23.09.2014 - 27.09.2014 14 °C
On our final stop, I hang my head at my former self, who protested against spending any longer than a week in Switzerland. "It will be cold", I complained; "and it costs an arm and a leg". I am so glad I let Daniel talk me into seeing this gorgeous country. It has been chilly, it has been expensive, but Switzerland has taken my heart along with my proverbial limbs. I had no idea how much I owe to these clever people.
Firstly, the Swiss invented cheese. Need I say more? They then had this marvellous idea that it would taste even better melted and plopped on a bit of bread. Yep, I owe cheese on toast to these guys. Like that isn't enough, the Swiss were also the first bright sparks to take cocoa and condensed milk, put them in a bowl together and thus bring eons of happiness to humanity through the magic of milk chocolate. People pretend like the Swiss are conservative and formal but I argue that any society who creates cheese and chocolate must be an inherently kind people.
If I were to describe Lucerne in one word, it would be serene. The town is essentially the waist-belt to a beautiful lake, which seemed like the end of the world- this infinite mirror, a perfect reflection of the calm, blue sky. Looking out across it each day, I was struck by how it evoked memories of the desert for me, even though the two are stark opposite landscapes. I think it was the stillness. Like everything moving across that expanse was mired in slow-motion, the water its own universe.
The town of Lucerne was so very charming. Cosy and warm, despite the bluestone facades and freezing temperatures. That being said, my constant sense of cold was probably my own fault, seeing as I didn't pack any shoes but thongs and runners. Tourism in Lucerne centres on two sights. The first is the Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, the oldest covered bridge in Europe. Lucerne straddles both sides of the main river that bleeds out from the lake, so it's easy to hurry over this bridge without appreciating its history; but the timber walls are painted with scenes from the town's past for those who take a few minutes longer. Honestly, I was much more besotted with the magenta flowers that adorn either side of the bridge and how they reflect cheerfully on the water come midday.
I was much more moved by the Lion Monument, a famous carving into a stone wall just outside the old town. It's hard to describe why this carving is so touching. It's much simpler, more atavistic than what it commemorates, which is the massacre of Swiss Guards during a siege in the French Revolution. The lion exudes a primal sense of despair that only wounded animals can express so rawly. Mark Twain called the monument "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world" and like most things, Mr. Twain is right.
In front of this noble scene is a constant swarm of tourists elbowing one another for prime photo opportunities, and I was able to get my own photo in the same place that my Nanna did many years ago, which was a special moment.
Other than explore the town's icons, and have an afternoon at the Geology Museum where Hodge did some inappropriate things to the mammoth statues, we just strolled and strolled through Lucerne's surroundings. Switzerland is so lush and safe that adventure is as simple as waking up, saying "let's follow the river", and going. I miss the tranquility of Swiss towns, this steady rhythm of tradition and harmony between people and place. I think it's got to do with all the chocolate.