We’ve been spending a considerable amount of time in Lucerne, lately, thanks to work. And what an eye-opener it is, living part of our lives in a city environment after 30 years of country villages and towns or suburbs. Not any old city, either, but the most attractive and culturally-interesting Lucerne, gateway to the Alps and the south, close to the banking centre of Zug, and historically of importance as well as being one of the original places where tourism was invented…
I lived in the middle of a city for a year or so as a little girl, learning early on to appreciate the art nouveau style of architecture that is so common in European towns of note and dating from the period of extensive building that changed their faces in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. What had previously been compact, tightly built old towns of houses fighting for their own corner, often squeezed within walls but always facing inwards for protection, became sprawling urban landscapes built of industrial wealth gleaned over the decades of the 1800s and used to show off what had been gained, providing living quarters for the rapidly increasing populations. A certain elegance exudes from these buildings and it’s easy to get a crick in the neck just wandering through the streets examining artistic details included in the designs of these generally 5-7 storey beauties – the curve of a balcony here, a gently geometric frieze or railings there, a gilt-covered ornament or face looking down from a support, the typical naturalistic motifs made to impress the onlooker or simply to decorate a corner or a door or a floor or a bell-pull… demonstrations of an era. A single house can boast several different turret forms, windows offer a multitude of shapes and decorations and bay windows of all kinds jut out from façades or corners, probably offering great views in all directions. It’s easy to imagine the variety of different interiors, too, some perhaps still draped in turn-of-the-century grandeur, others more simply furnished, rooms that have long since undergone the transformation and division from elegant appartement to bedsit, and the plumbing arrangements were often sadly lacking for this day and age, unless a thorough renovation has been carried out (well, this is Switzerland!). Chances are actually high that modern, chic minimalist luxury is behind some of those windows! Lucerne is, in fact, home to the University of Applied Sciences and Arts and modern architecture is high on the agenda… We have tickets to a concert in the KKL in a week or two!
The quarter at our disposal is amazing to those of used to either a walk into the village and its basic infrastructure of post, bank, butcher, baker, shop… if that, or even having to have a car to get to shops scattered all over town and country.
Here, there are intriguing and useful shops and boutiques at every turn, some no longer a common sight anywhere: hat shops, tailors, orthopaedic and other handmade shoes, instrument makers and antique shops but also everything from supermarkets, flower shops, copy shops, bakeries, cafés, bars, restaurants for any and every budget, pubs, cinemas, theatres – you name it, it seems as if it must be within a block or two. The street plans are straightforward, having been purpose-built – blocks are a quadrangle of buildings around a central courtyard, usually used for car-parking, something the quarter wasn’t built for (what were the courtyards used for originally, I wonder – were there mews for horses and carriages? hut garages for glorious oldtimer cars? workshops? even gardens? There are some spectacular ones in Paris!) with one or two access arches from the criss-crossing roads, nowadays frequently in a one-way system. Pavements are wide with room for divisional bushes and greenery, the occasional tree, a small park in front of a church and a library, with space for children to run and play or for anyone to sit with a book or a sandwich or to spread a blanket out on the grass for a midday nap.
Within a block or two of the flat, all the above are easily accessible, as well as a rear, underground entrance to the main railway station, including ticket machine; no need to face the crowds or run along platforms, immediate access! We have already tried six or seven different restaurants ranging from Japanese to Italian to Spanish to Cuban and more (Korean, Indian and Thai are some of the options), had excellent coffee at a number of cafés and coffee bars and pleasant conversation at any number of shops, such as in a lamp store with bling to rival Liberace (which happily supplied me with very boring fluorescent light tubes!), the local chemist and both staff and other customers of the local supermarkets – not to mention the lovely ladies at the wool shop (well, I couldn’t really NOT go into a wool shop, could I now?!).
So far, there’s hardly been reason to investigate the town any further, since we have all we need so close by (add banks, galleries, jewellers, hairdressers galore, and the wool shop to that list above!), but no doubt as the weather picks up, warms up and life spills out onto the pavements and public open spaces, we will gradually work our way farther afield and discover more of Lucerne’s charms. We’re familiar with the obvious landmarks of the Kapellbrücke, Wasserturm and the old town or the fascinating world of the Verkehrsmusuem, but there is more to see, to explore and to visit and my husband has yet to see the wounded lion monument at the Löwendenkmal or the glacier gardens – perhaps we’ll just wait till temperatures are a little less glacial!
Since I didn’t have a camera with me (not even my phone!), I’m afraid none of these pictures are mine! (Nor did we have blue skies…) Thankyou, Interwebs!