A city of impossible beauty, Lucerne is nestled in the alps and sits on the shore of Lake Lucerne. People come from all over the world to take in the charm of this small city and to feel the magic here. The city is compact and bustling but incredibly clean and carries a boutique vibe. Most city attractions are within a short walk and the city proper carries a population of a bit over eighty-one thousand. During our only full day in Lucerne, we were drawn to walk around the city and along the lake.
Lake Lucerne stretches well beyond the city limits and along the lake, mansions line the shore far into the distance. After an amazing lunch, we decided to walk out of town to take a closer look at these unbelievable homes. It only took a few minutes to realize that we were walking in a rich man’s playground. It was clear that most of these homes were vacant and were used as vacation homes for a small fraction of the year. The people we passed on the walking path seemed to occupy a different world with their impossibly well-groomed pets and designer clothes. As each minute passed and our distance from the city center grew, the view of the lake and town became even more stunning. From a distance you could see the entire city nestled on the lake, boats cruising in the water, and the mansions dotting the shoreline. The Swiss Alps towering overhead made the area feel secluded, quiet, and small. I only wish we could have seen this beautiful city amidst the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains. We spent a few hours walking around the lake and stopped at a little crepe stand on our way back to town.
The crepes were some of the best I have ever had, and it really got me thinking about the cultural blend that is Switzerland. A crepe is a quintessentially French dessert, yet Lucerne had crepes to rival any in Paris. Lucerne is in an area of the country where German is spoken the most, but other areas speak predominantly Italian or French. Switzerland exists as a cultural mix of three very different and distinct countries. In many ways, Switzerland has taken the best of each culture to create its own Swiss identity. This identity has done very well for Switzerland and it has remained for a very long time one of the wealthiest countries in Europe.
It has also not been invaded or embroiled in a major war in a very long time. Some of this has to do with the geography of Switzerland with its mountainous, hard to conquer terrain. However, by leaning on its strong cultural bonds and similarities with Italy, France, and Germany, Switzerland has managed to stay neutral amidst the two most destructive wars in our history. This neutral stance has benefitted the country greatly and it never endured devastating financial, social, or economic blows like many of its neighbors in the 20th century. By result, it remains a very wealthy country to this day, full of well educated citizens and has a heavy influence on global economics.
On our way out of Switzerland to Italy we drove through the alps and the terrain was like none I have ever seen. The mountains seem to leap directly into the sky and houses dot the foothills at impossibly steep angles. The highways are impeccably maintained and even though it was raining, the roads were designed for cars to safely travel at high speeds. It was immediately apparent when we arrived in the Italian speaking region of Switzerland as the signs changed to only Italian and the cleanliness and organization declined a bit from the highly organized German region. It is truly unique for such a small country to possess such diverse cultures and at the same time boast gorgeous geography. I hope to explore Switzerland more extensively in the future. The country has a lot to offer and I am eager to get a better sense of what it means to be Swiss. // Jeff