A Travellerspoint blog

Uber Awesome in Oberhofen

Lake Thun, the Swiss Alps, and a pristine Swiss village

85 °F
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Our boat pulled into Oberhofen at the dock next to the castle, a 500-year-old structure that extends a tower over the lake. It’s a hot day; I’m guessing in the upper 80’s as we roll our luggage behind us into town.

“It’s just a 9-minute walk to the hotel,” I say to Sheri, Courtney, and Jake, “—according to my Google map.”

The downtown looks like a movie set, like Hollywood’s version of a Swiss village on a lake with the Alps jutting up on the horizon. A sailboat flies its spinnaker. Chalets cover the steep mountainside, flowers spilling out of their boxes in front of shuttered windows. Swiss flags fly from a few of the homes. I can smell cow dung, but I don’t hear any cow bells. I expect to hear yodeling, but it doesn’t happen.

“Ah, we go up this way,” I say seeing a sign for the Park Hotel.

It’s a road that winds up the mountain, and it’s very steep. After nine minutes we’re dripping with sweat. No hotel in site.

“It’s close,” I say pointing to another the sign for the Park Hotel. The sign doesn’t point left or right but up. Straight up. You have a to be mountain goat to live in this town, I think. It’s a good lesson for packing light.

After 40 minutes we make it to the Park Hotel. We’re all drenched with sweat. My family looks at me as if they’re planning my funeral. But it’s worth the climb. And after showering, everyone is chillin’ out.
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Hours later, we find a short cut back to town to have dinner. Well, sort of a shortcut; steps, 260 of them. Sheri counted them (Eins, zwei. . .) It takes just 5 minutes to get downtown. Lizards dart in front of us disappearing into the cracks and crevices of the stone steps. Jake threatens to catch one and pull off its legs. Please don’t kill the natives, I think.IMG_0873

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The first restaurant we come across is an Italian pizzeria. Jake likes the idea of pizza. He’s had it everywhere we’ve been. But pizza in Switzerland? It turns out to be the best pizza of the trip according to Jake.
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We walk some more. Along the lake, east of the Oberhofen Castle, there’s a beautiful path landscaped immaculately.
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And then we walk back to the Park Hotel, up the 260 steps, past backyards and gardens and accompanied by lizards darting around us.

Sehr gut.

Posted by davidmutticlark 06:20 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

From Lucerne to Lake Thun

By train and boat

90 °F
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Our train pulled out from the Banhof-Platz as scheduled. No surprise. I’m getting used to Swiss efficiency, and I’m lovin’ it. We’re riding a portion of the Golden Pass, one of Switzerland’s scenic rail rides. The Golden Pass runs from Lucerne to Geneva, but we’ll get off at Interlaken West and hop on a boat for a 2-hour ride on Lake Thun to Oberhofen.

The seats on the train are arranged in groupings of four, pairs of seats facing each other. The train is half full so Sheri and I have two adjacent seats with the facing two seats going empty. Courtney and Jake sit across the aisle from us.

We pick up passengers as we go. Couples and singles get on our coach carrying backpacks and water bottles. A small woman in her mid-seventies takes a seat across from us. She wears hiking boots and holds walking sticks. She says hello in German. We smile and say “hi.”

It’s hot, unusually hot for Lucerne in June, 91 degrees, so we ask her if we can open the window. “Yes,” she says, smiling. And then, as Sheri takes pictures, she says I should sit next to her by the window. There’s some beautiful scenery coming up, and I’ll be able to see it much better from that seat.

“Are you from Lucerne?” I ask.

“No, I live in Zurich,” she responds. “I’m going to go walking,” she says, motioning with her sticks.

“So will you stay overnight in the mountains?” I ask.

“Oh, no,” she says, smiling. “I’ll be home by 8:00 having dinner.”

She gets off at the next stop and says goodbye. We watch her step off the train and take a hiking trail that starts ten feet from the train stop.

So the Swiss way of life, I think, is pretty damn incredible. Work and live in Zurich or Lucerne and go hiking in the Alps. And be back for dinner.

We connect to our boat at Interlaken West. The boat stops every 10 or 12 minutes pulling up to docks of small villages. Locals use the boat as well as tourists from all over the world. We have lunch in the dining room and watch the Swiss Alps come into view. I sip a beer brewed locally in Thun. This is damned good beer, I think. Looking out the window, I watch sunlight scintillate off Lake Thun. The water is a translucent turquoise. I drink some more beer, and take a deep breath. Some days it’s very good to be alive.
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Posted by davidmutticlark 20:42 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Leaving Lucerne

A city that is about as good as it gets


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We left Lucerne on Wednesday morning. I hated to say goodbye. They say that Luzern was founded at this spot—where the Reuss River flows out of Lake Lucerne—because an angel shined a heavenly spotlight on the site— “Luzern” is derived from lucerna, Latin for “lamp”.

No wonder Lucerne seems so divine.

It has a quiet elegance without feeling snobbish. A friendliness that’s understated— they don’t shout, they just smile. And a youthful energy and vitality you feel when cramming in on bus line number 1 when everyone downtown seems to be going home.

