About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Driving in Switzerland....to Luzerne

As usual, we woke up at 8am this morning and got ready for the day. We packed up our luggage and left it in the room while we took the 70 steps down to the restaurant for breakfast. We had the same variety for breakfast, and it tasted just as good.

After breakfast, Katrina checked out of the room while Brandon and I went back up the 70 steps to get the luggage.

We made our way through Murren to the opposite end where the Schiltbahn tram is located. We caught the tram down to Gimmelwald, where we took some time to look around the town.

Only a 20 minute hike downhill or a 5 minute tram ride from Murren will take you to Gimmelwald. Gimmelwald is a small alpine village that was saved from developers by its “avalanche zone” classification. Before tourism, Gimmelwald was considered one of Switzerland’s poorest places. Its traditional economy is based on hay, which feeds the cows, which give milk for cheese. For many visitors there is nothing to see in Gimmelwald. The population is approximately 120. Most Gimmelwald residents have one of two names: von Allmen or Feuz. Gimmelwald is proud to be 100% locally owned. When word got out that develops wanted to develop Gimmelwald into a town of 1000, locals pulled strings to secure the town’s bogus avalanche-zone building code.

Brandon played at the playground while Katrina took some pictures, then we walked down the quiet main lane of town, luggage in tow. We passed beautiful chalets, water troughs, a cheese hut, goats, barns with cow bells hanging from the rafters and beautiful meadows. It was a short walk. Gimmelwald is quite small.

Brandon enjoying the playground.

Several chalets had gnomes in their yards.

Brandon introduced Lollipop to an alpine cat.

Cow bells hanging outside a barn.

Views from the end of town.

Swinging while we wait for the tram.

When we reached the end of the lane, we turned around and headed back to the tram for the ride down to the valley floor where our car was parked.

Our first destination was Trumelbach Falls, only 2 km down the road. The falls are an interesting geological formation. Over millions of years the falls have sliced their way through the rock. Most of the falls are now inside the mountain. An elevator was built inside the mountain that takes visitors almost to the top of the falls. Once there, you ascend more steps inside carefully constructed shaft tunnels inside the mountain. At certain places along the way the shafts open up to the falls inside. It was dark, damp and very loud. The force of water falling through the different channels and cracks is absolutely amazing. It creates a thunderous roar.

Views of the falls. Very hard to capture the true experience.

We took the elevator (Brandon and I renamed it the Tunnelvator) to the top, worked our way up as hig as you can go in the tunnels, then took the steps and tunnels all the way back down to the bottom . I originally thought it was going to be an overhyped tourist trap, even with a Rick Steve’s recommendation. It turned out to be a highlight of the day.

We had another interesting driving experience on the next pass. Brandon noticed that the GPS route suddenly looked like a pretzel as we were climbing the mountain. Sure enough, we entered a spiral tunnel that climbed for a turn or two and looped over itself. On the other side of the pass we entered another valley of lakes. There are so many lakes in Switzerland. We stopped to take a picture of one of the big valley bridges because Brandon was fascinated by it.

We reached Luzerne around 2pm and found our B&B. We had a hard time finding it. I got the impression from the Swiss B&B website that we were in a mini hotel. We found the address, but Katrina and Brandon stayed in the car while I investigated. The entrance was in the back of the building. I rang the bell and Dominique let me in. She showed me our room. Long story short, we are staying in the ‘guest room’ in Dominque’s apartment and sharing her bathroom. This would be interesting.

Our room.

I went back outside to get Katrina and Brandon and bring out luggage in. What seemed like it could be awkward, really wasn’t that bad at all. We got ourselves settled and Dominque showed us how to catch the bus into downtown Luzerne.

We walked a block and caught the bus to the main train station. We stopped in the Tourist Information office to gather some info to read during lunch. We were so hungry after not eating lunch, so we stopped in McDonalds for a quick bite.
During lunch it was decided that Katrina and Brandon would go visit the Glacier Garden Museum while I went in search of two hobby shops in Luzerne.

The first hobby shop, Rail Boutique, was located just across the street from McDonalds. I did not know this and walked a 6 block circle before ending up almost where I started. The shop had all sorts of good items that I ‘needed’, but I managed to get out of the shop spending only 35 Swiss Francs. I could have easily spent a few hundred if I had it.

Katrina and Brandon spent the late afternoon at Glacier Garden. The Glacier Garden exhibits over 20 million years of geology. Katrina and Brandon saw glacial pits, scrapes and rock debris and fossils. The area was discovered and unearthed by someone trying to build a wine cellar. They also had fun in the hall of mirrors. Brandon actually ran into a mirror pretty hard, but no bumps or bruises resulted from the accident.

After the model shop I roamed around the old city of Luzerne, waiting to meet up with Katrina and Brandon at 6:30pm. The old city is a maze of pedestrian zone shopping. Most shops were closing for the day, while the restaurants were starting to come alive. I finally found a bench near one end of the Chapel Bridge, where I could watch for Katrina and Brandon, as well as people watch while I waited.
Katrina and Brandon arrived after 6pm. We strolled across the chapel bridge while they told me all about the Glacier Garden. We decided to take the last guided tour of the old town at 7pm, so we made our way to the departure point. The tour is done on a ‘cheesy’ tram that looks like a train. Both cars have headset plugs for tours in 4 different languages.

The Chapel Bridge.

The tour was not quite what we expected. It showed us the basic layout of the old town and gave us some interesting info, but we really didn’t get to see as much as we had hoped. Oh well, it was a fun ride.

Our 'train' tour.

When we returned from the ride, Katrina wanted to hurry back to a few places to catch the evening light. We hurried through town to some views of the medieval towers and wall. We barely made it before the sun went behind the mountains. We were getting hungry for dinner, so we strolled back through the streets of the old town looking for Chinese. Yes, we wanted Chinese again. Just like out last trip.
As we were walking down one of the old streets we spotted a street performer we had seen on the train tour. We stopped to watch and ended up having fun with him. He was perched on a column as a human statue…most of the time. He made a paper helicopter for Brandon and had me try to throw him a water bottle. Unfortunately, I sucked and everyone had a good time watching me.

Street performer on pillar.

Interesting building decor.

1 of 8 towers protecting the old city.
It was time to find some dinner. Brandon still wanted Chinese, so we kept looking, but never found any. We ended up having hot dogs and ice cream on the waterfront.
It was late and we were tired, so we took a bus back to our room and went straight to bed. It was another great day in Switzerland.

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