Monday, February 22, 2010

The Mournful Piece of Stone (Lucerne, Switzerland)


This is the final in a series of three European travel wonders (see also Bologna and Beaune), focussing on less popular travel cities. The series is written by Travel Wonders and kindly sponsored by HotelCalculator.com.

Located in the heart of Switzerland and overlooked by towering peaks, Lucerne is a medieval masterpiece. Built where the town-splitting Reuss River runs into the aquamarine Lake Lucerne, the elegant city has two remarkable landmarks among its collection of museums and its historic centre of quaint alleys and enchanting buildings.

The 14th century covered Chapel Bridge (Kapellbr├╝cke) is Europe’s oldest wooden bridge. It runs a crooked path across the mouth of the river connecting the two parts of town via the octagonal Water Tower and is richly decorated with over 100 triangular paintings from Lucerne’s long history. Lined with radiant blooms from flower boxes, it is subtlely lit in the evening reflecting in the still waters that run silently below. The stone Water Tower has its own colourful history acting as a torture chamber, prison and treasury at various points throughout its 500 year life.

Sadly, the bridge was near destroyed by fire in 1993, probably from a tourist’s cigarette, losing many of the historic paintings and much of the structure of the bridge. Some signs of the ashen remains are apparent but the Swiss did a remarkable reconstruction job in their typically efficient way.

Nearby is a truly moving monument. Etched into a sheer rock wall, a lion, mortally wounded from a spear, lays peacefully in a cavern, life draining from his pained body. The shields of Switzerland and the French monarchy sit under the lion highlighting the sculpture’s story.

Around 760 Swiss guards died gallantly defending the French royal family (who were unsuccessfully fleeing) in the Bastille uprising that marked the formation of the French republic. An officer in the guard was home in Switzerland on leave when the riot occurred. Some years later after things had settled in both countries, he built this moving monument in honour of his lost comrades marking it Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti ("To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss"). The name of the killed officers and the number DCCLXX (760) are noted in the inscription below the lion.

Famously described by Mark Twain in his superb A Tramp Abroad as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world”, the lion stands around six metres tall hewn from the sheer granite wall, a small sheltered lake reflecting the magnificent memorial.

With Lucerne being small, it is a wonderful town to explore on foot, the river front being lined with cafes overlooking a glorious wooden bridge over 650 years old reborn from the ashes just 15 years ago. The Lion is a sculpture worthy of the short walk to view the poignant memorial an officer commemorated his brave troops.

This series of three hidden European gems (written by Travel Wonders) is sponsored by HotelCalculator.com - the hotel search engine offering accommodation in over 10,000 cities worldwide including hotels in Lucerne, available at the best market prices.

Photo Source: Night Shots


17 comments:

Nisha said...

Your post reminds me of my visit there. :-)

Thanks.

Nisha said...

BTW, forgot to thank you. It's better now to read complete post thru reader.

Heather on her travels said...

You're right, that Lion monument is very moving, especially when you know the story behind it.

Lauren said...

Love the pictures and never thought you could make a bridge so beautiful!!

Mark H said...

@nisha: Thank you

@lauren: It is a stunning sight. Lucerne has maintained its historic centre so well.

Donna Hull said...

Your photos and commentary about Lucerne make me want to schedule a visit. Very nice.

Anil said...

Swiss cities are so beautifully designed and well kept.

BarbaraW said...

Lucerne is one of my all-time favorite cities! The scenery is beautiful and, although Swiss people can be a bit cold and rigid, this s definitely NOT the case in Lucerne. It's a not to be missed city, in my opinion, so I was surprised that it's considered one of the lesser known Swiss cities.

Smorg said...

Awesome! :o) I'd love to visit there and walk around town for a week. I'm sort of envious looking at the reconstructed wooden bridge... If that thing is located here in San Diego it would be covered in inane graffiti! :o( They even carve graffiti into cacti nowadays.

Anyhow, thanks a bunch for sharing a slice of peaceful Lucerne with us, bro. :oD You're giving me the travel bug!

Smorg :o)

Mark H said...

@Donna: I hope you get there. I love the beauty of Switzerland though the people can be a bit stiff and formal.

@anil: City pride is clearly important in Switzerland. Everything is kept so clean.

@barbara: I am surprised in discussion with friends that so few have heard of this superb city. Maybe it is better known by travellers than Beaune or Bologna (in my series) but fairly few I have met have been to Lucerne - a great shame indeed.

Sherry Ott said...

I've never met a town in Switzerland I didn't like! Lucerne seems like no exception!

Mark H said...

@sherry: Me either. There is somethign truly enchanting about Switzerland.

Molly said...

Oh what a beautiful monument. I have added Lucerne to my list of must sees.

Switzerland SIM Card said...

I belong to travel industry so use to roam in many countries. or that lion face's expression, it will have space in mind.

Very nice

Mark H said...

@molly: It is a beautiful sculpture.

@swiss SIM card: it is a great expression.

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