I could hear Lucerne long before strolling its streets. I heard it splash my face with drizzling rain the minute that I stepped out of the train station. While waiting for the bus to my hotel, I could hear Lucerne grumble. The skies suggested more than just a light rainfall for the day. I could hear Lucerne as I boarded the shortest funicular railway in Europe at the Art Hotel Montana. When you try to load 7 people and their luggage into said mode of transport, you can hear the most depressing of thuds. And I could hear Lucerne perhaps most serenely from my balcony, listening to snow sprinkled mountains converge with a city lighting up for the evening and a shimmering Lake Lucerne. It was a quiet that you could hear, a moment of peace and calm that fades just as quickly as it begins.
I could hear more sounds of Lucerne that would illustrate my time in this postcard come to life, most notably the sound of my tour guide Doris tapping her toes to get the walking tour on the road. We began in the pouring rain and ended in the pouring rain, not exactly prime walking tour weather. And thus we prevailed with Doris at the helm. She led us through Lucerne’s medieval old town. This Swiss stunner acted as a key stop on a trade route over the Alps beginning in the 13th century. Word traveled fast and pretty soon tourists came not to traverse a trade route but to merely see the definition of beauty personified in a city.
We pause to admire one of the many colorful facades of Lucerne’s old town. Many buildings feature these decorations, masterpieces on their front doors. They were used to tell of the resident’s traditions, celebrations or professions.
I think about the houses that I see every day back home. You can’t necessarily look at one and know the resident’s whole story and being. Lucerne differentiates in that regard. What you see is what you get, sheets of rain and all.
Another unwelcome sound begins to fill our walking tour, that of water squishing around in several pairs of shoes. That sound doesn’t exist to Doris with her water resistant pants. She appropriately presses on to the Lion Monument, also known as Löwendenkaml. Constructed in 1819 by Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen, the monument features a dying lion, commemorating the Swiss who died during the French Revolution defending Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. And what makes this story so heart-breaking is that the royals had already left the palace in France for which the Swiss where standing their ground. When Mark Twain saw the monument, he said it was the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world. As the lion permanently weeps, I realize that my crying over the weather is always short lived.
At long last, Doris leads us to some shelter out of the rain, the covered bridges of Lucerne. We wander across the Chapel Bridge, hailing from the 14th century. Its painted 17th century panels illustrate Swiss history. A few are missing while other parts of the bridge show signs of heat. In the pouring rain, it’s hard to imagine flames engulfing this bridge, but it was partially destroyed due to a fire in the 1990s. Today, nearby Spreuer Bridge can now claim of being older. Built in 1407, the bridge also adorns with 17th century masterpieces, except these all deal with themes of death. The squish-squash of our shoes sounds a bit like the death of a traveler on a walking tour in the torrential rain.
Luckily, Lucerne technically doesn’t leave the traveler out in the rain. The city provides the most visited museum in all of Switzerland to take refuge, the Swiss Museum of Transport. You could hear the group grumbling about having to walk in rain soaked clothing through a museum, but upon stepping into its doors, we all knew this was not an average museum.
The Swiss Museum of Transport details the world of transportation, mobility and communication. Visitors can get hands-on in space all while experiencing road, rail, water, air and space travel. Home to over 3,000 objects including train cars and planes, you can do any number of things in this museum from experiencing a car crash first hand to roaming with slippers on an aerial map of Switzerland.
I step on board a Convair CV-990 Coronado. In its heyday, it was the world’s fastest airliner. The restored interior harks back to the glamour of 1960s air travel. I hear a final and defining sound in Lucerne here, that of feet stepping onto a plane. It is one small step for the traveler and yet a giant leap into the unknown. There might be rain at the other end of that step. There might be soaked clothes and grumpy attitudes by at least there is always that unknown.
Have you been to Lucerne?