Friday, May 8, 2015

Switzerland: Part II of II

May 2-8, 2015

This post continues the first week of our European vacation after Interlaken (Part I) in Luzern & the Bernina Express scenic train to Lugano (Part II). I will continue in another post the second week spent in northern Italy in Cinque Terre and Tuscany.

Wednesday May 6, 2015
We ate breakfast at Hotel Stern Luzern this morning.
Luzern (Lucerne in English) is where the Reuss River flows out of Lake Luzern. In German Swiss, Lake Luzern is called Vierwaldstättersee or “Lake of Four Forest State” because it lies at the intersection of 4 of Switzerland’s cantons.
We ventured out around 10am. We headed towards the River Reuss which heads into Lake Luzern

Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) in Luzern

It was constructed in the first half of the 14th century as part of the city’s fortifications.
Joe, Brooklyn & Jackie at Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) in Luzern
Swan on the Reuss River
It is rumored that the swans here were a gift for French King Louis XIV in appreciation for the protection he got from the Swiss Guards.
Kramgasse and further west up the River Reuss 
Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) in Luzern

The bridge was built at an angle to connect the town’s medieval fortifications. The water tower was built around 1300.
The painted panels were added to Kapellbrücke in the 17th century. They portray scenes of Swiss and local history, including lives of Lucerne’s patron saints.
In 1993 a leisure boat moored under the bridge caught fire which set the landmark in flames. Notice the rebuilt part that is a lighter wood color, but the painting panels were lost forever. Now no boats are allowed under the bridge. 
Luzern from the Kapellbrücke

Happy sightseers 
Luzern train station, Bahnhofplatz archway which was the entrance to the old train station that burned down in 1971.
KKL Luzern (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum) (Culture and Convention Centre) by Parisian architect Jean Nouvel in 1998 from land
I will write more about this building later…
We walked over to the boat docks near the train station to inquire about going for a shorter ride. Our options were limited since it wasn’t peak season yet, but we found a good 1 hour tour around this side of the lake but it didn’t run until the afternoon. We adjusted our plans and decided to sightsee first and ride the boat later in the afternoon when the weather was supposed to be better.
Julius Bar in Luzern 
Luzern with Kapellbrücke and Alps in the distance
We walked among the Alstadtplätze (Old Town squares). In Luzern, the buildings feature historical frescoes.
Sternenplatz dominated by the colorful façade on Restaurant Fritschi symbolizing Mardi Gras

Weinmarkt in Luzern

This fresco depicts the wedding feast at Cana which suits its location, the Weinmarkt (wine market) in Luzern
There are also beautiful fountains in all the squares in the city
Spreuerbrücke (Spreuer Bridge or Mill Bridge) is the oldest timber bridge in Switzerland completed in 1408 as part of the city’s fortifications.

Painting depicting Judgement Day
Beautiful wooden ornamentation on the building
Jesuitenkirche and other Luzern River Reuss buildings near Nadelwehr
Mühleplatz from across the River Reuss
I love this old stair tower on the side of this building
Nadelwehr (Needle Dam or “spiked weir”) was installed in 1860 to regulate the water level of Lake Luzern. The lake flows in the Reuss which makes its way to the Rhine. It is done manually by removing or inserting the timber “needles”.
Looking back to Nadelwehr and Spreuerbrücke from Kramgasse
Other Luzern River Reuss buildings from Kramgasse

Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) from Kramgasse

Jason, Emily and Harper on bridge over River Reuss in Luzern

Joe, Brooklyn and Jackie on bridge over River Reuss in Luzern

Jesuitenkirche, the first major Baroque church in Switzerland in 1666-1677
Window shutters and frescos
Swinging Harper on the streets of Luzern 
Luzern street up to Kornmarkt by town hall
We stopped for lunch at Rathaus Brauerei Restaurant
Our view of Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) from our lunch table at Rathaus Brauerei Restaurant Luzern
Unloading our kids from the backpack and stroller
Swan swimming near the banks of River Reuss
Dining on the water at Rathaus Luzern
Emily and Jason enjoying their beers at Rathaus Luzern
The Rathaus Brauerei Restaurant has a microbrewery in the cellar. We ordered beers, “gourmet” pretzel sandwiches, Swiss-style mac and cheese (älplermagronen).
We took a ride on the Saphir, a 161ft panoramic  yacht for a Lucerne Sightseeing cruise for 12.50 CHF a piece. 
Views of Luzern from the boat

KKL Luzern (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum) (Culture and Convention Centre) by Parisian architect Jean Nouvel is a concert hall is known as one of the world’s best and also holds the Luzern Museum of Art. 

