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Trip report of 15 days in early October in Lucerne


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CabinJon
CabinJon
203 posts
active member
Oct 19, 2022 - 4:51 AM

It has been 3 years since we’ve been in Switzerland. The 1st year was lost to COVID, the 2nd due to a minor medical issue that occurred at just the wrong time. Third time is the charm, and off we went. We planned on revisiting several of our favorites, and also going to some new places. No one can make a list of things to do like my wife. And that’s a good thing.

Day 1 – Landed at Zurich airport, picked up the Travelers WiFi, got Swiss francs from the ATM and with a 15-day Swiss Travel Pass in hand hopped on the train to downtown. A relatively short walk to the hotel, where we relaxed in the hotel lounge until our room was ready, had a light supper, and discovered the Emmi brand of gruyere cheese is pretty darn good. We were tired after a long day and overnight flight, so basically did nothing but relax and go to bed.

Day 2 – A drizzly start to the day did not deter a young swimmer from doing a back flip off a pedestrian bridge into the Limmat River, then begin swimming downstream. I’d not seen that before. A leisurely breakfast at the hotel, a short walk in the rain along the river, then we decided to take advantage of a slight clearing in the afternoon to go to Uetliberg mountain since we’d never been there and it was close. Only 20 minutes by train, plus a 10-minute walk to the top. More people there than we expected but not really crowded. Back to Zurich for a stroll down the Bahnhofstrasse (without buying anything) then veered into the narrow cobblestone streets of old town to go through Lindenhof Park and the adjacent Rosenplatz. Lovely view of the river too.

Day 3 – Time to leave Zurich for our primary base in Lucerne (odd that the SBB app doesn’t accept Lucerne, it has to be “Luzern”) and our hotel there is a very short walk from the Bahnhof and one block from old town. After getting settled, we head off to find the Chas Barmettler cheese store that I read about on this site. The easy way to get there is cross the river at chapel bridge, turn right and go to the road bridge that crosses the river, and go left up the sidewalk for a couple blocks and it’s on the left.

We buy a couple of the 2CHf cheese tarts, some gruyere, and a wedge of a soft white cheese with chopped cranberries on top, which was excellent. After that it was window shopping in old town and getting reacquainted with it, and an obligatory stop at the Rathaus for a couple tall weisse beers. Back to the hotel for an in-room meal of meats, cheese, and rolls picked up at the COOP. And some of that white/cranberry cheese for dessert. Total cost for our grocery & cheese store dinner, 9.70CHf.

Day 4 – Off to the Bahnhofquai to catch the paddlewheel boat to Beckenreid. Most of the folks got off at Vitznau to head up to Rigi, which was obscured by clouds, but we were headed to Klewenalp. Caught the gondola up and it was nice & sunny. Not much in the way of infrastructure there but a lot of different hiking trails from that point. We decided for an easy 20-minute walk to the Berggasthaus Klewenalp for our first Schneider Weisse draft beers in Switzerland at an outside table in the sun. Pretty up there, but we never did find the Ricola herb garden that is supposed to be next to the gondola station.

Back down to catch the #311 bus to Stans, which included the highlights of a small airport with several very colorful small aircraft, and the startling sight of one plane taxiing straight toward the side of the road and the bus we were in. Apparently, the highway cuts across an active taxiway. Later, from up on Stanserhorn, we observed traffic stopping while an incoming flight taxied across said highway. Got off the bus to discover the usual path to the funicular/cable car was closed. Found the detour and got to the ticket taker just minutes before the old open-air train on the first leg going up to the Stanserhorn took off. We had a very limited cowbell symphony this year, though our sense of smell confirmed their presence. Switched to the gondola for the final ride to the top and by now the skies have completely cleared. Scenery is even better here, great view of distant alpine peaks, many with snow. Also, another opportunity for a couple 1/2-liter beers, one weisse & one lager from the Alpenzeller brewery, both very good. We were just getting settled in when the staff came by to remind us the last gondola down left in 10 minutes. No wonder there were almost no other people there by then.

Day 5 – Checked the weather cam for the Eiger and realized yesterday’s weather forecast was completely wrong, it was going to be sunny, upper 60’s and no wind. Down to the restaurant for a light breakfast, and we saw a woman we recognized from 3 years ago working as the manager. Quick introductions and “catch up” conversations ensued; that was a pleasant surprise, as she is the only one of the staff left from our last visit 3 years ago.

