Sunday, December 18, 2016

OUR EUROPEAN HOLIDAY - DAY 40 - LUCERNE, STANS & GISWIL - SWITZERLAND

An absolute magical day today.  One of the very best, and it will live in my memory for a lifetime.  How blessed we have been to have been able to take this amazing holiday together.   I am still pinching myself to believe that we are doing all of this and seeing it all.

A little later start this morning, we had to be ready to board our chariot (bus) by 8.15am this morning as we were booked on the Funicular Railway and the Open Top Cable Care to go to the summit of the stunning Stanserhorn.


The drive out into the country was stunning, but then everything about Switzerland is stunning.  Everything here is LUSH green.  We were the first to arrive at Stans and the first to board the Funicular Railway. 
 This took us half way up the mountain and then we changed to the Cable Car for the rest of the ride up.  Breathtaking is the only way to describe it.

It was cool up the top but not cold, just very refreshing.  We were able to have 360 degree views of all the countryside around us.  AMAZING....  The Stanserhorn peak 1,898m (6,227ft) above sea level. There is a restaurant and a viewing platform so that you can see the alps on the other side of the Stanserhorn.  We were able to see snow capped mountains, well they were mainly glaciers up on the mountains.

 We had an hour and a half of free time up there.  There were two different walks you could do to the summit.  I choose the shorter one although it was a lot steeper.
I could not get over the number of wildflowers.  There were so many different varieties of them, whites, yellows, purples, blues, pinks, just stunning.  I have decided that fields of wildflowers of my happy place...

 On the way up to the summit, we passed "Heidi's" House where the Murmeli were.  They are like a large alpine sort of squirrel.  The ones up here were not shy and I was able to get some really good photos of them.

It was quite a steep climb to the summit so I just took my time photographing the wild flowers along the way so that I could catch my breath.  The rest area was amazing.  Steve went down the longer path but I came back down with Marilyn and Alan (from NZ) the same way I came up.

We did have time to have a quick hot chocolate at the little restaurant before it was time to descend again.  The views were breathtaking and it set the tone for the rest of the day....  In awe of this beautiful country.


From here we headed to a little farming village called "Giswil" more absolutely stunning scenery.  We were met by a local farmer and his friend and taken for a horse and carriage  ride through the village.
  It was such a serene experience again.  Fresh air, the sound of the horses clip clops as we drove our way around the little village.  The sound of cow bells and the smell of freshly cut grass.  This was pretty much my idea of heaven.

We stopped by a little stream and walked over the bridge and into the forest where we found a little open air church.
 From here we clip clopped past a lot of old farm houses that had been there for centuries (hard to believe how old places in Europe are considering everything in Australia is only around 200 years old).  These farm houses had the most beautiful flowering gardens.  Everything in Switzerland is well looked after.  Everything is clean, we are yet to see any graffiti.

We drove through town to St Laurentuis Catholic Church in Giswil and stopped and had a good look at this quaint church.  One of the very interesting things about this church was its cemetery, and although it was fairly new, it was a very pretty cemetery with colourful flowers growing everywhere especially over the grave sites.

 This area of Switzerland is also known for it wood carving skills so most of the  headstones were made of specially carved wood that quite often depicted  the occupation or hobby of the person who had died.  I couldn't help take lots of photos as some were of men farming or axemen and there was even one of a lady knitting with her balls of wool.  It was all very pretty.

 From here we were taken by horse and carriage to our carriage drivers farm house where his wife had prepared a wonderful homemade picnic lunch for us in her garden.  A lot of the produce she used was straight from her garden, and the milk was from their own cows.  It was simple but delicious lunch of home made bread, butter, meats and cheese, also with your own choice of freshly made apple juice, finished off with some beautiful wine from their district.  She had also made some freshly made croissants and puffed pastry with a homemade pear past in the middle.    It was wonderful.  We were also served, tea, coffee, wine and home made apple juice.  We also were able to sample Hans home made Snapps which was pretty potent.   It was almost straight alcohol and certainly burnt your mouth.  I wouldn't have even had half a teaspoon and it was too much.

