Salzburg. She actually found the ideal bracelet at one of the stands, but we decided we’d look around a bit to be sure it was the right one. The festival is apparently continuing for a few days.

We made our way back to the Villa Maria and read in our room until bedtime. Kelly was still distraught at the loss of her Venice bag. We had left Charley’s fan (the second one he bought on this trip) behind in St. Gilgen, since it was too difficult to transport when traveling by train, so we had to have the windows open to keep the room cool. Even though our room faced the back, there was still quite a bit of noise from the street… festival noise, buses, and even a train. Charley slept in the little twin bed by the window to get the breeze, so Kelly shared the big bed with me.

Wednesday, July 27 - Lucerne

We ate our breakfast in one of the two indoor breakfast rooms at Maria’s—breads, cheeses, meats, cereal… that Germanic breakfast we like so much. Kelly took cornflakes with no milk, which Maria found very funny. It was a much prettier day, and several people were eating out in the garden. Maria seemed to have a full house. She was very friendly, moving between the tables, and greeting everyone. She seems to speak fluent German, English and Italian. I like to be around people like Maria who really belong in the hospitality business. She told us the house has ten rooms.

I lobbied very hard with my family to do the trip up to Mount Rigi, one of several mountain excursions that are accessible from Lucerne. I had done this trip in December 1991 on my first trip to Europe with two girlfriends. Neither of them wanted to do the mountain trip (they wanted to shop), so I ended up going up the mountain by myself. Now I wanted Charley and Kelly to make the trip, though neither of them seemed very interested. I didn’t want to just poke around Lucerne all day.

I finally persuaded Charley and Kelly to do the Rigi trip and talked with Maria about the logistics. We were able to buy our tickets from her using our 50% cards (free for Kelly). We recouped a big portion of the cost of the cards, since the mountain excursion (involving a boat, mountain train, and cable car) would otherwise have been very expensive. We had some time before the boat, so we took the bus downtown to find a less expensive internet place to check the SBB Lost and Found. Still no word on the Venice bag. Kelly insisted that she couldn’t wait to start her school project (school starts just three days after we get home), so we broke down and bought her another scrapbook and more colored pencils. After looking in several stores, we found these things in a stationery store, but they are much more expensive than they would be in America. It was an absolutely gorgeous day—a bright blue sky. On a day like this, Lucerne just seems to sparke with color… the brightly-painted buildings, the wooden bridges, the blue lake, the white swans, and the snow-topped mountains in the distance. The massive Mt. Pilatus—at almost 7,000 feet—was especially impressive.

Blog - Lucerne.jpg

We took the bus back to the villa where we put up our packages. Maria directed us to walk a bit further down the street where there is a big recreational park and a boat dock, so we didn’t have to go back to the center of town to catch our boat. We didn’t have to wait long for the steamer, and it was a very pleasant trip down the lake to the lakeside village of Vitznau. At Vitznau we walked across the street and boarded a cogwheel train… and waited, and waited, and waited! I’m not sure why the boat and train schedules weren’t better coordinated, but we must have waited at least 45 minutes. We sat near an Asian family with three small children who have been living in Britain; Charley chatted with the father. Kelly left the train at one point to go get a snack.

Finally we were on our way up the mountain. Rigi is a skiing mountain in the winter and a hiking mountain in the summer. When I was here in December 199, it was covered with snow and there were skiers. Now there are wildflowers and hikers... and I have a husband and 12 year old daughter.

The railway is the oldest mountain railway in Europe and was built in the mid 1800’s. The train headed steeply up the mountain, stopping at a few very isolated stations. At one station (really just a platform) a young family with a baby got off with a couple of suitcases. I couldn’t imagine where they might be going. We went all the way to the top, to Rigi Kulm at 5906 feet. It was a beautiful day—such a blue sky—and the views were clear and spectacular. To the east we could see the Zugersee and the town of Zug, and then to the north and west, the Vierwaldstättersee and Lucerne.

We had lunch at a little cafeteria next to the train tracks at the top. We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful day. Charley and I had good cold beers and Kelly had one of the Almdudler soft drinks that she discovered in Austria. Kelly had pasta, and Charley and I goulash soup and bread.

We decided to walk down the mountain to another station, where we could catch a cable car back down to the lake. It would have been better training for our upcoming 100 mile walk to have walked up the mountains, but hey—we’re on vacation! First, though, we walked up to the very top of Rigi. There were two routes to the top. Kelly took the steeper route, while Charley and I chose the more gradual ascent. We wandered around at the top of Rigi for a while first, admiring the views in all directions. There were several big cutouts of Swiss characters, and we poked our heads through the holes and took photos. There is a big communications tower at the peak, and Kelly and I climbed up as far as we could go and took more photos.

We hiked down to Rigi Kaltbad, about an hour’s walk, passing a field of donkeys and cows near the top. The trail initially went alongside the train track, but then split off to a point with a rock chapel and an absolutely beautiful view of the Vierwaldstättersee and the mountains. Eventually we emerged at a small mountain resort area with a couple of hotels and restaurants—even a miniature golf course. I knew Charley was a little hesitant about the cable car, but his fear of heights has lessened, and he said he was fine to do it.

The big cable car seemed almost totally packed, including a group of schoolchildren. The ride took about seven minutes. Every time the car went by one of the huge poles, there was a dropping sensation, and the children squealed. I tried not to look at Charley. Good for him, though—at the beginning of the trip he would not have been able to do this.

