Travel Diary: Luzern, Switzerland

With Salzburg descending into my memory and the background, I was ready to move on to my next destination, Luzern, Switzerland. With train travel, especially in beautiful settings like the Alps, the journey is just as rewarding as arriving at your destination. I had heard that this was one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Four solid hours of towering peak after towering peak. It was breathtaking in ways no word or even picture can come close to capturing. After the ride, Luzern was spectacular enough not to be anticlimactic. Our hotel, the Baseltor, was 400 years old and situated right on the river in the baker’s district of the city. The Swiss were almost the polar opposites of the Austrians. Most everyone we met there was friendly beyond belief and loved talking to poorly dressed Americans. Luzern is right in the heart of the highest Alps and at the head of a huge, five-fingered lake. The buildings are covered in the most incredible murals, as are the various covered bridges that link the sides of the city. Settling into Europe, I was able to get some perspective on what I was seeing around me, in a cultural sense. American culture is still venerated. Our movies are in every theater, and I’ve yet to hear music that is not in English, mostly year-old chart toppers, generally cheesy pop. In sharp contrast, I seem to love the authenticity I feel in their culture. No cookie cutter houses that I’ve seen. Buildings easily twice as old as our country. You can drink in public, more importantly, I, just about 20 years old, can drink in public. It was in Luzern that I learned an important lesson overlooked by many travelers, especially Americans. American tourists are notorious for doing the “Europe in two weeks” where Paris might get two nights and most of the time is spent on trains or busses. Luzern taught me that when you go to a great place, it takes more than two nights there to really begin to get a taste of the culture and what it has to offer. If you are going to really educate yourself in local traditions and see more than the strictly tourist areas, you have to be willing to settle in and not be so rushed.