Lake water is pumped up and through this building. It can be seen in open channels and pond surrounded by benches. It recalls the earlier times when this area was a swampland. The plaza with the large roof overhang reflects the lake and weather, incorporating the building into its surrounding environment.
Jason and Emily boating on Lake Luzern

Sailboat on Lake Luzern

Swiss flag on our boat on Lake Luzern

Lake Luzern boat ride

Meggenhorn Castle and Chapel that is often used now for weddings

We saw Mount Rigi (Rigi Klum) at 5,900ft which had Europe’s first cogwheel train that is at 48% grade and is the world’s steepest. Also to the south of Luzurn is Mount Pilatus (Pilatus-Klum) at 7,000ft.
More views of Luzern as we come back from our boat ride 

Brooklyn, little sailor girl on the boat ride chewing on the plastic water bottle
Quintessential Luzern, Swiss flag, swan and Lake Luzern
Old Swiss House
We did a little souvenir shopping on our way to the Lion Monument. I don’t think we can get this Swiss cow home 

Lӧwendenkmal (Lion Monument) is a famous monument of a dying lion carved out of a rock of the cliffside over a reflecting pool. It commemorates the heroism in 1792 of Swiss mercenaries who were killed or executed attempting to protect the Palace of the French king in Paris during the French Revolution. It is big at 20x33ft. The inscription reads, “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”. I agree with Mark Twain when he said it is “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world)”. 

Emily taking a drink from the water fountain in Luzern
Emily riding the sheep because no vacation is complete without Emily riding an animal statue
Jason eating a waffle
Harper enjoyed a taste of Swiss waffle too
We bought our Swiss souvenir, a red spotted wooden cow with a cowbell around its neck for a Christmas ornament.
We spent a little downtime back at the hotel before heading out to dinner.
Jackie took Brooklyn’s 7 months photos (see 7 month blog post)
We ate a scrumptious dinner of grandma’s swiss cooking dishes at Wirtshaus Taube.
We had a great view of the old medieval city walls from the restaurant
We got back to the hotel just in time before a thunderstorm rolled in. The dark clouds rolling over Franziskanerkirche

Thursday May 7, 2015
We used our final fourth day of the Swiss Travel Pass for our epic 8-9 train ride today.
The Bernina Express train travels from Chur-Davos-St. Moritz-Tirano and then a bus travels from Tirano, Italy to Lugano, Switzerland. The Bernina Express is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is railway tracks of 122km that pass through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges and viaducts which are masterpieces of engineering.
In order to get to the train leaving Chur on time, we had to check a super early train out of Luzern. It wasn’t worth staying the night in Chur since there wasn’t much to that town. We changed trains in Zurich and made it into Chur as planned before the 8:32 departure. We had made reservations for seats in the panoramic car on the Bernina Express train.
Family picture outside our Bernina Express train car before departure
Our welcome packets and train route map on the train car
We settled in our seats to begin our long scenic journey across Switzerland
The beginning of the train ride there were many castles and of course churches around Reichenau and Domleschg.
Joe rocked little Brooklyn to sleep
Solis Viaduct crossed over the river Albula nearly 300ft below the 138ft vaulting span. 
It was difficult to take photos of the Solis Viaduct from the train, but here is a great shot:
We started to get closer to the snow-capped Alps 
Landwasser Viaduct is almost 466ft long with 328ft arches at a radius of 330 feet. The supporting arch pillars were put in place without the use of scaffolding! Iron towers were formed in the center of each pillar first and cranes helped hoist the bricks to be laid. 

Albula River below the viaduct
Once again we couldn’t get a great photo of this Landwasser Viaduct as we travelled over it so here is a proper photographer’s shot:
We were starting to get a great view as we climbed up to the higher altitudes. 

Brooklyn is still passed out asleep on daddy’s chest
Not sure where we were at this point on the Bernina Express but I think we were somewhere near Filisur or Davos, Switzerland. 

A long bridge viaduct

Wiesner Viaduct is nearly 670ft in length making it the longest bridge on the line from Davos to Engadin. 
Proper photo of Wiesen Viaduct:
The village of Preda with the landmark Hotel Klum was a shanty town of hundreds of workers that built the Albula tunnel which is at 5,970ft (1800m) above sea level, making it the highest standard-gauge railway tunnel in the Alps. 

