Day 2: Lucerne and Mount Pilatus

I can’t count how many times I was thankful for the extremely warm weather. It made everything so welcoming, so bright and sunny. And it meant the Kapellbrücke Bridge, or Chapel Bridge, stretching over the sparkling waters of the Reuss River, was covered in lush green ferns and dainty white flowers instead of dainty white icicles.

Originally built in 1333, it was oldest covered bridge in Europe, but much of it had to be replaced after a fire in 1993, supposedly caused by a discarded cigarette. The fire destroyed many paintings inside the bridge from the 17th century, depicting events from Lucerne’s history, but some remains were found and included when the bridge was rebuilt. Part way across, you can see an octagonal Water Tower, a fortification from the 13th century, the access of which was closed since it was Sunday.

From the bridge, one can get a beautifully fresh look at an old Jesuit church together with some old buildings reflected in the startling blue water, topped with a flock of graceful swans. The wind was so crisp and refreshing, and I breathed in the scent deeply.

After we crossed the bridge, we took a quick peek at the elegantly pink church, lit with a dozen, shimmering, rosy chandeliers.

We had just enough time to explore a section of the old town before we had to catch the bus. I was fascinated with the beautiful paintings on the sides of the buildings, giving them a neat look instead of boring stone.

But as we circled around back to the train station, we caught a glimpse of a bus – our bus – about to take off. So we rushed across the street, recklessly yet safely, and managed to leap onboard just as it rumbled off.

After a short ride, a delightful one by the churches that sprung into view and the mountains constantly on the horizon, we disembarked and shouldered our backpacks as we gazed up, and up, and up, at our next destination: Mount Pilatus.

Would we be going all the way up there? I thought to myself with dizzying excitement.

“All we have to do is find the cable car station,” Papa announced as he checked our itinerary. “And we need to find it quickly.”

It was just at the top of a hill, which might not have been so difficult if our backpacks weren’t as heavy or the sun as hot. Having lived in Texas for most of my life, I’m no stranger to heat, but it was hot even for my standards. No wonder many Swiss people thought it was utterly sweltering!

Soon enough, we had received our tickets and boarded a cable car for the long trip up the mountain. It would be the highest my feet have ever touched the ground on, at 6982 feet, 1083 feet higher than Mount Rigi from the previous day.

The view was spectacular, with mountains and lakes on one side, and forests and valleys on the other. So enchanting, in fact, that the disturbing height we had climbed to went, for the most part, unnoticed.

It may not look very high off the ground, but I felt every bump and rattle with an apprehensive glance towards the cable, somewhat comforted by what would, theoretically, be a comfortable, leafy landing.

Finally, we arrived at the station. There was an obstacle course complete with ziplines that I really wanted to do, but our time was limited on our backpacking journey. If we were late, we’d miss a train. I settled with enjoying the view.

We hung around a bit until it was time for the final ride to the top of the mountain. My first time in a Gondola.

A Gondola…that red thing.

Rather than just the four of us in a cable car, there were about twenty people total in the gondola. I managed to get a spot close to the window so I could get a good observation of the heart-rattling proximity to the cliffs and the vast splendor of nature everywhere else.

Mount Rigi is the pointy mountain to the left

The cliffs, though I felt like I was going to be dashed against them, were astounding, such massive detailed carvings of stone. Such a shame Micah missed them because he had buried his face in his hands as we floated above the earth.

The ride was pleasant enough, with the exception of when the cables gave little drop and everyone gasped or sucked in a quick breath in surprise. I couldn’t help but to peek backwards as we neared the station, and I almost regretted it when I saw how steep the gondola was climbing, and how high we were off the ground.

After hopping off the gondola, we headed over to a path carved in the mountain, where the temperature had dropped considerably and I was no longer sweating.

As we meandered down this path, I felt amazed at the view spread before me, and even more amazed that my feet were on solid ground, because this was a view I usually got from an airplane.

We climbed up more staircases, squeezed through a steep opening in the cliff, and popped out with a breathtaking view of the other side of the mountain: the Swiss Alps.

It probably looks very similar to you compared to the previous day when I stood on Mount Rigi, but as I said, Mount Pilatus is over one thousand feet higher. That is a very big difference.

The feeling of being so high up, with airplanes either flying right above my head or on eye level, with eagles soaring around me and tempting me to dive off and follow them was a feeling I will never forget.

Taking a break

After taking a quick snack, we climbed up yet another hill until I arrived at the crest of Mount Pilatus, and stood staring at the marvelous landscape that comprised of both lakes, forests, and mountains all in one glance.

The mountains all around me were beyond words. Something about them just makes me want to explore its surface leaf for leaf, rock for rock. I could hardly believe that entire forests, meadows, and streams existed on each mountain, and most were capped with ragged snowy tops.

I would have stayed there for quite some time longer, but, unfortunately, the place was going to close in fifteen minutes, and I had no desire to walk all the way down the mountain in the dark. So we hurried to the cog wheel station which would take us down the mountain, and, with the rush of people joining us, stood in line for more than an hour.

But it didn’t seem as long as we chatted with some nice American gentlemen and as I anticipated the ride down, for it was known to be the steepest cog wheel in the world.

It didn’t disappoint. Some places were so steep that I felt like I was going to topple forward. In the less intense places, there were beautiful views of grassy plains and grey stone cliffs, and as we neared the bottom, autumn forests and an occasional stream.

As we stepped off the cog wheel and waited for the train, I gazed up at Mount Pilatus hovering over me like a protective shield. I would always treasure its majestic cliffs and awe-inspiring views, but for the moment, I watched as the train chugged up – perfectly on time as usual – and was ready to be whisked away to the next half of our backpacking journey across Switzerland.

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