Sunday, September 12, 2010
During a backpacking trip of Western Europe in the summer of 2002 with six other people, we needed a sensible and practical midtrip stopping point from Paris to Venice to break the monotony of train travel. Lucerne, Switzerland seemed to fit the bill. It was along the way on our train trip from Paris to Venice. We took an overnight train from Paris to Lucerne. It arrived early in the morning; we had most of the day to explore Lucerne before heading to Venice later that evening. Our connecting train to Venice was another overnight train from Lucerne.
Getting to Lucerne was an adventure. This being an overnight train, we reserved couchettes (the seats are transformed into bunkbeds in each compartment). Before each stop along the way, the train conductor would knock at the door to inform us of the upcoming stop. Unless it is in a major city, the train stops for just enough time for the passsengers to get in and out. If you are not quick on your feet, you may not make it out in time. The train stops in Vesoul, a small town in France. We had a scheduled train change in Basel, a Swiss city near the French border. So in the middle of the night, the conductor knocks at our door and announces "Vesoul". It sounded like Basel to me, so I got the other six backpackers to wake up and get ready to depart the train at the next stop. We got ready fairly quickly and lined ourselves near one of the train access doors as the train was slowing down. Luckily, the conductor caught us in time. I had told him earlier our destination. He verified with me again our destination as we were about to exit the train. Vesoul wasn't our stop. A possibly serious logistics issue was averted.
Early in the morning (probably about 3 to 4 AM), we arrived in Basel. We had almost two hours before our train, headed for Lucerne, was to arrive to the terminal. We waited for our train in the cold, dark waiting room by the railroad tracks. We arrived in Lucerne at about 7AM. The Lucerne main train station had good facilities for us to freshen up, we locked up our backpack at paid storage lockers in the train station, and headed to a cafe outside for breakfast.
At the train station in Paris waiting for our overnight train to Lucerne. This was just before I beat a few of them playing pusoy, the Filipino poker game.
The Lion Monument. The famous carving of a dying lion commemorates the Swiss Guards massacred during the French Revolution.
CJ and Kris near the wooden Chapel Bridge, originally built in 1333. The bridge had been rebuilt after a fire in 1993.
We did touristy things like eat at Stadtkeller Restaurant with a show featuring singing, yodeling, and traditional dancing. Mek volunteered for the yodeling session at the end of the show.
We walked around the central part of town. We went inside a small Picasso Museum in the city center. A few of the sights around town.
A short train ride away was the base station for going up the mountains. From there, we went up Stanselhorn via a funicular and then cable car. The cable car attendant showcased his yodeling talent for us.
Jim & CJ (first picture), and Mek & Kris (second picture) show the traditional Swiss Alpine wear.
The view was spectacular midway up. But once we reached the top of the cable car line, it was foggy. So we were not able to see the view of the surrounding area from the top of the mountain.