The cable car arrived down at another attractive lakeside village—Weggis. We followed a path down to the village center and then waited for the boat at the station. It was a pretty trip back down the lake to Lucerne. Charley and Kelly both said they were glad we had done this day trip—far better, I think, than just spending a day looking around Lucerne. This definitely got me psyched for hiking in the mountains.

We stopped briefly at the Villa Maria to use the bathroom and then took the bus back to the center of Lucerne. I stopped in the internet place again (near our 1997 hotel) to check the SBB Lost and Found—still nothing.

There was a Christian youth group—quite good—singing in one of the squares. We watched for a while and walked around the center of Lucerne, browsing in a couple of shops. None of us were all that hungry and knew that we wouldn’t want to come back all this way for dinner. We headed back to the Villa Maria, walking back through the busy festival area. Kelly got a bowl of Asian noodles at one of the food stands, and we bought her the silver bracelet that we had looked at yesterday.

We took a longer route back along the waterfront, stopping to watch the ducks and then the sunset.

Kelly and I chatted a bit with Maria in her kitchen when we got back. We told her about our trip, and she was impressed that Kelly had gone to school in France. I showed her my arm from the sled accident in St. Gilgen. It looks absolutely awful now that almost a week has passed—over half of my arm below my elbow is black and blue, and I have a huge knot near the elbow. Maria told a story about a fall she had—broke several bones, but still continued to run her B&B.

We are all getting very excited—apprehensive—about our 100-mile walk in the Alps. Our 190-mile walk across England was a challenge because it was so long, and there were certainly some difficult days. But the mountains in the Alps are much higher and steeper—I hope we are up for this! We were in great shape when we left Provence because we did so much hiking there, but we ate a lot of pasta and pizza in Italy and didn’t hike like we had planned due to the heat… at least that’s what we say!

Thursday morning, July 28 - Lucerne

I awoke about 6:30 this morning to sounds of traffic on the road outside the Villa Maria. The three of us have shared a room since we left St. Gilgen five nights ago (where Kelly’s tiny room was almost a closet off of ours), and we will share a room for the next fourteen nights.

We fussed around over our suitcases, getting ready for the journey ahead. As we have continued to reduce our luggage over the past several weeks, it seems like we have fussed over our suitcases a lot. Kelly is almost compulsive about her bag. Everything is perfectly rolled and organized, and she knows just where to find every item. The plastic round tray she bought at the Stiegl Brewery in Salzburg has come in very handy. She has all her shirts rolled up in the tray and can lift it out like a drawer. Charley’s and my suitcase-packing skills pale in comparison to Kelly’s stellar organization.

We had breakfast in the garden at the Villa Maria, earlier today than yesterday—juice, coffee, rolls, sausage, cheese, jam and butter. Kelly had hot chocolate and a few dry corn flakes.

After breakfast we brought all our bags downstairs and stacked them up by Maria’s little reception desk. She ordered a cab for us at 1 pm, so we had a couple of hours to finish exploring Lucerne. We took the bus to the Bahnhof, a ten-minute ride from Maria’s.

From the station, we walked along the lake, past the beautiful Kapellbrücke (the “Chapel Bridge”—a covered bridge built in 1333 that was seriously destroyed by fire in 1993) and the Wasserturm, a stone water tower. At this time of year, the covered bridge is bedecked with flowers—very different than when we saw it last in October 1997. Lucerne is really a beautiful city… much busier than a city (town) of 60,000 would be, but of course there are also thousands of tourists. We walked in the Jesuit church, built in 1666/67 and full of light, then continued along the lake to the Spreuerbrücke or Mill Bridge. Kelly begged to stop in another stationery store to buy a small ruler. We now seem to have replaced the major items that she lost when she left her Venice bag on the train to Lucerne. This was an expensive loss!

We crossed over this second covered bridge and walked up to the Weimarket. Charley got coffee at an outdoor café while Kelly and I did one final check on the internet. It looks like the Venice bag is forever lost. Maybe some Swiss child will enjoy the pencils. Afterwards we did a little more shopping. Kelly found a pair of flowered shorts for five francs (maybe $4)… how could I say no? We also got a couple of food items for our walk… candy bars and granola bars…. energy food.

Our last major stop was the famous Lion Monument, the Löwendenkmal. The monument is carved into natural rock and portrays a dying lion, supposedly representing some 700 Swiss guards who died in the French revolution. Mark Twain called the monument the "saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world.” When we were here eight years ago, Kelly was just captivated by the Lion Monument. When we arrived at the site today, there were just one or two other people there. I’m glad I took my photos right away, because within a few minutes there must have been 50 tourists.

We walked back to the Villa Maria along the waterfront and had enough time to sit on a bench and watch the boats moving along the lake. The lakefront area is really beautiful… boat docks, shaded paths, beautiful gardens, even a playground. As the lunch hour began, I saw several people arrive at the sunny park in office clothes, strip down to a swim suit, and stretch out to spend their lunchtime sunbathing.

We got back to Maria’s about 12:30. We quickly used the bathroom and then incorporated today’s purchases in our luggage. We carried everything out front to wait for the cab, which came a few minutes early. Our fourteen months of luggage is now condensed down to one big duffel bag (that’s not completely full), two standard suitcases, three backpacks, and a computer bag. Kelly and I both have our hiking boots hanging off our luggage. It still seems like we have a lot of stuff. After tonight we won’t have the computer bag any more. And for the next two weeks we’ll be wearing those hiking boots!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 11, 2006 10:41 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Week 58 - St. Gilgen (Austria).

The next post in this blog is Week 60 - Alpine Pass Walk, Part I.

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