Heart of the Alps, Switzerland
Though sharing the Alps mountain range with France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein, land-locked Switzerland is undoubtedly regarded as heart of the Alps. The Alps occupy about 65% of Switzerland’s surface area, making it one of most alpine countries in the world. Notably, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. Therefore, Euros are not widely accepted in the alpine country as they still use their own currency and legal tender – the Swiss Franc or CHF. So does Liechtenstein.
A few entities are synonymous with the Swiss – traditional swiss cottages, cheese fondue, milk chocolates, banks, the swiss army and watches. In a nutshell, anything associated with Switzerland is almost guaranteed to be of high quality.
After a half-day trip to Lake Maggiore in Italy, our coach entered Switzerland from the south. By the time we arrived in Lucerne, it was already early in the evening. We wasted no time in setting down our luggage in our room, for we wanted to be out and about roaming the streets of Lucerne before night fell.
The Chapel Bridge crossing the Reuss River, a short jaunt from our hotel, is the oldest wooden-covered bridge in Europe. The current bridge standing in Lucerne is however, not the original constructed in 1333 as much of the bridge was destroyed in a fire in 1993. The Swiss wasted no time in rebuilding the bridge since it is a major tourist attraction and is easily the most photographed monument in the country.
Tomorrow we would be scaling Mount Titlis, well… not in the traditional sense. Exhilarated to finally get to meet the Alps at close range.
Mount Titlis is reputed as having the world’s first revolving cable car that delivers a 360-degree panoramic view of the glaciers, valleys, rivers etc. One has to take a total of 3 cable cars to reach the summit, and the reward for the chore of changing cable cars several times – a breathtaking view of the Alps above the clouds. No photograph in the world would do justice to the spectacular sight which greeted us – you would really quite have to see it for yourself.
We were blessed with clear blue skies and good weather when we ‘mounted’ the summit with the assistance of the cable cars. However, we suffered the repercussions of our wilfulness. In a bid to lighten our luggage, we omitted our winter overcoats and the full works as we saw no point in packing them just for half a day’s worth of visit up Mount Titlis. Our group mates were much more prepared, and we finally understood why they needed luggage space double of ours – they were warm and snug in their bulky winter wear while we were seriously freezing our asses off. Silly us…
At a height 3,028m above mean sea level, the ambient temperature out in the open was easily in the range of minus 10°C. We couldn’t bear to stay out longer than necessary and were frequently dashing into the comforting warmth of the indoors. Even our trusty DSLR died on us intermittently, as if protesting against the biting cold.
Seeing that the tourist crowd was reaching the summit in throngs, we decided it was time to quickly settle our lunch at the cafeteria ahead of lunch hour to avoid the crowd. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Mount Titlis, you must try the delicious grape drink Grapillon. We’re quite certain this drink must also be widely available throughout Switzerland though. Look out for it if you are a grape drink lover like us.
The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff — for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.
Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.
– Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880
A befitting tribute to the Lion Monument in Lucerne, which commemorates the Swiss Guards who served the French King Louis XVI and were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792. That sentimental Swiss monument was our next stop after Mount Titlis.
After visiting the Lion Monument, we were sent back to the vicinity of our hotel and left to our own devices. We went shopping at Bucherer and the neighbouring shops. In particular, we were looking to buy some swiss chocolate home but were advised against it as the climate was getting warmer and there was no telling if the chocolates would hold for another 5-6 more days before we arrived back in Singapore.
Next on, the City of Lights!