Mt Pilatus, Swiss floor show, Lake Lucerne

Trip Start May 25, 2008
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18
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Trip End Jul 04, 2008


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Left early from our Engelberg base, our Italian coach driver manouevring skillfully down twisting moutain range to Alpnachstad, where our travel group commandeered 2 carriages of the world's steepest cog-rail for the 30 minute journey to the top of Mt Pilatus (7000ft / 2200m).
The weather in the morning at least, whilst fine, featured incredible amount of cloud, so much so that at the summit, instead of magnificent views across the alps, and over Lucerne & surrounding lakes, etc, we could hardly see more than about 10m in front of us!...still made for a unique experience, cooeeing into the 'nothing' to hear many more travellers return the call, as well as the mandatory "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie....Oi, Oi, Oi!" We bought a postcard so we could see what it looks like on a clear day......the Swiss Army has teams stationed in the side of the slopes at the top of Pilatus...God knows what good they will do but we met one young fellow in full garb, who was happy enough to pose for the camera.
Our daughter had her very first snow encounter at the summit, although, being summer, most of the accessible snow & ice was quite dirty as it melted away...she was thrilled never-the-less as she was able to make & throw her first snowball!
There are two hotels at the summit, a cafe, a gift shop & not much alse, other than walking tracks, which would have been marvellous had we been able to see through the cloud & fog......one thing we won't forget is the temperature.....COLD!!  Can't begin to imagine this place in middle of their winters.
The descent took way less time, as we used firstly a quite large cable-car which fitted our whole group & many more, followed by smaller, 4-person cars from about halfway down to the base of the mountain. Once we were in our individual cars, the cloud had parted mostly, and we were able to marvel at the green of the lower slopes, the height of the pine trees, the cowbells everywhere, the lakes & townships below us....it really was like a fairytale setting!
Having bussed it into Lucerne, we lunched at the (in)famous Stadtkeller Restaurant, where we & a packed house witnessed the most bizarre goings-on/entertainment we will ever see! The Swiss are so very proud of their traditions & country, which is fine, but we were warned by our tour director to expect some unusual stuff, the least of which would be the food (cheese fondue I recall from when I was a wee lad back in Oz, Bratwurst sausage, rosti potato + necessary dessert cake one must partake of when in Europe).
We were 'treated' to the house/family band, who played a variety of traditional Swiss instruments, keeping us (well, me anyway) quite amused....there were the crazily long Alpen-horns, xylophones, flag-throwing (?), broom playing (?), spoon playing, saws (yes, the large sharp-toothed, flexible ones normally associated with a person at each end, for cutting large trees) played with a bow (yes, like something one would see used on an oboe or the like), dinky-di yodelling, firstly by locals who can do it & then by shy tourists who could not....finally a 2-person material cow running thru the numerous long tables where we ate, making a general nuisance of itself & delighting the oldies (?)
Fortunately there was a brief contest of beer swilling on stage, where some of the Aussie & Nth American contingent of our tour finally showed considerable prowess!!
After an unusual lunch, we took a chance to walk off the nice tucker, checking out Swiss watch & chocolate shops (not surprisingly, quite a few in Switzerland!) We enjoyed serene views along the sides of the Reuss river at it's mouth where swans won over tourists throwing bread to them; the famous Kappelbrucke (chapel foot-bridge), built in 1333, 170m long (previously a prison, a torture chamber, an archive); the almost 400-year-old Jesuit church......a more tranquil place would be hard to find.
Trafalgar group gathered once more, this time for a must-do cruise across & around Lake Lucerne.....one struggles to find different descriptors for the views across the lake, up the surrounding mountains, of some of the exclusive estates scattered around every part of the shore.....many photos help but again cannot do justice to the visual feast on offer (so glad I took my glasses for "distance"!!)
Once we traversed the entire Lake, and disembarked the cruise vessel (featured excellent running English commentary by Swiss skipper), our coach took us past more mountainous views back to Engelberg, where we walked thru the lovely township in small groups, but ended up scoffing fantastic, simple, local pizza before crashing into bed! What a day?? (we find ourselves saying this just about every single day!!)
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