The Bernina Express is the only train that crosses over the Alps without a tunnel.
Here are a few more photos during the Bernina Express from our train car. Sorry for the glare.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch of bread, salami, cheese and some head cheese or as Emily calls it: “face meat”. 
More from our journey on the Bernina Express 

We passed through Samedan, home to Europe’s highest altitude airport.
St. Moritz is a famous glitzy resort destination with luxury hotels and tourism.
Diavolezza cable car in St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps

Looking back at the Diavolezza cable car station base
Gaining in elevation and snow cover as we approached Bernina Pass

The waters north of the Bernina Pass flow via the Danube into the Black Sea while the water south of the pass end up in the river Po and the Adriatic Sea.
In 1911 there were efforts to trap water into artificial lakes: Lago Bianco and Lej Nair named for their different colors: light for Lago Bianco and dark for Lej Nair. 

Ospizio Bernina station dates around 1925 and lies at 7,391ft (2253m) above sea level, making it the highest altitude station on the Rhaetian Railway and marks the Bernina Pass.
Alp Grüm is surrounded by a unique mountain setting of the Palü Glacier and Lake Palü. The station and restaurant building from 1923 by architect Nicolaus Hartmann in their distinctive style offer panoramic views over Cavaglia and to the Italian Alps beyond.

Riding the Bernina Express down from Alp Grüm to view Lago Palü

Views of the front of the Bernina Express from our train car in the Swiss Alps

This is a good angle at the panoramic train car ahead of us. The windows curve up the roof slightly offering more views of the towering Alps
Emily & Harper enjoying their train ride on the Bernina Express
Choo-choo UNESCO Bernina Express coming through! 

Another stone arched bridge

Joe rocked Brooklyn back to sleep for another nap 
We cruised down to Poschiavo with views of Lago di Poschiavo beyond

Lago di Poschiavo 

Brooklyn is a 30 minute napper. She is awake again eating corn puffs 

The Brusio Viaduct spirals a 360-degree curve to make a change in height in a very short space on a nine stone arched structure. No cogwheel required on this rail line.
Sadly we were preoccupied with Brooklyn and not snapping photos as we came to the iconic Bruscio Viaduct.
As the Bernina Express train pulled into Tirano, our final destination that railway line was pretty much shared with the street. We whizzed by residential buildings before we pulled into Tirano station.
Jason and Joe went to find water and food for the babies at a local grocery store. That proved harder than it should be since we arrived during siesta. Many shops were closed for their afternoon nap. Jackie, Emily and the baby girls enjoyed a glass of wine and a milkshake at a neighboring café to the train station.
The bus left Tirano at 14:25 and arrives in Lugano at 17:30. We probably pushed the limit showing up a few minutes before departure. The amount of luggage we had took some serious reconfiguration to fit beneath the bus. Fortunately the boys were up to the challenge. The good news about arriving late was we did not have to sit long in the stagnant air on the hot non-air conditioned bus. Both girls were in need of a nap at this point.
The bus went through Veltlin is a renowned Italian valley famous for its fine wines. 

We passed some beautiful village churches 

More vineyards
The bus made a stop in Sorico for WC use as we begin our journey alongside Lake Como.
Lake Como

Our bus arrived at the Lugano train station after 6pm.
Lugano was extremely expensive. Switzerland was expensive in general, but Lugano was even worse. There weren’t any good VRBO or Airbnb locations nearby the train station just like our issue in Luzern. We paid 279 CHF at Hotel Walter Au Lac.  
We made our way to the hotel as fast as possible because our girls needed to get to bed on time. After checking in, the ladies got the babies settled in the room while the guys went out in search of some dinner to bring back to the hotel to eat on our balcony. We got some pasta and pizza and wine.

Friday May 8, 2015
It rained overnight in Lugano and had more in the forecast for the day.
It was a beautiful morning on Lago di Lugano
Good morning from our balcony 
This is the view of our balcony from Jason’s balcony
We decided to skip touring Lugano in the rain and head onto Cinque Terra in Italy.
As soon as our train crossed the border from Switzerland into Italy, the train times became a suggestion. We already started to miss the timely manner everything ran in Switzerland. We were delayed 10 minutes before departing at the border control stop. It’s time to get used to the Italian lifestyle for the remainder of our trip. We transferred trains in Milan to make our way to our destination in Riomaggiore. As we neared our coastal town, the conductor had an announcement in Italian that we could barely here. All we could tell was that certain stops had a short platform so the last few cars might still be in the tunnel. We quickly grabbed all our luggage and moved up a few train cars in case. After a few bumps and bruises from going through the crappy small Italian train doors that don’t stay open, we arrived and saw the platform. Success! We arrived in Riomaggiore, our home in Cinque Terre for the next 3 nights.

The rest of our week in northern Italy will be in subsequent blog posts. 
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