Monday, June 4, 2012

Fire, Fondue, & Flash Mob

Off we go to Lucerne. The bus is crowded as usual, but the scenery makes up for much of the discomfort. We stop after a couple of hours at the roadside mini-mart/mini-restaurant. Access to the WC costs 1 Swiss Franc, which is equivalent to a dollar, and no the facilities are not gold-plated, though you would think there would certainly be enough funding at that access rate.

We arrive at our hotel with plenty of time to tour the city. The streets are just as crowded as the streets in Venice were. There's a curious mixture of "touristy" spots with local stores. We think the main shopping streets draw the crowds as well as the locals because that is the only place to shop in town. We see our first Starbucks since arriving in Europe; Starbucks stores aren't allowed in Italy. We don't go in as there is fabulous coffee just in the lobby of our hotel.

We spend several hours exploring the city. We are particularly taken with the city wall and the clock tower, though the stairs were built for someone of greater height than myself (each step was like climbing a mountain for me). When we stop for coffee in the afternoon, we find out just how expensive things are here...about twice the price of things in Italy and farther south in Switzerland. We decide to go the typical tourist route and have fondue for dinner. We go to the "Fondue House," which is well known in the guide books. Cheese fondue for two, with salad and water is about $100. Worth it though, for the experience.

We're told one of the best excursions in Europe is to the top of Mt. Pilatus. For us it involves a boat ride, a ride on the funicular, a gondola ride and finally a bus ride. Though the weather is not exactly cooperative (it's partly cloudy and pretty windy) it doesn't snow or rain on us. The views are somewhat obstructed, but impressive nonetheless. The mountain has a couple of tales that go along with it. Supposedly, Pontius Pilate is interred in a lake on the mountain.The town of Lucerne cautioned residents not to climb the mountain as bad things would happen to the community. There is also the story of the firebreathing dragons, who it is said resided in the caves of the mountain. As one tale goes, a hiker fell into a hole in the mountain and wound up in the dragon's lair. He saw the dragons survived by licking the stones. So he licked the stones also, which it turned out contained moon milk. The hiker stayed with the dragons all winter. In the spring, the dragons rescued the hiker by flying him out of their lair. It is not clear whether or not he got a ride down the mountain or if he had to walk...not much of a rescue if he had to walk down, though!

We had no performances scheduled in Lucerne as we weren't able to secure a formal we reverted to the flash mob tactic that has been working in other venues. Even the weather cooperated as the sun came out just as we gathered. The singers stood in front of the church in which they really wanted to sing, in the hopes of being invited inside (which worked, actually). The group was dressed in street clothes, not performance clothes, which I observed created a more relaxed and confident aura about them. As they began to sing, a crowd gathered and delighted in the performance. Many of the songs took on a more lively energy in this locale. Hear the group sing Battle of Jericho.

After a few songs we were allowed to go inside the church. This church is a stark contrast to those in which we've previously's bright, and more ornate. The style is called Rococco, I'm told. Though I don't have still photos of the inside, you can get a sense of the ornate decor as you watch and listen to the choir sing, "Alleluia."