Another morning (this time I was alone) I got on to a train for Lucerne, a famous town in central Switzerland by the side of a lake in the shadows of the Alps. It was around a three-hour ride that passed through Neuchatel, Biel and other towns. Neuchatel is an important station, being headquarters of the Canton of the same name and a centre of industries. Biel is where the world famous Rolex and Swatch brands of watches are manufactured. The train apparently has to snake up and along Jura mountains on the way and hence its speed slows down quite a bit. One can go right ahead from Lucerne to Milan in Italy in around four hour’s time. Once in Europe, one finds all the cities one had read and heard so much about are so easily accessible only if one had enough money and time.
The three-hour ride gave me very little time to explore the town as I had to take the last train leaving Lucerne by the evening for Geneva. Hence, it was a rushed trip. Lucerne, like all the Swiss cities and towns has a long history. Tracing its history to the days of Roman Empire, it flourished only around in middleages as a Catholic town and became a member of Swiss Confederacy in 1415. The Swiss confederacy, however, broke up during the Reformation and most cities became Protestant but Lucerne, remained Catholic and continues to remain so till today, The most important reason attributed to this oasis of Roman Catholicism surrounded by veritably a sea of Protestantism is the Leodegar Abbey around which the city grew.
As I got off the train I started walking towards the Lake which carries the same name as the town. Soon I came upon a tower-like octagonal structure that appeared to be huge not only in elevation but also in its girth. It turned out to be one end of the most famous Lucerne sights – the Kappellbruke or the Chappel Bridge. The structure earlier was not part of the bridge as it was erected before the latter came up. Though known in German language as a water tower it was never a water tower. It was, in fact a torture chamber for prisoners. It was closed to the public later but remained a part of the bridge complex. It is one of the most beautiful bridge complexes one can ever come across. Built in 1333 as part of Lucerne’s fortifications, it is made entirely of wood protected from inclement weather with paintings insides. I was so taken in by the sight
I stepped on to the bridge from the side of the so-called water tower walked across to the other side taking in the triangular paintings that supported the roof. There were small painted panels on the top of the walls where they joined the roof. While the bridge was built in the 14th Century the paintings date back to 17th Century. The Chappel Bridge was one of the three wooden bridges that Lucerne had – one of them was destroyed in a fire. This one, itself, was partially destroyed in a fire in 1993 and has, reportedly been restored
The bridge connects the newer portion of the city with the old one over the River Reuss which is the fourth longest river of Switzerland and runs through Lake Lucerne. The older part of Lucerne is dominated by church of St. Leodegar, a Burgundian bishop, its two spires being visible from across the Chappel Bridge. An abbey existed on the site of the church in the 8th Century and the structure was rebuilt in the 17th Century. The parish church of St Leodegar was founded in 1874. The city of Lucerne is said to have grown around this church as is evident from across the Chappel Bridge. I just did not have enough time to get inside the church and decided to miss the treasures inside it. Old churches are fascinating for their architecture, decoratives and various artifacts that they exhibit.
I walked around in the old town for a while and came across a number of old residential buildings, some even having the year of construction inscribed on them. Later I moved toward the Lake. It was a wonderfully bright day with blue skies interspersed by stray clouds and the Lake presented its bluest of waters. I hung around by the side of the Lake for some time enjoying its magnificence and then commenced my trudge back to the Railway station. On the way back I again took to the Chappel Bridge at the end of which I came upon the Chappel Square (Kapellplatz), named so after the nearby 18th Century St Peter Chappel with a fascinating mural on a portion of its front wall. I could not spare a moment to even peep inside as otherwise it would have been hell to pay
I also made another daylong trip to Basel – another more than three-hour ride from Geneva. It is the third largest city of Switzerlan with a population of arouns 200000 and is located on the banks of Rhine River in the North-Western part of Switzerland that borders Germany. For want of time I couldn’t cover much of the town except going across a bridge on the Rhine and then take a small round of the city. The place is known for its museums but there was hardly any time to visit any of them.