Off to Interlaken Ost, Lauterbrunnen, and Wengen via train, then the Luftselbahn gondola up to Mannlichen. We had a quick cup of coffee, then began the Panoramaweg hike towards the Eiger; that sounds a lot more impressive than the Grannies Walk doesn’t it? Perfect weather too. However, after looking forward to the legendary Rosti Bernese at the Kleine Schiedegg train station restaurant for 3 whole years, and “hiking” all the way from Mannlichen to get it, we discover they no longer serve it. It seems like all the alpine dishes are gone from the menu, which is now very heavy on pizza. You can get plain rosti from a guy running an outdoor grill, and brats if you want them, but it is just not the same. The restaurant did have Erdinger Weiss beer in big bottles though, so not all was lost. And you can sit outside in the sun with hot food, cold weisse beer, and stare at the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau, and that’s a combination very hard to beat.

Then it was back to Lucerne and dinner at the Made in Sud restaurant, which serves very reasonably priced and very tasty Italian food. I had the lasagne, while my wife had the penne carbonara. And red wine of course.

Day 6 – Started with plans to do a little more shopping in old town before heading down the lake to Weggis. Just as we got to the waterfront bridge across from the Rathaus, we hear this roaring sound and start looking around. It was the Swiss Air Force precision flight team - Patrouille Suisse - putting on an air show nearby. They made numerous passes overhead and we kept trying to capture them on cellphone video but they are soooo fast. Did get a couple with a few seconds of the formation flights, twists and turns, but far from professional quality. Very exciting though, and our timing was perfect to be standing right where we were when they were doing their flyovers.

Caught the 2:12 boat to Weggis in sunny and warm weather and headed straight across the street to Restaurant Oliv once we disembarked. We ordered two 1/2-liter bottles of Schneider Weiss (anyone detecting a pattern here?) and their famous antipasto plate, and it was exactly as we remembered it. Lots of good meat, some cheese, black olives, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, two kinds of bread. Delicious. We decided we were in no hurry to head back so set out to walk around. Didn’t get more than half a block when there was Wehren’s bakery, so we went to look for some rolls for dinner. We did find rolls... and a raspberry tart, and a lemon tart, and a vanilla cream donut (Berliner?), and three kinds of truffles. A cup of coffee with the tarts and donut sitting outside at a little table on the bakery terrace was a nice ending to the gastronomy. Caught the next boat back to Lucerne and settled in for the night.

Day 7 - We caught the 8 am train to Bern and then another train to Thun. Best part of the ride was seeing 3 hot air balloons outside of Bern, almost the same color as the overcast clouds. The sun came out just before we got to the docks in Thun a few minutes before the next boat left for Interlaken West. We jumped on and had a pleasant, calm, and sunny ride with many stops at very small places along the way. My wife thought we could/should take the Aares river gorge walk to Interlaken Ost but we bagged that (good thing too, because the actual walk is to the east of Meiringin and nowhere near Interlaken). We jumped on the next train between Interlaken West and Ost, which took all of 5 minutes, then switched to the old standby Luzern-Interlaken regional express back to Lucerne. Much, much more scenic than the alternate route through Bern & Thun. An unexpected scene was a big, very big, cattle auction going on right next to the tracks. Must have been hundreds if not thousands of cows lined up. Unlike the big pickups pulling farm-size cattle trailers that you see in the States, most of these looked like they came by tractor. And we always like to see the two scenic churches along the way, the big stone one in Lungern and the big white one in Giswil.

Once back in Lucerne, we have a riverside beer at the Pfistern, then meandered over to the Muhlenplatz, where an empty table was found at Sopranos restaurant and two more weisse beers were procured, along with two complimentary small dishes of dry roasted peanuts (plain, BBQ, wasabi). And for 1CHf less than at the Pfistern. What’s not to like?

Back to the hotel again for more research on dinner options. The Taube didn’t have reservations until 7:45, so we decided to just go up to Restaurant Fritchi and take our chances without a reservation. Not a problem. We got there about 5:30 and although the kitchen doesn’t open until 6, they seated us and we ordered some wine to start. My wife had the plain cheese fondue, with boiled potatoes extra, and I had the house special puff pastry, which is stuffed with small chunks of roasted meats in a cream sauce and served with grilled veggies. Both dishes were outstanding and the fondue was just as we remembered; well worth the 3 year wait to get back. Perhaps our favorite restaurant in Lucerne.

