All raved about him – poets, kings and composers. But mostly they only traveled to Lake Lucerne in summer. A mistake. The Lucerne Bay is never surrounded by greater magic than on crystal clear winter days.
A cheerful serenity then lies above the lakeside promenade with its sophisticated hotel buildings from the Belle Époque, in front of which hardy Lucerne boccia play. On the other side of the lake greet you from mountain peaks, all of which are already wearing snow caps.
Every now and then a couple of screeching seagulls enliven the scenery, startled by excursion boats plowing foaming furrows through the water. Unlike most other alpine lakes, Lucerne shipping does not have to go into hibernation, but can operate all year round, because a strong current, rebellious winds and its depth of over 200 meters make Lake Lucerne immune to the freezing cold and prevent it from freezing over.
A frosty wind can color passengers on the railing red-cheeked winter faces. To warm up in the ship’s restaurant, hot Ovaltine and Lucerne gingerbread are served. It has nothing in common with the honey biscuits that are baked in many places in Germany, mostly in the form of cookies.
The Lucerne variant comes across as a real cake, deep brown, spicy and airy and tender. There is no standard recipe. Coriander, aniseed, cinnamon, cloves and ginger can be tasted in the “Läbchueche” of all Lucerne bakeries.
In the pharmacy, bones dangle from the ceiling
When looking for the most delicious, you pass a bizarre shop window in the old town. It belongs to the Suidter pharmacy, which has stood here since 1833, and the room behind it looks as if the past centuries have passed by without a trace.
Bones and dried herbs dangle from an artistically painted ceiling. A stuffed owl sits next to a heavy mortar on a thick pharmacopoeia, and the many glass and clay vessels reveal their contents only in Latin: “Theriaca”, “Elix Pector”, “Castoreum” are some of the inscriptions.
The utensils of the old pharmacy trade are filled with the spirit of the alchemists and a little pinch of Harry Potter magic. In a present full of mobile phone shops, fashion stores and fast-food chains, comfortably out-of-date places like the beautiful museum pharmacy window urgently need to be protected.
Hearty Swiss cuisine in rustic restaurants
Fortunately, there is no shortage of the past in all of Lucerne. You can lose yourself in light-adorned alleys with magnificent historic buildings and frescoed guild houses, stroll over the massive wooden beams of the Chapel and Scheuerbrücke or look from the medieval Musegg Wall over the city’s snow-covered roofs in winter.
The nine towers of the old city wall have proven their steadfastness over time, as have Lucerne’s rustic dining rooms, some of which look back on half a millennium of history.
In keeping with the interior, hearty traditional dishes are served with no frills. in the “Wild Man” the chef recommends homemade napkin dumplings with mushroom ragout or meatloaf braised in red wine sauce.
The classic of the house, however, is the Lucerne Chügelipastete, a veal fricassee in a spherical dough shell. Home-style cooking as an homage to the substantial Swiss fare from grandmother’s kitchen, but so refined and finely prepared that even non-Swiss people rave about it.
The Swiss German has a special expression for the pleasant slackness that sets in after such a meal: “Ich ha ei Wöhli” (I feel good), often heard in the sighed short form “Ei Wöhli!”.
Hiking in winter becomes a massage for the mind
Proper culinary art is just one way to wellness the Swiss way, another is: winter hiking. You can also take the oldest mountain railway in Europe to get up to the Rigi.
The rock massif, also known as the “Queen of the Mountains”, is one of the most popular light filling stations in winter. Groomed hiking trails lead up to the Rigi Kulm, the highest peak, from which you can see almost everything that is famous in the Swiss mountains, including the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
If you are in the mood for longer tours, you can go to the Lucerne town of Eigenhal, a glacier-shaped natural paradise at the foot of Lucerne’s local mountain, Pilatus. At around 1000 meters above sea level, five hiking routes lead through the mostly sunny high valley – and romance awaits the visitor immediately.
