Switzerland - Week 5
Lucerne + Bürgenstock
The last leg of our trip was, like much of the rest of our trips outside of our home in Lausanne, was mostly unplanned. I have found, with a child, we like to have a home base where we can get back into a routine (and wash our clothes properly) and take our bigger trips on the weekends. During the weekdays, after a half-day camp of something physical, we would also go on short trips nearby—the beach, fishing, and a small village for ice cream. This model has worked out well for us.
In week five of our Swiss lampoon vacation, we pulled an audible and got lucky enough to find a room with a terrace at the Bürgenstock Hotel and Spa in Lucerne. We arrived by train, had a hotel catamaran pick us up at the train station, and took a steep funicular up to the stunning hotel sitting on top of a cliff. This hotel is an architectural feat. (More on this in cultural takeaways).
We thought, at first, the hotel felt so big that the personalized service would suffer. Like a luxury Disney mixed with a luxury conference hotel. We shouldn’t have assumed. The service here was phenomenal. Everyone we encountered daily (mostly the spa and kids’ club) knew us by our first and last names. They sent a huge bouquet of fresh flowers to our room when they learned of my uncle’s passing while I was there. Everything was above and beyond what I expected. Although the hotel felt more international in culture and less Swiss, it was a bucket list vacation spot—most famous for its huge spa and breathtaking infinity pool hanging off the edge of a cliff, 2,000 meters in the air!
While in Lucern, we took a day trip to Mount Pilatus. We took one of the steepest funiculars up the side of the mountain to the summit where we snapped a quick picture. We had just come from Mont Blanc and were still verclempt with that journey and its views. This summit also felt beautiful, but different. It was a more “mellow” summit I wanted to hike but it would have been too challenging with Ollie.
I wish we had skipped the lame sandwich we bought at the bottom of the mountain and saved our appetite for lunch at the summit. Pilatus is dotted with restaurants all over the summit and even down the mountain at cable car stops. I absolutely love how the Swiss want you to stay and enjoy their beautiful landscapes. Some of the more “gourmand” outdoor restaurants had open fire pits with roasted sausages and the like—delicious, simple, and Swiss. (See below.)
We headed down the other side of the mountain on a cable car towards Kriens after our obligatory summit picture. On our way down, there were several stops. I wish we had planned an entire day on Pilatus. The first stop was a must. The “amusement park” where we rode the Dragon Glider (a railed zipline meant to feel like gliding in the air) and the luge. I was so impressed that they make everyone hike up to take the luge. Matt and I were joking about how US playgrounds should make children hike up a mountain five minutes before they can take the slide. Both adventures were extremely fun and exhilarating. There was plenty more to do at this outdoor adventure park, but some had height requirements we didn’t all meet. (You’ll get this joke if you’ve met my better half in person.) The luge took us through a field with belled cows lounging right next to the track. It was pretty wild.
The next cable car stop was an incredible outdoor playground connected to a beautiful restaurant. I wish we had time for this but we had to get back to the hotel for an appointment. This playground was beautiful, and like most Swiss playgrounds, used nature to inspire the movement. The slides went from the porch of the restaurant, where the parents watched over the kids with a cold beer or spritz, to the bottom of the hill. You can imagine, the bottom of the slide took the kids to a phenomenal playground that they could get lost in without having to wait at a table for their parents to finish their meal. I think this is one of my biggest cultural takeaways from Switzerland.
On the last day of our stay at Bürgenstock, we took a one-hour hike from the hotel up to the world’s oldest and Europe’s tallest elevator—and we rode it up to the summit! The elevator hangs off the side of the mountain with only architecture supporting it. And it’s glass on all three sides! What a thrill. The gummy bear trick I shared in my last letter worked so well with Ollie on this hike, too. Though I think he’s on to me and is realizing there is no Haribo plant. I remember pretending Santa was real just for the presents.
Here are a few more of my cultural takeaways, now that we’ve landed back in the US:
Traveling with kids is less about gastronomic Michelin experiences and more about quality time together, adventure, and culture.
I learned Swiss parents don’t have to take days off of their 5-week vacation to stay home and take care of a sick child during the school year. Family is the top priority in Switzerland.
The plates are smaller.
After arriving back home to Old Town, right outside of Washington, DC (which I thought was so stunning), I realized how dirty we leave our streets and community. I took Ollie to the park to play soccer and we spent our walk home picking up trash. It’s so US to throw a can on the ground 10 feet away from a recycling bin. In Switzerland, never! They sweep and wash the streets daily. I would really love this in the US, not just for trash and dirt but also to clean up all the falling leaves daily for allergy sufferers. It was so easy to breathe, even when cars drove by quickly. No dust in the face or specks of whatnot in my eyes.
The architecture in Switzerland is more about courage and strength and less about design. They keep classic designs that work and will push the boundaries with them—the highest and oldest elevator in the world, the infinity pool hanging off a 2,000-meter cliff, and the steepest funiculars. I’m a classic fan, so this was a highlight for me.
When we got back to the US, most of us caught COVID. Hopefully, this means immunity through the fall and winter! We’re doing fine. (How are boys 110% energy even when they are sick?!) Thanks for the love and concern.
Thank you to my paid subscribers last week- Debi Corbatto and Ben and Betsy Nolan. I love receiving your support for my weekly letter. :)