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August 11th 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.
Right in the center of Switzerland, Flüeli-Ranft - like so many Swiss villages - is a smudge of civilization pressed down onto mountains and valleys.
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 very definition of bucolic.
We stayed at the Hotel Paxmontana, a stunning establishment built in 1896.
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).
One chapel, perched on a slight hill near the water, caught our attention: the Untere Ranftkapelle, or lower chapel of Ranft, built in 1501.
The sun was setting. We suspected the chapel might be closed... but we just walked in. It was lovely.
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.
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.
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.
Two hotels and a public restaurant sit at the top of Pilatus. Easily walkable paths lead to vista points for majestic views. Sadly, the trails are not accessible - or at least weren't in 2014.
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.
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.
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.
We then visited the Rosengart Collection a few blocks off the lake. The collection of works by Paul Klee was impressive.
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 splendid, relaxing stop on our trip.
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