A mountain pass & lovely Lucerne

After a day of resting tired legs and doing some writing, it was time to move on. Driving Bertha past the Brienzer See we had final views of the Jungfrau peaks in her mirrors.

A series of tunnels took us out and up to the Brunig Pass at 1008 metres which Bertha coped with brilliantly. We stopped for coffee overlooking Lungernsee before driver, van and passenger made the slow and steep, hairpin descent.

View from Brunig Pass at 1008m
It wasn’t until manoeuvring Bertha onto chocs at our chosen campsite that we realised there was a problem with the power steering.

With schoolgirl German and incredible ‘trip luck’ we found a terrific mechanic, Piermin, just 200m down the road. He diagnosed ‘schaum’ essentially bubbles in the automatic transmission oil which were most likely the result of the steep climb and descent down the pass. Apparently a common enough problem and easily, and very cheaply fixed, by some new oil being added. Thank you Piermin!

Bertha resting lakeside after her troubles

With a bright hot morning the next day we had to decide whether to use the good weather to see Mount Pilatus, or the lakeside city of Lucerne. We chose the latter and caught the ‘panorama train’ from the local station for the half hour journey.

The panorama train travels along the same line as the commuter and intercity trains but makes all the stops and is designed for taking in the views.

Our panorama train to Lucerne

From its large picture and overhead windows we saw the mountain station for Mount Pilatus and a single carriage rack and pin train climb Switzerland’s steepest cog railway.

Bowling past Lake Lucerne we saw the mountain ridge of Rigi Kulm before disappearing into a long tunnel to be unloaded in Lucerne’s huge central station of many platforms. Armed with our walking tour information we began a lovely day of strolling around the pretty lakeside city.

First views of Lucerne across the river

The fabulous old town is across the River Reuss, another fast-moving blue-green and foamy delight of dashing water, that we crossed using a medieval wooden covered bridge.

A unique remaining Guild House

Many of the historical houses in the old centre are covered with bright or fading paintings. Most have heraldic motifs or imagery associated with their owners, or the purpose of the building.

Hence the Weinmarktapotheke had interesting wine and medicinal motifs dating back to 1530. Beautifully decorated houses line the sides of Stag Square where Goethe stayed at the Hotel Goldener Adler in 1779.

Winding back down to the river we crossed this time using the Spreuerbrucke, built in 1408 and part of the town’s fortifications.


Hanging under the wooden eaves are a series of dark paintings illustrating the ‘dance of Death’ – carried out in the 1600s and suitably ghoulish showing skeletal death lurking in the corners of various incidents of daily life.

Americans were puzzled not by the pictures but by the many swans coasting along the river. “Say, can those large white birds fly?” asked one of them to no-one in particular and not interested in any answer.

One of the “large white birds” on the river

Large numbers of Asian tourists hurried about taking photos, mainly of themselves or each other, and swatting at the swarms of river flies that collected in clouds by the water.

Back up in town we went to see the very moving Lion’s Monument carved into the sandstone cliff face in 1821. It is of a dying lion, pierced in his left flank and lying protectively on a fleur-de-lys.

Sandstone rock above a pond

It commemorates one of many ugly events that occurred in the French Revolution.

More than 850 Swiss Guards were massacred in cold blood by mercenary mobs in Paris whilst they were stationed there to protect the Royal Family.

It was the idea of a Swiss officer who somehow survived the assault.


Löwendenkmal – the lion of Lucerne

We had our picnic contemplating the sculpture and watching tour groups make their visit, before climbing up the steep path to the remains of the city’s fortified walls.

A narrow walkway takes you along 400 meters of solid and turreted walls and into three renovated watch towers. One of them is the oldest clock tower in Lucerne dating from 1533 and still housing a working mechanism.

Walking the walls
Views across the city from the old town walls

A little giddy from the heights and the heat it was refreshing to take a bus out along the lakeside to see the waters and the belle-epoch hotels that grew up in the 19th century as English fuelled tourism boomed around the lake.

Strolling back along its clear shores we saw paddle-steamers on the waters and admired tall and expensive terraced houses and hotels. From the water you can clearly see Lucerne’s position within the mountain range.

Mount Pilatus across Lake Lucerne

Eschewing a visit to the art museum in favour of a return back in sunshine we collected our bikes from the station around 5pm. On the cycle back to the camp it seemed that everyone was out cutting or raking grass for drying into bales.

The orchard next to the campsite
For some it was a real family affair with wives, children and cats all busy in the freshly cut fields and paddocks. We stopped to buy homemade alp cheese from a dairy farmer and later enjoyed its strong flavour, reflecting on a charming day in middle Switzerland.

A lakeside house at Sachseln