Central Switzerland - Lucerne
Making friends with the locals, the source of all those wonderful Swiss cheeses and chocolates. Throughout Switzerland we passed by well-maintained farms, and in a few instances the bike path led right through pastures with some very contented cows.
A dreamy, summer dawn in Brugg, Switzerland. If cameras existed 400 years ago, this is how the courtyard at the Brugg hostel would appear. Not much has changed.
The Brugg hostel is a mini-castle built in the 1500's, along the banks of the Aare River. It contains three floors of dorm-like rooms which are popular with families on holiday. We slept in an attic dorm fitted with 12 bunks and a window that looked out over the courtyard. From Brugg we continued on a mixture of bike path and paved road to the large town of Aarau where we joined the "North-South" bike route. This route would take us to Lucerne, over the Alps to the canton of Ticino, and finally, to the Italian border.
We spent two wonderful days in the city of Lucerne (Luzern), on the west coast of the beautiful Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne). The hostel is located on the outskirts of the city and can be accessed by a municipal bus from the historic center. In the heart of the city is the ancient wooden Kapellbrücke, a pedestrian bridge built in 1330, that spans the Reuss River.
While in Lucerne we left the bikes at the hostel and toured the city starting with an informative walking tour of the Altstadt. After the tour we took a railway ride to the top of nearby Mt. Pilatus, visited the Picasso Museum, the Bourbaki Panorama Museum, and the Löwendenkmal - the dying lion of Lucerne. This mascot of the city is a stone lion carved into the rock cliffs honoring the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792 defending King Louis XVI and the Royal Family. After this incident, the Swiss restricted their soldiers from being mercenaries with the exception of the Papal Guards.
Although Lucerne is a small city (60,000) it has its share of traffic, particularly during the tourist season. We found the city to be very bike friendly with hundreds of bikes all over the compact downtown. Outside the train station and the post office there were hundreds more bikes parked along the sidewalks in continuous rows of racks. The main streets included well-marked bike lanes that put cyclists at the center of prominence.
After leaving Lucerne we crossed the Vierwaldstättersee by ferry on two occasions. One ferry was a remarkable old paddlesteamer. The lake and its appendages are framed by a twisting coastline of mountains crashing to the shore from all directions. After disembarking at the southerly lake-side town of Flüelen we biked the short distance to Erstfeld and spent the night at Gasthaus Albert, owned by the Risi family. A discussion with the owners' son, Bruno, revealed that he was once a competitive cyclist and his brother, Bernard, is a member of the Swiss Olympic cycling team. We learned that the area is the summer home to several renown cycling coaches and world class cyclists. We certainly aren't in their league but lying just ahead for the next day is the St. Gotthard Pass!
Continue to the next page of this tour - St Gotthard Pass
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