Monday, June 28, 2010

Ich bin ein Berliner. (Keep reading, it’ll make sense – eventually.)

Ooooo… big day! Up at 7.30 for an early breakfast so we could get down to the dock for our trip around Luzern today. Last night was a bit of a challenge; the hotel advertized that they had sound-proof windows, which seemed odd, until you realize that you’re on a street that NEVER gets not-busy. The highway off ramp comes onto this street about a block and a half from the hotel. It’s fucking loud. I started off with the windows open last night, then closed them after a half hour, then was up twice during the night to open them for some fresh air. Breakfast was a bit of a bust too; most places have it complimentary with the room and that includes meats, cheeses, spreads, and eggs. Here, it was just ‘continental’ – read bread and spreads: all other options extra charge. So, we had a light breakfast.

The one benefit of being on a major street is that there is a bus stop about 6 steps (literally) from our hotel’s front door. Dad had been out exploring last night, so knew which buses to take. We hopped aboard the No. 1 and headed into Luzern to see the lion monument to the Swiss Guard that were killed at the Tulleries (and later by guillotine) during the French Revolution. Nice place (once the tours cleared out) and we got some nice pictures. We were still a bit early for our trip, so we slowly wandered back to the harbour, stopped for pics, and had a couple of drinks at a harbour side café.

Out tour involved a cruise across the Lake of Four Cantons (which Luzern sits on), a cog rail-way ride up to Mount Palatis, then a cable car ride down. We had decided when purchasing our tickets to up-grade to first class. Such a good call. We got to sit on the top level of the boat, while all the school groups (and there were A LOT of kids) had to sit in second class. We got table service for beverages, and some great views, all without shitty students kicking around. There were crying babies, however. Boo.

Anyway, the boat ride was nice – got to work on the tan on my legs to match the burn on my arms. The cog rail-way, well, that was less fun for me (I’ve got a really bad anxiety when it comes to heights). This rail-way is on record for being the steepest in the world – there are parts of the track that have an incline of 49%. Read that again – not 49 degrees, but 49 PER CENT. It feels like you’re going straight up at some points. But there are people that live up close to the top of the mountain (and it took almost 20 minutes to get up there) – we passed to farms complete with cow-bell sporting cows.

Once we got to the top, we were disappointed to see that the hotel up there was closed for renovations. So we were forced to eat at the cafeteria-style bistro up there. And, of course, the prices were extortionary. Dad and I both had a hearty lunch, the started walking along some of the paths. I gave up when the incline got to bad – Berchtesgaden taught me that high-altitudes, in my shape are a bad idea. So dad and I went our separate ways, but I found a level path that went around the upper peak, so walked about half of it. The acoustics were so good, that from the (almost) peak, you could hear the cow bells of the heard of cows about 500 ft below.

Dad and I met back at the visitors’ center, where I had already picked up some souvenirs, and we headed down via cable car. Okay – cable cars are like my Majouba Hill. It takes a lot to get me on one, and even more to prevent a full-out panic attack and today was a close one. There are 3 stages on the cable car ride down – the first is in a large, single car that fits 15-20 people and it’s the steepest decline since it comes right off the mountain face. I stood in the back, staring at the floor the whole way down (about 5 minutes) and tried not to embarrass myself and Dad by crying. The second/third stage is in individual cars that seat 2-4 people. That stage took about 20 minutes too – not quite as high as the first, but a lot of parts that were too high for comfort for me. I sat with my back facing downhill, clutching the seat every time we went over a support tower. Next to the red-light district of Amsterdam, this was the 2nd part of the trip I was dreading, and I’m really glad that’s over with.

When we got back to earth, we were on the outskirts of Luzern, but the tickets we bought for the tour got us on the same bus that stops right in front of our hotel. I went back to the room to relax, while Dad went back into Luzern to see the Transportation Museum (the 3rd thing I was dreading on this trip, so was glad I weaseled out of it). At about 6.30 we headed back to Luzern for dinner at a place Dad saw earlier in the day – we shared, what else, a cheese fondue. Yum. We then headed further down-town to the harbour to get a view of the city, lake and mountains without the haze that sat there this morning. It was a nice little walk. On the way back, we stopped at a bakery where, wanting to feel like Kennedy, I picked up – A BERLINER. Think Boston Cream donut, without chocolate and real pastry cream filling. I now get why JFK wanted to be one.

Well, tomorrow is going to be a big day – we’ll be driving about 8 hours to get through the St. Bernard Pass, then into Lichtenstein for 2 nights. Early to bed, early to rise, that’s our goal!

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