It was summer last week. For two (or was it three?) days, we sweated and sweltered and walked on the shady side of the road and closed the shutters during the day and other things you do when the thermometer climbs to uncomfortable heights.
So, that’s done and dusted and it’s back to cool rain, grey skies most of the time, clouds that nobody trusts and temperatures so cool I’ve been wearing vests and woolly socks – truly :0
Anyway, while it was hot, we decided to do something we hadn’t done before – and it had a cooling effect, which was the perfect solution! We went on a sunset boat ride on Lake Lucerne.
Earlier the same day, we’d witnessed the ballet-like cast off of two of the five Lake Lucerne paddle boats which, in perfect harmony, exited the harbour backwards, elegantly swung round in a graceful arc and left the premises, so to speak! Quite a vision!
Come early evening, we boarded the Unterwalden paddle boat, a charming vessel made in 1902 – her engines were displayed at the Paris National Exhibition that year. Many of the original fittings are still there and well-maintained, including the wooden staircases and railings, the enamel signage and of course, the whole machinery.Very Titanic-like!
The first class dining room was reservations only and we were too late for that; however, we sat right at the stern at a small table and were served just as well with an equally lovely meal as the very pleasant breeze wafted around, sometimes a bit cooler and sometimes a bit warmer due to the Föhn wind (and Lake Lucerne has lots of “bits” at all angles, so attracts different weather conditions all over the place!).
For nearly 3 hours, we admired the more or less steep and wooded or fielded slopes of the mountain lake (well, connected lakes, really), the old farms wherever there was the slightest chance of making a living, the villages clustered at the shoreline wherever there was room and of course, the grander hotels built to host the many tourists who began to pour into the area from the mid-to-late 1800s. Some are large villas and you can imagine wealthy families with their entourage taking one for the summer, while others are true hotels of magnificent proportions and their own boat jetties – very easy indeed to imagine groups of turn-of-the-century visitors dressed in a lot of white and parasols wandering the shore or boarding these same old paddle boats for a jaunt around the lake to Brunnen or the Tellplatte or up to Lucerne for a day trip!
Up on the Bürgenstock there is even a lift up to the very top, with the resort being somewhat further down on an intermediate plateau. The ticket house and boarding area are so prettily fashioned, again it’s easy to imagine 20s and 30s hikers stopping for a drink at the buffet before boarding one of the boats to the next trail – and yet now, there are cars parked in the sheltered waiting area instead, such a shame.
The villages in the less sunny valleys or slopes alongside the lake either never got into the tourist trade or have been abandoned to the “lesser” tourist, the campers, and the few older buildings are sometimes abandoned, just waiting for someone to come and break the spell and renovate them for the 21st century! Others have already undergone million-$ makeovers and present smoothly chic terraces and glass extensions – and probably cost more for one night’s stay than for a normal week’s holiday…
Usually in Switzerland, councils are extremely strict about what may be built, stylewise. I don’t know what happened in the 50s and 60s, because most of what was built in that era is plain ugly and in sharp contrast to the original parts of the lake’s villages and towns – and in places, that building activity has been extensive, up until the present day, and some slopes are “graced” with boxy, shiny window, flat roof cubes or shabby, dilapidated 60s façades that make you wince and turn to look at a chalet or Jugendstil building, instead! It seems that a lake view has been fashionable for well over a hundred years…
Having wined, dined and desserted, coffeed and chatted and snapped (photos!), we arrived back in Lucerne at the KKL concert house just as it began to get dark – it wasn’t quite the longest day of the year, but almost, and definitely one of the nicest so far! That thunderstorm to the north brought destructive hail to some areas – we didn’t even get a drop of rain!
Thank you – lovely description, I had the feeling I was with you on that trip. I have a special relationship with Lake Lucerne, as I was made to hang over the side of the boat and let my nose bleed into its waters when I was 15!
Edmund de Waal has some nice reflections on his family’s holidays at a villa near Lucerne in the 1920’s and 30’s in The Hare with the Amber Eyes.
That’s exactly the sort of thing I was imagining! (The de Waals, I mean…!!) ;o
You also took me along on this trip with your descriptions and photos. I read the “Hare with the Amber Eyes.”
Brilliant, wasn’t it?! An old story in many ways, but told in a very fresh way with that Japanese twist…
Pingback: L for … | The Little Wash-House