 On of the buildings on their farm dated back to 1634.  Hard to believe that properties can be in families down through the generations from those dates..

 The whole countryside experience was wonderful.  It was so good that you really wanted to savour every moment and not let it end at all.    We left Giswil around 2pm to head back to Lucerne.

One of the other things we came across today was the "Birthing Trees".  In Switzerland when a baby is born in the villages a decorated tree or cartoon sign gets hung outside the front of their home with the baby's name and birthdate.  This often stays here for the baby's first year of life.  We saw lots of these in Giswil today, so I am guessing that it was a pretty cold winter here last year.    

On our way back to Lucerne, Gary (our tour guide) decided to take us to the "Lion Monument" or "Lion of Lucerne" as it is known by the locals.  It is a rock relief designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen (a Dane).  It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution.


Mark Twain praised the sculpture of a mortally wounded lion as the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.

The monument is dedicated to the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss Guards.  The dying lion is portrayed impaled by a spear, covering a shield bearing the Fleur-de-lis of the French Monarchy, beside him is another shield bearing the  coat of arms of Switzerland.  The inscription below lists the names of the officers and give the approximate number of soldiers who died (DCCLX = 760) and survived (CCCL = 350).

The monument is carved into the cliff face of a former sandstone quarry near Lucerne.  The monument measures ten metres in length and six metres in height.  It really is very moving to look at.

The rest of the afternoon was at our leisure for us to do as we liked.  Some of the folk on our tour got off the bus in town to do some shopping.  We decided to head back to the hotel to recharge Steve's phone  (it had gone flat due to the number of photos he had taken today).

We both had a bit of a rest and then Steve decided to head out for a walk to check out the shops whilst I caught up with the washing and drying of our clothes and also caught up on my diary writing.

We were all going out to dinner together tonight and therefore had to be in the foyer of our hotel by 7pm.  We were doing a dine around dinner tonight.  Each day this trip just gets better and better.  I would definitely love to come back to Switzerland again one day.  Staying right in the heart of Switzerland helps also...

We all met back in the lobby of the hotel at 7pm as we were walking to our Dine around restaurant.  We had a choice of three restaurants we could dine out but most would only take a maximum of 18.  The funny thing is our whole tour chose the same restaurant which wasn't a problem because there were only 18 of us.  We all ended up at a restaurant called "Wirthshaft Restaurant".  It was only a block away from the river and the Chapel Bridge.  The meal was lovely, three courses with wine.  Both Steve and I had the soup, homemade creamy tomato soup with herbs.  For our main meals, Steve had juicy Swiss premium pork steak with home made herb butter, french fries and fresh vegetables.  I had the tender sliced veal with a creamy mushroom sauce and a traditional Swiss rosti.  For desert we both chose the Vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.  This was followed by a cup of tea each.

Our meals have been wonderful but much bigger than we are both used too, so I am sure we are going to have to go on some sort of diet when we get home.

We finished dinner around 9.30pm and then decided to go for a walk across Chapel Bridge into town and do a little exploring.  Steve went in this afternoon and it it had heaps of tourists, so it was much more pleasant this evening with way less people around.  We saw some beautiful buildings.  It was just a shame that it wasn't a good time of day to photograph it all.

Switzerland is a lovely country and it was a lovely evening.  As we were walking around we were able to hear lots of traditional Swiss music playing.  Quite a few different places had people playing accordions.

We walked home via one of the other old walking bridges near the Jesuit Church.  Once we got back to our hotel, Marilyn  and Alan decided to come up to the 11th floor of the hotel with us to see the view.  Just a wonderful wonderful wonderful day and a perfect ending t it as well.

I love Switzerland and definitely want to come back here again one day,  Everything about this country makes you feel alive...

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