Fir trees are up to the waist in glittering fields of snow, on the roofs of rustic alpine huts there are meter-thick white hoods. Sometimes it goes ahead on groomed paths, then again snowshoes are buckled, which leave yeti-sized traces.
As soon as you stop, it becomes completely still until a gust of wind blows the white weight off the branches. With a gentle crackle, the flakes trickle down onto the hoods of the hikers. Peace on the outside, peace on the inside – this is how the winter hike becomes a comfortable massage for the mind. “Ei Wöhli!”
Paragliding over Lake Lucerne and the Rigi
Which would prove that you can do wonderfully without fun on the slopes and après-ski on a winter holiday in Switzerland. If you don’t want to stay completely adrenaline-free in the Lucerne winter landscape, you can try slowly floating over the snow peaks – with paragliding in tandem.
The start is from various locations around Lake Lucerne with an experienced pilot who safely maneuvers the paraglider while the passenger sits comfortably in front of him in his harness. A start lane has to be stamped in the snow beforehand.
Then one last check whether buckles, belts and helmets are in place, and off you go down the slope, behind one of the colorful paragliders, which fill with air and rise. Keep running until there is a gentle jolt and you lose the ground under your feet.
The view becomes wide. Spectacular natural cinema is playing under one – the rugged summit region of Pilatus, the snow queen-white peaks of the Rigi and toy boats on the ink-blue Lake Lucerne. The eyes do not even know where to look first, and in the depths they already make out the next destination of the journey, the hunched back of the Bürgenstocks.
Famous guests stayed on the Bürgenstock
This mountain bar lies like a primeval lizard in the lake, as if it had made itself comfortable here millions of years ago to take a break. But then she liked the area so much that she decided to stay forever. The mountain has been welcoming guests for around 150 years. The village-like facility on the Bürgenstock includes several hotels, restaurants, sports and wellness offers.
The resort became legendary thanks to its prominent visitors such as Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Konrad Adenauer and Sean Connery. The James Bond actor stayed with the entire film crew on the Bürgenstock while filming “Goldfinger”. The World Economic Forum 2021 will take place here in May, as a small version of the event in Davos, which was canceled due to the corona.
The resort’s bartenders still mix 007’s favorite drink the way it should be – shaken, not stirred. This should be more digestible due to its antioxidant properties.
Even healthier are cocktails without alcohol, which have recently been introduced in the Bürgenstock bar “Verbena” – the first completely alcohol-free location of its kind in Switzerland. Lavender, beetroot, kombucha, thyme, raisin nectar and chilli are just a few of the ingredients that are mixed into Barbados-colored drinks. Sounds daring, but it is addictive and is ideally suited to toast the intoxicatingly beautiful Lucerne for a whole evening.
Tips and information for Lucerne
Getting there: You can reach Lucerne by train via Basel or Zurich (bahn.de).
Corona rules: Switzerland is considered a risk area. German citizens are allowed to enter the country without restrictions. Strict hygiene rules apply in the country, including a mask requirement, sometimes also outside. Discos are closed, restaurants and bars are open under restrictions. Rules can change quickly, current information: auswaertiges-amt.de; bag.admin.ch
Accommodation: Hotel “Le Stelle” in the old town, ten stylish rooms, double rooms from 67 euros (lestelle.ch); Hotel “Montana”, Art Deco style, magnificent view of the lake or mountains, double room from 225 euros (hotel-montana.ch); Hotel “Des Alpes”, directly at the Chapel Bridge, double room from 168 euros (desalpes-luzern.ch).
To eat and drink: Swiss delicacies in the Simply Fine shop (simplyfine.ch); Vegan cuisine in the “Pura” (pura-luzern.ch); Fondue enjoyment in the guild restaurant “Pfistern” (restaurant-pfistern.ch), in the “Moosmatt” (moosmatt-luzern.ch) or on the paddle steamer “Wilhelm Tell” (schiffrestaurant.ch).
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