Day 8 - After checking the weather forecast, we decide that today is the best day to go to Lugano, and we catch the 8:18 train through the Gotthard tunnel, a 1 hour 40-minute ride. It was overcast and cloudy in the Lucerne area but we come out the south side of the tunnel and it is sunny and clear, a good sign.

We catch the funicular at the train station and head down to the main part of town and the lake. We wind around through the maze of shops with huge hanging salamis, narrow cobblestone streets with sidewalk cafes, then past a plaza where they are setting up for the Autumn festival. Finally, we can see lake and the boats. Too early to board so we take a quick walk down the waterfront and back.

It’s a small boat compared to the boats on the lakes at Lucerne and Thun. Nonetheless, it is sunny and warm! And a short 35-minute ride to Gandria, even with three other stops along the way. We get off the boat and realize the Ristorante Rocco Bella we were interested in and thought was halfway back to Lugano was in fact right in front of us. There was a guy on the stairs at the end of the pier gesturing and welcoming us in with a hearty “Prego!” We decided on the charcuterie plate and were given a basket of sliced bread and then a plate with two kinds of cheese, salami, bresaola, and two kinds of prosciutto, some lettuce and a pile of olives. Darn good.

And then we began the “Olive Walk” back to Lugano. It basically begins right outside the restaurant with several flights of shallow but steep steps. Gets the heart rate up right away. Then through a short maze of very narrow sidewalk alleys and finally onto a well-defined mostly gravel path. This was a very easy and pleasant walk through the old growth olive trees right along shore and past the occasional lakeside home. Some very interesting houses along the way, some with small gardens, flowers, cacti, and stone carvings of naked women (I noticed those first of course). And then the defined pathway kind of peters out in Castagnola. We make a couple of abortive starts on which way we think we should go, and finally find a local who directs us to a nearby bus stop where we have the driver’s assurance that he will take us back to central Lugano (bus #2).

We get off at the central bus station and soon find our way to the waterfront and then back through the maze of narrow streets to the bottom of the funicular. Where, as fortune would have it, is an outdoor hotel bistro, the Flamel, that serves us a few well-deserved beers and a complimentary small bowl of almonds and hazelnuts plus a separate bowl of big pitted green olives. A bit pricey and service was friendly but slow - we both had to go seek out a server at separate times. Back up the funicular and onto a train back to Lucerne. As soon as we come out of the long tunnel the sunshine vanishes and we are greeted by low, heavy clouds and by the time we pull in to Arth-Goldau it is steadily raining and looks cold.

Day 9 – The battery on my Travelers WiFi had been giving us problems all week, it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than 4-5 hours. Fortunately, there is a pickup/drop off place in Lucerne at Watches of Switzerland. I’m sure they were a bit disappointed when they realized we weren’t buying a watch but the woman that waited on us was very pleasant, swapped our old WiFi for a new one, and even called TW to resolve a problem with activation. She made sure it was working with both our phones before we left the store. A very nice person.

Since almost all of the old town shops are closed on Sunday, I suggested taking a boat ride all the way to Fluelen since we didn’t have any specific plans for the day. A blustery day for a boat ride but we got to see three wind surfers putting on a show just before we got to Fluelen. We got the next train back to Lucerne.

Dinner was at Made in Sud again and was wonderful. I had the lasagne again while my wife branched out and had the spaghetti bolognese. Excellent sauce and the pasta almost tastes homemade (maybe it is). We had two glasses of primitivo (red wine) but no dessert tonight.

Day 10 – Had a late breakfast and caught the 11:10 train to Stans. Once on top, we “hike” up to the summit above the big deck/patio and then down to loop around the Stanserhorn circular trail - 1.2 km and 30 minutes. The views on this walk included a number of places with beautiful orange, red and yellow stands of trees from the fall color changes, something we hadn’t seen before. Of course, when we were done we needed a restorative Appenzeller Weizen beer on the big deck, which not too surprisingly turned into two.

We went to the Wirsthaus Taube for dinner. We were seated immediately and we each ordered the Rosti Lucerne and a glass of Sangiovese. My wife thought it was excellent but I prefer the Bernese style I used to get at Kleine Scheidegg. That said, neither of us could completely finish the portion served.

