Lucerne Switzerland – An Accessible Alpine Wonderland
Just returned from a European trip that included a few wonderful days in Lucerne Switzerland, more properly called Luzern by the largely German-speaking population. Lucerne is a small cosmopolitan city situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Lucerne. Just an hour from Zurich by train or taxi, with its major airport; and just ninety minutes from Basel, where many Rhine River cruise ships dock, with it’s smaller airport. For the aging photographer, train travel is relatively cheap, but you must haul your own baggage onto off of the train. Taxis in Switzerland are much more convenient but very expensive. Your travel agent or hotel concierge might be able to arrange taxi or limo travel at a more reasonable price. Our small van from downtown Lucerne to Zurich airport was arranged by our hotel concierge for 180 CHF (Swiss Francs). The best on-line rate I could find was 245 CHF.
Lucerne is a mix of old and new, with baroque hotels, landmarks dating to the 1300’s, a wonderful, futuristic Culture and Convention Center (KKL), and of course wonderful views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountains.
Accessibility For The Aging Photographer
For the aging photographer, Lucerne offers several options. There is an extensive bus system, and for those who don’t find walking too much of a challenge, the scenic old town area is relatively small. There is also a city train tour of the major city sites, and boat excursions on Lake Lucerne that also provide access to the two most popular mountains in the area, Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi.
The Lucerne City Train
You can board the City Train in front of the five-star Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern (a great place for a light lunch on the outdoor patio), right on the Schweizerhof Quay, with a direct view of Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus as well as the beautiful old town section of Lucerne. The 40-minute tour route leads through the old city and neighborhoods, St. Karli Luegisland, Bruchmattstrasse, Hirschgraben, Neustadt, Wey, past beautiful Lake Lucerne, passing by the main attractions of the city.
- Tickets can be purchased directly from the train driver
- Each guest receives a personal audio disposable earphones
- Wheelchairs and walkers can be left at the hotel before boarding the train
- A wheelchair space is available
- The City tour takes place in all weather conditions
- The windows of cars can be opened or closed
- The City Train is heated in cold days
The City Train jostles and bounces along the city streets, moving quickly in some areas. This kind of motion requires a good stabilized lens or very steady hands. A high shutter speed, generally necessitating a higher ISO setting, is helpful especially on overcast days or in shaded areas. The shots above were taken at ISO 800 and between 1/1000 and 1/2000 shutter speed.
Ticket Cost (in Swiss Francs)
|Children and students (5-15 years)||CHF||5:00|
|Groups (10 or more adults)||CHF||10:00|
|Children under 4 travel for free|
Cruising Lake Lucerne
For the aging photographer who might have a bit of trouble walking or might not be willing to dare the cogwheel trains or aerial trams up Mt. Pilatus or Mt’s Rigi, a relaxing cruise around Lake Lucerne provides breathtaking Alpine scenery, quaint and charming villages, and the jade green waters of this alpine lake.
I had wanted to take the Golden Round Trip to Mt. Pilatus, which starts with a lake cruise to the base of the mountain, followed by a cog railway trip up to the summit. You then descend the other flank of the mountain by aerial tram and then by cable car, returning to Lucerne by bus. My wife, who is a bit uncomfortable with heights, suggested we take a boat trip on Lake Lucerne instead. Our hotel concierge suggested we take the boat to Weggis, at the base of Mt. Rigi, have lunch and then return to Lucerne.
The trip to Weggis was breathtaking, with views of Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Rigi, and more snow-capped peaks in the distance. Just before docking in Weggis, we decided that 45 minutes of cruising was not enough and opted to extend our trip for the full 5 1/1 hours around the entire lake. We had lunch in the onboard restaurant, excellent salads and sandwiches, including some amazing local hard cider, as we headed off around the rest of the lake. We were treated to much more spectacular scenery, including dramatic mountain peaks, quaint villages, and charming churches, before returning to Lucerne.
A cruise around Lake Lucerne is a must do.
The lake cruise is fairly smooth, however capturing images while moving quickly is made easier by a good stabilized lens. A high shutter speed, generally necessitating a higher ISO setting, is helpful especially given the variability of the weather on the lake and mountain mist and fog. The shots above were taken with an 18-300 mm Nikon VR lens at ISO 800 and generally between 1/500 and 1/1000 shutter speed. A tripod or monopod is not useful, since it will transmit vibrations from the ship’s deck. A light windbreaker or rain jacket is also useful.
Resources – Gear
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