Lucerne, Switzerland

 In Honeymoon Planning
Grüezi (Swiss German Hello) Ocean City!  Lucerne, Switzerland is one of the most popular destinations in the most beautiful country in Europe. Situated on serene Lake Lucerne, the picturesque town is famous for its covered wooden bridge and medieval turrets.  The covered bridge, constructed in 1333, was designed to help protect the city of Lucerne from attacks. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Luzerne’s history. Much of the bridge, and the majority of these paintings were destroyed in a 1993 fire, though it was quickly rebuilt.  Adjoining the bridge is the 140 feet tall Wasserturm (Water Tower), an octagonal tower made from brick, which has served as a prison, torture chamber, watchtower and treasury.
Today the tower, which is part of the city wall, is used as the guild hall of the artillery association. The tower and the bridge are Lucerne’s trademark and form the most photographed monument in the country. Boat tours of the lake are a great way to explore the antique canals and waterfront markets.  Shopping in Lucerne is spectacular.  Switzerland is home to the finest watches and army knives in the world. There are Rolex and Swatch shops on every street and great deals to be had.
Swiss food is fantastic and the locals are eager to share their recipes.  Our favorite dishes were the many varieties of fondue.  In the states, we’re usually limited to cheese – here they offer meat, cheese, veggie and chocolate.  Rosti (Swiss potato cake with onion) and Raclette are two traditional dishes we sampled.  Raclette is made by slicing a wheel of cheese in half and putting it close to the fire so it  melts. When the cheese starts to bubble and drip, it is scraped off and put onto potatoes and pickles. Most Swiss prefer bier with dinner.
Though bordered by France to the west and Italy to the South, the Germans on the north have the most influence on Swiss culture.  Most Swiss are bi-lingual and many speak three languages.  Everyone either speaks Italian, German or French   (over 70 percent speak German) and nearly all of the younger population are fluent in English.  Lucerne is one of the cleanest and most efficient of cities.  The trains are always on time and there is no graffiti to be found anywhere.
The best views of Lucerne are from Mount Pilatus. The Pilatus railway is the steepest in the world and this slow moving cog wheel train will take you directly to the summit.  The most scenic way is to ascend by gondola.  The coolest way to go down the mountain is on Switzerland’s longest Toboggan track.  Pilatus is 2132 metres high and was named after Roman consulate Pontious Pilate of Biblical fame.  The local legend is that he was buried on the mountain.  In the Middle Ages, people believed that a dragon with healing powers and spirits inhabited the rocky crevices. The top of the mountain is home to a network of caves and caverns with depictions of flying dragons that are hundreds of years old.  The view from the top is amazing.  The altitude can make breathing a little difficult, but it’s well worth the inconvenience.
Another top destination is Chillon Castle at nearby Lake Geneva.  During the sixteenth century, the castle was used as a state prison and was the setting of the English poet Byron’s “The Prisoner of Chillon”.  With a good pair of binoculars you can look across the lake and catch a glimpse of the French coastline.
You can reach Lucerne by taking a ten-hour flight from BWI to Zurich.  A train will take you from Zurich to Lucerne in a few hours.  Lucerne is 6 hours ahead of Ocean City.  The currency is the Swiss Franc which trades just below the dollar (1 dollar got you 1.0291 Francs on Wednesday).  The clean and well preserved villages are among the finest in Europe.  Cass and I believe it’s the cleanest air we’ve ever breathed.  Bis spöter!
– Sean Rox

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