Day 11 – Another trip south, this time to Locarno. Once again, overcast in Lucerne turned into sunshine on the south end of the Gotthard tunnel. Blue skies, light clouds and hardly any breeze. We took a walk along the waterfront, and watched two groups of older folks playing bocce in a little waterfront park. We then ventured over to the Piazza Grande, a broad cobbled street area with shops and cafes. One side of the piazza is pretty uninteresting and the other has all the shops and cafes, many under cover along a promenade. We go all the way to the end and grab a table at the Selz Bar and Cafe for a cappuccino. We stopped at pretty much every cafe on the piazza as we headed back, looking for a menu that had an antipasto plate but didn’t find one or see anyone eating one either.

Back down to the waterfront and my wife found somebody to ask what the antipasto dish was called. The waiter said something like piata chenese (I’m sure that is spelled wrong) and was in fact popular but that they didn’t serve it. Thinking it would be easy to find an antipasto in Locarno was turning out not to be the case for us. Pondering why, we realized we had been approaching this all wrong. We were so set on finding something specific that we weren’t paying attention to what people were actually eating where we were - which was pasta. We go back to where the guy told us what they didn’t have, and get a table. The name of the restaurant is Sensi. So, we sat down on the outdoor terrace, under two big shady trees, next to the lakefront street (with very little traffic) and with a direct view onto the waterfront promenade and lake. Picture perfect, really. My wife ordered a piccola (starter size) bolognese with penne and I had a piccola of penne carbonara. And a glass of Sensi Rossi wine. The pasta came with a basket of bread and both the pasta and bread were excellent. We switched plates so that we both could have some of each. Really very good, it is now on my list of favorite lunch spots in Switzerland.

Day 12 – We planned on going back to Stanserhorn again, but ran into a large group of folks and a big line at the funicular station at the bottom. We realized pretty quickly that not only would we not make the next train car, we wouldn’t make the one after that either. Ever flexible, we head right back to the Stans station where we walk directly back on to a train to Lucerne. Decided enroute to go to Pilatus and quickly caught a train to Alpnachstad after arriving in Lucerne.

Weather was cloudy on the ground but the weather apps told us we’d get some sun so we weren’t worried. We got tickets in only a few minutes, then joined a bunch of folks already waiting for the next train up. No worries, we all got on. Going up the track we realize again just what an amazing engineering and construction feat this steep track was. Grade maxes out at 48% according to the signs along way, but it seems steeper than that; like you couldn’t even stand on the ground in many places without holding on to something solidly entrenched.

It was cloudy at the top, but a reasonable temperature. We spent some time in the gift shop picking up requested souvenirs before heading out to the big deck where we enjoyed two Erdinger wheat beers. The sun came out several times which was very nice. No cost entertainment comes from watching the crows hovering, sitting on the railing, or landing to steal leftover food from people dining outside.

Day 13 – We decided to execute yesterday’s plan today but start earlier. Although there was a small group waiting for the open-air funicular, we did get on the next one. The cars were fully loaded, plus folks on both ends on the conductor platforms. We did hear the cowbells today on the way up this time.

Walk on to the Cabrio and stay downstairs - all but one person went upstairs to the outdoor platform. Partway up, the conductor comes down and points out a herd of mountain goats. Off the Cabrio and off we went to the summit and then to walk the haystack trail. Weather was perfect as far as temperature, and the clouds were up enough that we could see all the big-name peaks, i.e., Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau. When finished, we sit on the patio with two Appenzeller weiss biers. My wife brought 4 lemon slices from the breakfast buffet so we had those to properly complete the beer; should have thought of that earlier in the trip. By the time we were done it was time to head down and catch the train to Lucerne. Off the train and we walk directly to the pier and board the boat headed to Fluelen, which would take us to our intended destination in Weggis. Off the boat and over to Oliv for the Houseplate Oliv and two Schneider Weisse beers, again finished with lemon slices from the buffet. Sun was out, light breeze, all the ingredients for the kind of meal we remembered. We people watched and it was really pleasant.

Day 14 - After a leisurely breakfast, we packed up, checked out, and left to catch the 11:35 train to Zurich. Packing was carefully done so that only the barest minimum needed to be taken out for that night and next morning since we had an early flight out of Zurich.

Checked into the hotel, and decided to take a short walk along the river. It started raining so we cut our walk short. Back to the Zurich train station for an Erdinger Weiss bier at the big Oktoberfest tent they have set up there. Ended the day with a light dinner at the hotel, and go to bed early.

