Day 16 and 17 – Drive to Lucerne, Lucerne, and Mount Pilatus
Mom’s Photo Count – Filled Memory Card One (8 GB)
Drive to Lucerne
Today we were able to wake up semi-late (as far as the tour goes), and relax until getting on the bus at 10:30 a.m. All we had today was an eight hour drive to Switzerland, so we were able to take our time and “sleep in” until 8:00.
We got on the bus and Coach moved Pauline’s stuff to a different seat and took it for herself. I glared at her and kindly asked the P.R. students sitting behind Mom and I to move so that she could sit behind us. Even they looked at me like they were annoyed. This seating situation is getting ridiculous.
The trip was long and hot because when we are going uphill, Mamet had to turn the air conditioning off so that the bus doesn’t overheat. We are filled to the brim with people and suitcases, since more and more people start buying souvenir bags, so more and more bags are taking up the few seats left on the bus.
By our third rest stop we were in Switzerland, and the landscapes and temperature suddenly changed from humid, muggy and brown to warm, fresh and green. I even played a little soccer in the parking lot with Jennifer (a student from Utah) and Rodolfo. Good thing I got good at hacking with the team on road trips! This ball is definitely easier to see.
On our last leg of the trip, we passed through the longest tunnel in the world—17 kilometers! Of course, I’m American, so I don’t know how long that really is until it is put into miles. All I know is that by the time we got out of the tunnel I had forgotten we were in one, and my eyes had to re-adjust to the light. On the south side of the tunnel they speak Italian, and on the north side German. We also passed by a huge lake where all the rich people live, including George Clooney at times. Rodolfo even said that his house was there, and pointed to his butler who was water skiing ;).
Once we got closer to our hotel, everyone on the bus wasn’t only getting excited because we were finally going to be getting off the bus for awhile, but because we have never seen such a beautiful place. This country, and especially the village in the valley that we are staying in, is Utopia. There are little cottages everywhere that have beautiful flower gardens next to a lake, with a waterfall falling down the hillside. Everything is green, and standing over it all is a beautiful old church with a tall steeple. This place is truly something from a fairy tale, and I wish we were staying here more than just a day.
Since we had been on the bus all day long and it was a fresh, cool evening, I decided to go on a jog after dinner. When I went on a run in Italy, I felt like I was in downtown Yakima and I was going to be snatched up and sold into sex slavery. But here, the only danger was accidentally stepping on a bullfrog. After awhile I could hear thunder off in the distance, and it started to lightly rain. It felt so good after being in 95 degree heat for the last five days. Then it started pouring. I have never experienced runner’s high before this, and I felt like I could keep going forever. I did have a little help from my surroundings and some sweet summer rain, but still. Looks like I’ll just have to stay here for fall training.
This hotel is definitely the best so far. Our room is cozy and cabin-like, and my bed didn’t break when I sat on it. The air is also so fresh at night that we don’t need the fan to cool us off. The dinner was gourmet, and the people actually smiled and said hello when we walked in the door. Even some of the old people staying there tried to talk to us in German. Aw.
View of the Village From the Church
Lucerne, Mount Pilatus
Mom’s Photo Count – Lost track, and now Mom is getting a little defensive. I better give it a rest.
We woke up to a wonderfully crisp morning and a delicious breakfast. Our first stop was the famous lion memorial in remembrance of the Swiss soldiers who died defending Louis XIV during the French Revolution. Mark Twain once said that it was the most compassionate memorial he has ever seen. It was a sad sight, and it felt wrong to stand in front of it and smile (like many others were doing).
The Swiss Memorial
Next, we walked along the Chapel Bridge, a wooden bridge with flowers all along it that stands above a lake with hundreds of swans. It is hard to believe that is at one time was a prison. A part of it also burned down recently, but was rebuilt as most historical European buildings.
We also went into a church that Pauline knew of that sits at the opposite end of the bridge, and though the outside wasn’t spectacular, the inside was different than what we have seen so far. The colors are pink and gold, and the brilliant organ sits above the back of the church.
Before we met with our group for our excursion to Mount Pilatus, we did a little shopping. I had already finished the three books I brought and needed to buy something substantial that would last me the rest of the trip. Luckily we ran into a bookstore that had some English books, and luckier still I spotted Great Expectations. A select few will understand how excited I was about this. I figured that since I named my dog Pip, and Pip has of course been on my mind every day during the trip, that I should probably read the novel in which he is named after so I will have something more intelligent to say than “South Park” when people ask me about his name.
