We have arrived in Switzerland and tonight we dine in Lucerne. The Alps form the backdrop of most of our pictures and rise straight up out of the flat plains that surround them.
But let’s go back to yesterday and our farewell to the crew, the boat and new dear friends. We have spent the last seven days doing pretty much everything together and saying goodbye last night was very difficult. We have promised to stay in touch and have made some preliminary plans to visit each other’s homes. Our friends are from Atlanta so this will take some dedication to make the journey either way.
When you travel in a group as we have these last seven days, it becomes quite easy to share our stories and suddenly find ourselves becoming bonded over common likes and plans. This is a side effect of the travel but really one of the most important aspects of it. There are river ships and ocena ships but the greatest are the friendships.
So this morning, we left the boat headed for our stay in Lucerne, without our Georgia friends. They had left much earlier and caught their flight for home. Though strange, we were still looking forward to our extended stay in Switzerland.
After our city tour and a quick lunch of local cuisine, we were on a bus headed for Stanserhorn and the long ride to its summit. We start with a cog railroad ride for the first leg. The train is the original train from 1893. As we climb up the open meadow flank of the mountain, we see Lucerne and the surrounding villages drop away below us. But this is just the first leg and the real climb waits at the end of the rail line. At about 1/6 of the way up the mountain, we switch over to the cable car.
I have been on cable cars before. I have been higher up on mountains out west, but this was clearly different. Not sure whether it was the steepness or just the seeming singleness of this peak, but the sense of vertigo was overwhelming. One can only wish the pictures could adequately display the view and somehow create the same sensation of floating, but only being there can have you truly appreciating the majesty of the Alps.
As if the sheer power and magnitude of the mountain and our precarious ride up its face were not impressive enough, there was a surprise. Nearing the top, in a clearing hanging on the side of the mountain, we could see the switchbacks of a trail and then, to our surprise, the appearance of cows grazing at an incredibly impossible angle. And where there were cows, there were farm buildings perched on the terraces of the mountain.
Switzerland has, by law, no corporate farms. The average farm in Switzerland is a postage stamp fifty acres. What shocked me, was that even here, high on this mountain side, farmers and their families were harvesting meadow hay for the cattle.
After a white knuckle hike to the final summit and a cliff walk back to the top of the cable car, we were headed back down. Our cameras were full of the shots we could only hope told the story but the views and the sensations we experienced were etched in our memories and would travel down the mountain with us and then back to our homes as our journey was coming to an end.
We are comfortably seated at our restaurant on the edge of the canal. Our waiter is bringing us more drinks and food as we listen to an impromptu concert break out across the canal. The Alps are bathed in the waning sunlight as evening closes in on us.
One more day in Switzerland. One more chance to record the memories of a country I never thought I’d see. One more day to be the traveler.