Day 15 – Up early and on the 5:02 train to the airport. Got the bags checked and turned the Travelers WiFi in at the Service Center, which opens at 6 am. Our flight leaving Zurich for Frankfurt was delayed not once but twice. At least it gave us time for a big cup of coffee and an opportunity to lighten our load of Swiss franc coins. The combined delays cut 40 minutes off our connection window of 75 minutes. It was very tight, but apparently, we weren’t the only connecting flight that was delayed. In fact, 3 busloads of us had to be driven way out on the tarmac to walk up mobile stairs – when is the last time you boarded a jet that way? – before the plane had everyone on board. It was also late taking off.

Although we made it home, our luggage didn’t. My bag was delivered at 6 am the next day, my wife’s bag was delivered at 7:30 pm. Who says travel isn’t an adventure?

And if you’re wondering whether the Swiss Travel Pass is worth it, we used it for 33 trains, 9 boats, 5 gondolas, 4 funiculars, 1 cogwheel train, and 2 buses in 15 days. Often with last minute impulsive changes in planned travel with minutes to spare. SBB app & Travelers WiFi go hand in glove with the STP. Can’t beat it.

It was a great trip!

Danielsan
Danielsan
310 posts
top member
Oct 19, 2022 - 10:50 AM in reply to CabinJon

Hi CabinJon,

That was a lot of fun to read, with a great sense of humor infused. Another trip report bringing back memories as you hit a few places I did, and wanted to go to. I also wanted to take a boat to Gandria, eat and walk/hike back to town. But I rode the Gottard Panorama Express (boat, then train) and only had time to go up to Monte Salvatore by the time I arrived. When I came down I ventured toward the boat and was told no more boats were running. The Stanserhorn was hit with clouds after I ascended and was unable to see the sun go down from up there. On Fridays they had later ascents during the summer. This was in 2018, not sure if they still do that.

I did happen to "detect a pattern here" as I did the same thing myself. I rode trains, cable cars, boats and funiculars/cogs, and shut down bars for two weeks and had a ball. You mentioned trees changing, did you go/get back recently?

I'm surprised the Stanserhorn was so crowded. I chose September and didn't encounter many real large crowds other than on Mt Titlis.

Great report thanks for sharing.

Regards,

Danielsan

CabinJon
CabinJon
203 posts
active member
Oct 19, 2022 - 1:38 PM

Danliesan,

I'm glad you enjoyed the long report. I've gotten many tips & ideas from other member's reports over the years and wanted to offer some details that future travelers might be interested in. I should have mentioned trip dates were Oct 1 - Oct 15. Trees were beginning to change, which we hadn't seen on our prior trips 3 & 4 years ago at the same time of year.

The crowd at the Stanserhorn was due to two tour buses in the parking lot, one group already up on the mountain and the other recently arrived; that should have given us a clue as we walked through the parking lot to the ticket office. Only time we've encountered that there. Pilatus, by contrast, was relatively uncrowded. Usually it's the other way around.

hockeyfan
hockeyfan
124 posts
active member
Oct 19, 2022 - 9:50 PM in reply to CabinJon

I, too, loved reading your trip report. I especially like your take on the restaurants and food. You gave me some new ideas. I have been giving some thought to staying in Weggis the next trip. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

Ildiko
Ildiko
2515 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 20, 2022 - 5:48 PM in reply to CabinJon

Hi CabinJon,

thank you so much for this great trip report. I loved reading it. Actually, I became hungry, although I already had my dinner :)

I am glad that you enjoyed your Swiss holiday.

Take care,

Ildiko

CabinJon
CabinJon
203 posts
active member
Oct 20, 2022 - 11:31 PM

Ildiko,

Thank you. Credit to my wife for most all of the food details. I remember some of them but not all. Made me hungry when I was writing it too....

Arno
Arno
15693 posts
expert &
moderator
Oct 21, 2022 - 8:18 AM in reply to CabinJon

Thanks for generously sharing your tips CabinJon! I really enjoyed reading them. I'm sure your experiences are very helpful for other travelers, especially those who love not only the Swiss scenery but also Swiss food (we fall under that category ourselves ;-)).

Happy to hear the Swiss Travel Pass was such a good choice for you. And sorry to hear about the battery problems with your Traveler's Wifi. Luckily this was solved.

Kolmehorke
Kolmehorke
1 post
new member
Nov 24, 2022 - 3:41 PM

Вы отлично проверили время!

Annika
Annika
7118 posts
expert &
moderator
Nov 24, 2022 - 4:32 PM in reply to Kolmehorke

Hi Kolmehorke, thanks for joining MySwissAlps! Please write in English only, as requested in the forum rules: https://www.myswissalps.com/forum/rules. Thank you :-)!

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