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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne lies at the mountainous heart of Switzerland and its situation on the banks of the massive lake with which shares its name has always made it a centre for trade. The city was vital in the formation of the Swiss nation and enjoys a brilliant and complex history. It is perfect both as a base for travelling out into the various regions that satellite it as well as a profound reward in itself.
The old town is a vivid collage of Renaissance and medieval buildings and covered bridges. Stroll around the Weinmarkt and Kornmarkt and marvel at the beautiful facades of the 15th century buildings. Head on to the spectacular Rathaus (town hall) built in the 17th century and climb one of the city towers to get a magnificent view of the city and its beautiful surroundings. The Glacier Garden, with its glacial potholes, is an amazing sight and offers a glimpse of Lucerne’s climate before the Ice Age. Explore and lose yourself in the amazing mirror maze or check out the nearby Bourbaki Panorama, an outstanding 1100²-metre circular painting of the Franco-Prussian War.
Lucerne’s museums also demand attention, in particular the Transport Museum with its range of enthralling audio-visual experience and IMAX cinema to complement its more conventional collections of cars, boats and aeroplanes. The Picasso Collection is also well worth a visit, as much for its collection of paintings and graphics by Picasso, as for David Douglas Duncan’s spectacular photos of the master at work. Other museums include the Museum of Natural History, the Richard Wagner Museum and the Fine Arts Museum. Lucerne is a city of many festivals. Fasnacht celebrations begin on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and last for six days. The city is also home to one of the most prestigious international classical music festivals, the International Festival of Music, held every year from mid-August to mid-September. Lake Lucerne, apart from its breathtaking beauty, offers a host of water sports and activities in the summer months. Try your hand at paragliding or hot air ballooning or rent a rowing boat or canoe. If you feel like something more adventurous, head to the Reuss River and have a go at river rafting. After this, you’ll doubtless have a healthy appetite so head for the city’s many restaurants offering many different types of food at all price ranges. Go out and experience firsthand the pleasures of a yodelling show—you can even have a go yourself!