Postcard: Flüeli-Ranft

Scenes from vacations past

A five story hotel overlooking a valley

Hotel Paxmontana, Flüeli-Ranft, Switzerland. October 2014

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August 11th, 2020 at 10:33pm

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In 2014, I took Gina to Europe for a Grand Tour of sorts.

We visited: London, Paris, Chartres, Normandy, Reims, Strasbourg, Flüeli-Ranft and Lucerne, Switzerland, Milan, and Rome.

This is a postcard from Flüeli-Ranft.

The village

Right in the center of Switzerland, Flüeli-Ranft - like so many Swiss villages - is a smudge of civilization pressed down onto mountains and valleys.

White church with brown roof and red spires

The Church of Flüeli-Ranft.

There's not much to it. A few hotels, a church, a town square with a roundabout and bus stop, some farms and homes. It's pristine and quiet except for the cows and their bells. The definition of bucolic.

The hotel

We stayed at the Hotel Paxmontana, a stunning establishment built in 1896.

Long dining room with windows overlooking a valley

The Paxmontana's famous veranda; photo by Wiki4you CC BY-SA 3.0 (Mods)

We ate breakfast and dinner on the hotel veranda twice. Everything about dinner was fantastic. Breakfast was typical for the continent: bread, rolls, jam, yogurt, cheese, and ham - interrupted, it must be said, by a lot of flies - but the view, obviously, was better than at night.

Brother Klaus's Chapel

Our room was located in an auxiliary building called "the chalet," not the main hotel. Outside the chalet was a steep drop that followed a zig-zagging path.

After passing several cows, we arrived at two chapels on the banks of the Melchaa River. They're pilgrimage sites dedicated to Switzerland's only saint: Niklaus von Flüe, also known as Brother Klaus (1417-1487).

White chapel in between two mountains, surrounded by a stream, lush green grass, and trees

The Lower Chapel (white building).

Crucifix and altar, with late gothic arches

Choir of the Lower Chapel.

One chapel, perched on a slight hill near the water, caught our attention: the Untere Ranftkapelle, or lower chapel of Ranft, built in 1501.

Picture of the choir from further back, you can see benches

Choir of the Lower Chapel from the nave.

The sun was setting. We suspected the chapel might be closed... but we just walked in. It was lovely.

Mount Pilatus

Towering over Lake Lucerne, Mount Pilatus dares you to trust Swiss engineering. You can take the world's steepest cogwheel train from Alpnachstad, at the base of the mountain, all the way to the top.

A train station with rails scaling the mountain at a steep angle

The station at Alpnachstad. Note how gray and overcast it is.

My nerves jittered at the beginning of the ascent. Then, as the car moved, I felt the same way I did the first time I rode the U-Bahn in Munich: totally safe. The car felt heavy and solid, and it moved at a moderate pace. It sounded safe.

Here's ten seconds of the descent.

A modest red car going up Mount Pilatus, snow and steep rocks are in the background

The little engine that could - and did.

Right about the time I was tired of being in the car, we rounded a turn and saw hang gliders swooping down to greet us. We had arrived at the summit.

A three story building on the top of a mountain

The Hotel Pilatus-Kulm, built in 1890. The round building in the bottom of the picture is the Hotel Bellevue.

Two hotels and a public restaurant sit at the top of Pilatus. Easily walkable paths lead to vista points for spectacular views. Sadly, the trails are not accessible - or at least weren't in 2014.

Mountain tops surrounded by white seas - that is, by clouds

The clouds burnt off later in the day, exposing the valleys to sunlight.

Lake Lucerne

We made a short drive from Mount Pilatus to Lake Lucerne. Our goal was to enjoy a walk on the lake, cross the Kapellbrücke, and see the Rosengart Collection.

A lake on a foggy day, with a large building in the distance

The Lucerne train station (archway in the distance).

After having a snack in the Lucerne train station, we walked along the lake in the crisp autumn air. Pedestrian and automobile traffic were heavy.

Tall, narrow buildings lining the water with crowds dining and drinking out front

Hotels across from the Kapellbrücke, at the mouth of the Reuss River.

We walked across the Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, at the northwest corner of the lake. The Kapellbrücke is a covered wooden footbridge built around 1360. A fire destroyed it in 1993, but many of the interior paintings were saved and the structure has been restored. It is the world's oldest truss bridge.

A painting of soldiers tucked under the ceiling of an open air bridge

17th century interior paintings of the Kapellbrücke.

We then visited the Rosengart Collection a few blocks off the lake. The collection of works by Paul Klee was impressive.

Endlich...

Nothing can restore the mind and body like a few days in the Swiss Alps. The light and clean air alone are enough to lift one's spirits, but the spaces are also wide open and dramatic.

The food is delicious, if a bit heavy, and the people are reserved but kind. I adore Switzerland. Flüeli-Ranft and Lucerne were a magnificent, relaxing stop on our trip.

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