I am back.
But before launching into a summer 2017 recap I will be stubbornly un-chronological and tell you how I spent the weekend…
We were lucky enough to be invited to a concert on the Pilatus mountain top. Yes, on top of the mountain. In fact, on top of the building on top of the mountain top. Digest that! “Pilatus – On the Rocks”
At 2132 metres above sea-level (6994 ft, apparently!). A local band, a Swedish band and a local singer, a 4-course meal in the Queen Victoria dining hall of the 1890 hotel Pilatus Kulm and then an overnight stay – wow. Add perfect weather and a starry night (we could even see the Milky Way, a rarity these days). Now add the highlight of an ibex appearing over the mountain ridge above the stage to enquire what on earth was going on instead of his usual quiet evening… magic!
Just getting there is an adventure. You can go up the mountain on either side; from Alpnachstad there is the world’s steepest funicular railway and then from Kriens, there are cable cars. We arrived from Kriens, travelled in a tiny 4-seater cable car up the mountain, through one mid-stop building and across a wooded valley up to the next station. Then we switched to the large hypermodern panaroma cablecar for the last, very very steep ascent up the cliff… phew, our hearts were in our tummies, I think!!
In the valley it was a sweltering hot 30°C+ but up on the viewing platform (which still isn’t quite the tip of the mountain peak!), though cooler, I still didn’t feel the need for a cardigan over my summer dress, it was very pleasant with a breeze. From up there you can look down that steep cliff to Kriens and over all of Lake Lucerne but also to Lakes Zug and Sempach, and if you turn around, you see the funicular railway and the less steep scree slope and the Alpine panorama. A bit like this –
This was the view out of our hotel window!! The “not-so-steep” side. Ahem!
What a special event in a super special location – even after 44 years in Switzerland, I had never been up the Pilatus before and thoroughly enjoyed it. A lot of people had come up on foot; I asked a local acquaintance how long it takes from Kriens – 4.5-5 hours, he said. The following morning, I got chatting to a couple on their way back down the mountain in the cablecar at about 11 am – they said they had walked up that morning in 3 hours and 25 minutes…! I think I’ll stick with the public transport.
Our friends, Relish Guitars, had a great stand in front of the stage and it was thrilling to see the bands all using various of the guitar models in their sets! A lot of locals had turned up to see Dada Ante Portas who come from Kriens, while others were excited to see their favourite Swedes, Mando Diao, and Henrik Belden had a good audience, too. We didn’t actually see his part of the concert, as he played during our main course! But the music was piped into the dining hall. Quite a lot of people braved the mountain paths on the two small peaks either side of the viewing platform and stage and watched the concert from above with the incredible backdrop down over both sides of the Pilatus mountain, quite breathtaking I should imagine. We do not have heads for heights so stuck within the safety of the “official” platform!
I was completely fascinated by the hotel, which was built in 1890, presumably replacing an earlier building, since Queen Victoria herself spent a few days up there in 1868 😮 !! Of course in those days it was all mules and litters to get up the mountains but intrepid as all British tourists were, she did it. In fact, the British invented tourism in Switzerland, so the Swiss actually have quite a lot to thank the British for… I recently acquired a wonderful little Penguin book published in 1945 that delves into the very first British tourist visits here in the 18th century, and can also recommend How the English made the Alps by Jim Ring as a more modern alternative into the history of tourism.
We had a simple but delightful room in the hotel, and kept in mind that every single drop of water and everything else has to be brought up to those 2132 metres altitude – daunting. The hotel was renovated in 2010 but retains many of the original details and the same façade, very retro. One of the smaller dining rooms features this beautiful ceiling painted with acanthus leaves and woodland animals, so pretty. And what British tourist would survive without a fireplace!! Fireplaces are not usual in Switzerland, the Swiss more commonly used very efficient tiled ovens, often connected to their kitchen ranges, so this must be a concession to another culture.
On the way home, we stopped off at the Glasi Hergiswil, which has just celebrated its 200th birthday. This is a glass factory that follows a glassmaking tradition dating back a very long time, much longer than 200 years, to the first settlers on the lake shores. Not so long ago, things weren’t going very well, but then in the 1980s, a well-known glass designer, Roberto Niederer, began producing a style of glassware that has become very typical of the Glasi and very popular in Swiss households. Meanwhile, there is a museum that includes a lot of glass technology and the whole village shoreline has glass sculptures and games sponsored by the Glasi. This spring, they built a 20 metre high glass tower with periscope facilities for looking out onto the mountains – fascinating.
Check out http://www.glasi.ch/en/ for the typical chunky modern glass they make here!
And now to get back to a) what I did this summer… and b) real life, which is still far from normal. Sigh!