For our last day in Switzerland we decided to enjoy a cruise on the lake called ‘Vierwaldstattersee’, the lake of the four forested cantons – Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne. But first we had to get to Fluelen, in Uri, at the very end of the lake.
Our ever dependable Swiss trains took us first to Zurich and then to Zug. On the way we crossed a favourite stream of mine, the Sihlbrugg, and I managed to get a small momento of this bubbly stream as the train wizzed by. The road to Zurich from Zug follows this stream – a road I drove many, many times. It’s at its prettiest in winter when each rock is topped by a dab of snow. In the spring thaw, the rocks are submerged and cause the little stream to bubble and boil.
Another quick photo captured some of the community ‘allotment’ gardens at Baar where people who live in apartments, as many Swiss do, can grow their veggies and flowers and have social contact with others ‘over the garden fence’. As one might expect in switzerland they are well maintained and their garden ‘sheds’ are more like cabins.
We took a small commuter, ‘all stops’ train from Zug to Fluelen. That gave us plenty of time to enjoy the views over the Zugersee one more time and then on through the farms of the canton of Schwyz to Fluelen in the canton of Uri.
This area is dominated by the Gross and Klein Mythen Mountains. Our favourite ski field was just beyond this hill. At that time, 1969/1970, a couple of farmers had made a private ski area on their farms and we loved it. There were no busy ski towns, no crowds and no waiting for the T-bar lift. It was a longish run and difficult enough without being hair-raising and it afforded magnificent views of these Mythen Mountains covered in snow. The sun glistened like diamonds off the soft Swiss snow. And at the bottom of the run there was a tiny ‘cafe’ in one of the farm houses where there was always a bowl of hot soup and a hot drink waiting for us.
But today was about other memories – sailing on a paddle wheeler. As we waited with a throng of other passengers on the Fluelen pier, we realised from the number of people all ready on board the schiff heading our way, that our first class ticket would come in very handy – yet again! The PS Schiller was built in 1906 and is still a popular way to experience the big lake. It might rattle – a lot, and be noisy – very, and have uncomfortable seats, but it’s a really special, historic, some may even say romantic, way to see the lake. It was a hot, sunny summer’s day and once on board, we were very thankful for our upstairs, covered from the sun, first class seats… and a table for lunch.
In Canton Uri, on the south side of this far end of the lake, small villages are tucked beneath very steep hillsides – and, once those cliffs hit the water line, they go straight on down into this very deep lake. Getting to such a village by boat is much the best way – but there are good hiking trails here for fit walkers. But it’s all UP and steep UP at that.
From this small village pier, you can take the Treib-Seelisberg cable railway up to the panorama plateau in Seelisberg. The trip takes about eight minutes. The top station is on the “Swiss Way” hiking route which affords walkers with some wonderful mountain panorama views. Oh to be young again! But it’s good to have memories of such hiking.
Crossing over to the north side again, to the canton of Schwyz, there’s a good view back to the majestic Mythens. As on all of the lakes, the schiffs criss-cross from one side of the lake to the other to provide transport between isolated villages for residents, hikers, day trippers and holiday makers alike.
After visiting a few villages, we came back to Vitznau. We had been there earlier in the week when we had taken our journey by cog rail up to Rigi Kulm. This time we came in from a different angle. You can join us by video!
After calling into Vitznau, another paddle wheeler joined us. As we couldn’t see our own wheel churning up the water, it was good to see the PS Gallia up so close. While we were having lunch on board, we sat with a couple who told us about an event that was about to happen involving our paddle wheeler, the PS Gallia and a Motor Schiff. Apparently its a bit of summer time fun between the lake schiffs. While PS Gallia sailed beside us, the Motor Schiff was about to sail right through between the two paddle steamers. I was taken up the front to be ready with my camera.
It was fun – it was noisy (turn the sound up) – and I hope I’ve captured it so that you can experience it, too.
The next village we called into was Weggis a delightful place that is very popular for holidays and for eating out. There’s a cable car from here up the Rigi. It’s an alternative way to travelling by the cog railway.
And just so that you can share in the experience of being on board the PS Schiller, here is one more piece of video!
It was hot, it was the beginning of the Swiss summer holidays and the lido and ‘beach’ were very well patronised.
You know the cruise is almost over when Mount Pilatus looms over the lake in all it’s majesty. I have been up to the top of that mountain once. We took Em’s Mum and Dad up there and it was an exciting experience for us all. We went up by very steep cog rail and came back down by a series of cable cars. I believe they are bigger these days to accommodate more tourists. But I well remember the first small four seater cable car we took from the very top. It only had a grill floor and so, as the car was literally pushed off the top, the view straight down that cliff face was quite daunting. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a dream to go paragliding!
We disembarked in Lucerne right next to PS Uri with a view of Mount Rigi in the background… and of course, flowers in the foreground. Where were we? With a few hours of daylight left, we decided to complete this delightful summer’s day, in true Swiss fashion… with a ‘cuppa’ in a river side cafe and just relax and watch the world go by. But before we did that, it was probably a good idea to go for a wander in the old city… and that’s for our next journal entry.
Photography © JT for jtdytravels