Simone, one of our hosts at the B&B Lucerne, seems to exemplify a lifestyle that places more emphasis on living well that being well off. She’s around thirty, I’d guess. She works several days a week at the B&B. On the days she works she does everything. She checks you in, shows you to your room, prepares breakfast, helps with travel arrangements, washes your dirty clothes, and makes you feel like a valued guest.

Simone speaks four languages: Swiss-German, French, Italian, and English. She doesn’t own a car because you can get around much more easily on a bicycle. She moved here from the countryside two hours away where she grew up and where goes back often. She loves to travel, but prefers unpretentious out-of-the-way places. Simone spends a half-an-hour talking to me on the evening I go down to the front desk to pay my bill. She seems to genuinely enjoy getting to know everyone staying at her B&B. And my conversation with Simone makes feel good—like I know Lucerne a little bit better than by just visiting the iconic tourist sites.

Emily and Andrea, the two other winsome women who rotate workdays with Simone, seem to have a similar attitude. I get the impression that somehow, here in Lucerne, they seem to find a balance in living and have found a way to work but also to enjoy life.

Simone calls a taxi for us on Wednesday morning. The trip to the station, the Banhof-Platz, is five minutes. The Banhof-Platz is an uber-modern transportation center. Take the boat, the train, or the bus. You can do it all from here. Transfer from your boat ride from Fluelen to a train to Zurich? You can do it here. Catch the bus back to your B&B? Yep. You can do it from here. Coming from the states, you think, why haven’t we done this? It’s fast, efficient, and fun.
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Posted by davidmutticlark 11:36 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Hot days in Lucerne

A heat wave greets us

91 °F
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Lucerne (English) or Luzern (German) is gorgeous in any language. The city is located on the western shore of Lake Lucerne where the Reuss (pronounced ‘royce’) River flows out of the lake.

If you arrive by train or boat, you’re steps from Old Town. Unless you turn away from Bahnhofstrasse as we did. Just walk the Bahnhofstrasse along the River Reuss, and you’ll be looking at the iconic Chapel Bridge in minutes. IMG_0616

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It was not a good day to get lost. It was hot. Ninety degrees, and we were sweaty, tired and hungry. All of us were grumpy—my wife, my daughter, my grandson, and I. But we crossed the Rathaus Bridge and found a table at the Rathaus Brauerei. As you can probably figure out from their name, they brew beer. Very good beer. We sat down and ordered, and my 15-year-old grandson knocked down a glass of bier before the rest of us had even lifted ours. His mood mellowed instantly. And in a few minutes, all our moods were lighter.

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After dinner we walked to the Chapel Hill Bridge, a mandatory activity in Lucerne. But before we crossed, we spotted a Gelateria. We had become hooked on the stuff in Italy. So we ordered not just one scoop, but two. After beer and after gelato, we were all feeling better. It was almost 8 p.m.; the evening had cooled us down, and we made our way back to the B&B Lucerne on bus number 1.

The B&B Lucerne is a ten-minute bus ride from downtown. It resides in the type of neighborhood I always wanted to live but could never afford. Stately, graceful homes built around the 1900s on narrow, tree-lined streets, wrought-iron fences, and gates with handcrafted handles. You get the picture. The home is charming. We had the “family” room. One huge corner room with four beds, shuttered windows, and no air conditioning. I liked the fact that there was no television, no radio, and no noise. So it was a bit warm. You open the shutters, you feel the evening breeze, and within minutes you’re asleep.The B&B Lucerne

The B&B Lucerne

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The next morning, Simone had breakfast for us. The evening before Andrea checked us in and showed us to our room. Both young ladies were charming. They actually seemed to enjoy what they were doing. They told us the B&B is operated by six women, no men. Their website gives some background on each of them. So I guess men—and especially old ones like myself—are becoming obsolete. But if the women to rule the world are like Andrea and Simone, we’ll all be better off.

Tueday morning is warm. We decide to forego walking around. Instead we’ll go to the beach. It was a good choice. Lucerne has a beautiful park and beach just minutes away from the train station. So we cooled off in the lake, swimming with the swans that are said to be descendants of birds given to the Swiss by Louis the XIV, in appreciation for the protection afforded by Swiss Guards. IMG_0667

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Posted by davidmutticlark 12:59 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

The Wilhelm Tell Express

Traveling by train and boat through central Switzerland


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They advertise it as one of the world’s most beautiful journeys, and I think they may be right. The trip from Lugano to Luzern wows you. You travel by train and boat from the Swiss Med—Ticino—to elegant Lucerne, passing mountain valleys, waterfalls, castles, and the Swiss Alps.

The Swiss stereotype of efficiency holds true. The trains arrive on the minute. And the train attendants make sure you get on quickly. “Get on now!” we’re told. And we do. When you transfer to the boat in Fluelen, they vigorously direct you to the pier.

We were planning to save a few Euro and not go 1st class. The only difference is you don’t ride in the panoramic coach. But I think, we may never do this again so I spent the extra 75 Euro for the four of us.

The boat ride is so mellow. It’s in a paddle steamer built in 1901, but it’s in beautiful condition. Everything is in perfect condition in Switzerland, it seems. My grandfather was in the U.S. Navy and served on Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet—the first fleet to sail around the globe using steam engines. So I’m mesmerized watching the engine work. The boat’s personnel are polite, professional, and kind.
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Posted by davidmutticlark 11:18 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

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