Our drive through Switzerland from Tasch to Emmetten may have been short but oh my, it was interesting. First we went over possibly the highest mountain pass we have ever driven over, the St Gotthard Pass. Narrow, winding roads with 2,000 ft drops off the side, reaching an elevation of 6,900 ft at the summit. Understandably this road is only open from May to October 8am to 6pm. You would not want to be on this road after dark!! After the heart stopping journey over the pass our next excitement was taking a 17 km tunnel “through” the next mountain. The Gotthard Road Tunnel is the 9th longest road tunnel in the world. We had never even heard of a tunnel that long let alone driven through one. At the end of what felt like a long day we arrived in Emmetten, a lovely small village above Lake Lucerne and 30 minutes from Lucerne. Whew, that was a stressful 3 hours of driving!!
Our first day after arriving was a “work” day, grocery shopping, laundry and other tasks that need to be done. In addition we did some research about Lucerne and took a free walking tour the next day. Our guide was a university student studying to be a kindergarten teacher. She walked us around the historic area of Lucerne for just over 2 hours passing on the history of the city as well as some lesser known details not found in official guidebooks.
The Dying Lion of Lucerne sculpture in the center of Lucerne was very moving , you can clearly see the anguish and pain on the lion’s face, and the spear sticking out of his back. The sculpture is a memorial to the Swiss Guard soldiers who died during the French Revolution in 1792 and has been called the saddest stone in the world. We can see why! If you look closely at the outline of the cutout in the rock, it is shaped like a pig, snout on the left. Supposedly this was done by the sculptor as an insult because he was unhappy with what he was paid to create this work.
The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne is reputed to be the oldest wooden bridge in Europe, dating from the mid 14th century. The water tower towards the left side was used as a prison and a treasury vault in the past. Reportedly prisoners were tortured into confession in the roof and then taken to the prison at the bottom of the tower.
The Lucerne Jesuit Church was a gorgeous stop along our tour and unlike many other baroque churches this one was done in white and rose colors making it probably the brightest church we have ever seen, and very appealing. The large fresco in the roof was painted before the church had the onion top towers, which was an interesting bit of forethought by the painter to include them in the fresco.
Another covered bridge in Lucerne, the Spreuer Bridge, or Mill Bridge, has a series of macabre paintings under its roof representing the Dance of Death. These paintings date from the 1600’s and show Death urging everyone to come dance with him, ie to die.
Our weather while in Emmetten was outstanding, we have eaten dinner on the patio every evening watching the multitudes of parasailers glide overhead. Just up the road is a cable car and a parasailing school which will also take tourists on flights from the mountain top, it looked like fun! The days have been warm and sunny allowing for a few tennis games and a few hikes around the mountains. Believe me, there does not seem to be a flat piece of land near here, everything is straight up and straight down!!
It was a good week here and the views of Lake Lucerne were outstanding everywhere we went. Next stop Italy….