Our group took a ferry for about an hour to get to Mount Pilatus, and then a cable car at a 45 degree tilt all the way up the mountain! We had a little scare at first where the car sputtered and then was turned off. Luckily, after a few minutes the driver let us know that they only had to recharge the battery, and we wouldn’t go sliding back down the mountain and off of a cliff. The view was incredible as we climbed higher and higher, and we saw the real climbers through the window. I have no idea how long it would take to actually hike the mountain, since the cable car ride lasted about 40 minutes.
The Cable Car
Once we got up, Mom and I decided to climb up into the rocks and to the highest point that we could get to. There were fun caves that wrapped around a cliff, and inside plaques told stories about the “dragons that have been spotted in the caves.” We looked out of the cave windows down at the valleys below, and in a great distance, part of Lucerne. There is also a tiny church built on top of one of the cliffs, and none of us could figure out how anyone could get to the church. There are only a few houses around, but even they are at lower altitudes that the church and we couldn’t spot a road. It is romantic, in a way.
Church on the Hill
Mom and I eventually climbed up to the top after it had been closed to make way for helicopters. There is construction going on to put in a hotel, and helicopters were flying back and forth to take rock debris and other materials down the mountain. The helicopter was so close to us that the wind blew our hair back. It takes a pretty good flyer to remove the material with all of us tourists around.
When we got to the top, we broke down and became a little hypocritical. There is some sort of signal building up at the top, covered with tiny gray laths, and each piece has the signature of someone who has been to the top. Mom and I wrote our names on one with the excuse that it is not an old, historical building, and that the graffiti was done very tidily. Don’t judge! I promise we won’t be doing that on the top of the Eiffel Tower or anything. I also picked a wildflower (it was small!) to press in my book, another pet peeve of ours. But it wasn’t from anyone’s yard!
We were a little tired of climbing after this, and decided to spend the rest of our time looking around the cafeteria for some coffee and cake, recommended by Bill and Beate. Well, both were pretty spendy, so we decided to split some sausage soup that Rodolfo recommended. It was really good, and though we weren’t starving, I’m glad we spent the money to eat some real Swiss food instead of settling for a cheap packaged sandwich, something that is becoming all too familiar.
The only way we could get down the mountain was to take gondolas, which was very fun. We were able to view the other side of the mountain as we glided downwards. Everything here seems so well trimmed and proper. Even the forests looked like tended gardens. It is so lush and green, all the trees and hills reminding me of the west side (the best side!) of Washington. It made me want to spend some time at our own cabin on Chinook Pass, as all the houses had that cozy cabin feel to it.
The "Paulines" With Mamet
We met Mamet at the bottom of the mountain to go back to the hotel. When we got there, we ate another gourmet dinner that would have been perfect if it wasn’t for who sat with us. Two of the girls that sat there, who must be 17 at the oldest, sure think they are something. They are always dropping names, talking about themselves or complaining about the trip. They have gone out drinking most nights, and at one point were too hung over to join us… to Venice. Who misses a chance to go to Venice? They also dropped their thoughts on how it would be super cool to have uniforms in school because it would be like living in black and white, and how if you stay up all weekend partying without sleep, then technically it’s still Friday and you don’t have to go to school because it’s still the weekend. That makes sense. Another girl sitting across from us was also complaining about how she hated this trip and wanted to go home, and she especially hated London. I then realized it was her that had to be entertained at the zoo, which didn’t surprise me because she also said that saying there are cultural differences is racism. Jake would have loved to be here for that one.
Mom and I ditched that table as soon as we swallowed our last bite. Mom hadn’t been out yet because her feet hurt too badly the night before, so we both went up to the church that looks over the valley. As we walked up each tier of stairs, we began to see that each had its own graveyard, becoming more and more beautiful the higher we ascended. We later found out that most of the people buried there have the same last name, showing how small the community truly is. There was also a small carving of Mary with a fountain and flowers all around it, and each night candles were lit all around. It is extremely well kept and respected.
We also took some time to sit by the water and watch the Swiss families in their boats and enjoy the peace. We returned to our room and wished that we could stay here longer (although the internet is 16 Franks for an hour and I am hoping to get to a place where I can connect…though not being able to connect is one of the best parts of this place). We have to wake up around 5:00 a.m. tomorrow morning for our 12 hour bus ride to Paris, so we are calling it a night.