We’ve had an amazing two days in Switzerland!
We had an easy drive from Strasbourg down to the village of Sempach, just outside of Lucerne, on Monday. It was overcast, and rained part of the way, but the highway was good and there was only a slight amount of traffic as we drove through Basel. The only glitches along the way were that we weren’t directed to get off the highway to purchase our Swiss highway vignette, which is a requirement even for a rental car in order to drive on any Swiss highway. Also, we were expecting to pay tolls for driving on the French portion of the highway but never were stopped. We’re guessing we’ll have to pay those when we exit the highway in Strasbourg tomorrow. Otherwise, everything went as planned and the whole trip took a little over two hours, start to finish. Oh yes – our GPS also directed us to the wrong house! We got that straightened out, but it was a bit embarrassing.
Our Airbnb experience here has been well beyond anything we imagined and has made our trip very special. We are staying in a traditional Swiss farmhouse where we have a spacious room on the top floor along with a private bathroom. The original house was built in 1735 (!), and our hosts have owned the house since 1945 and have raised ten children here. Surrounded by other farms, our hosts keep draft horses, chickens and rabbits (HUGE black rabbits that terrified me), and have loads of fruit trees (cherries, plums, pears and several varieties of apples as well as grapes and berries) on the property. We can look out over the beautiful surrounding farmland from our bedroom windows.
We were greeted with coffee and fresh-baked apple cake when we arrived at the farmhouse late Monday afternoon. We have also been provided with a huge farm breakfast every morning: yogurt and cheeses from neighboring farms, meats, homemade breads and jam, fruit from their trees, coffee, juice and so forth – it’s been incredible. On our second evening we made bread with the wife, Madlen, and learned to do a Swiss braid. She has also driven us to the station each morning to catch the train into Lucerne and picked us up in the afternoons. Although it wasn’t included in the price we paid for our room, we were also invited to dine with the family this evening and enjoyed a traditional Swiss meal of raclette (melted cheese) and potatoes. Madlen has also taken us to see the (charming) village of Sempach and tour a local church built in the late 12th century (that is still being used today) and to stop for an amazing, breathtaking view of the Alps. Today she drove us through the beautiful countryside to view the many farms in the area.
Lucerne is an incredibly beautiful city, but surprised us somewhat by being a bit smaller than we imagined. We were easily able to walk throughout the city in a few hours yesterday, visiting the Lion Monument (very evocative and moving), walking the length of the old city wall and climbing some of its towers, crossing the Reuss River several times including a couple of trips over and back on the historic Chapel Bridge. We enjoyed a delicious lunch of cheese fondue in the old section of Lucerne, stopped for coffee and cake by the lake in the late afternoon, and shared a small package of fresh roasted chestnuts by the river. We were full enough from all of those that we didn’t need any dinner last night!
Today we went back to Lucerne and visited the incredible Swiss Transportation Museum. We rode one of the ferries across the lake, a fun experience. Lake Lucerne is very clean and the water very clear. We also got another magnificent view of the Alps during the ride. The Transportation Museum was one of the best museums we have ever visited and was extremely interactive and informative both for adults and children. Our favorite section was Wheeled Vehicles which had everything from cars and buses to bikes and baby strollers. We had a light lunch at the museum and then headed over to the Lindt World of Chocolate Experience, where we climbed on a Disney-esque sort of vehicle and rode around to learn all about Swiss chocolate. We were given enough free Lindor Truffles on the ride and in the shop afterwards to practically cover the cost of one of our tickets (but we also bought some chocolate too).
If I had to find a downside it’s that Switzerland is expensive. Very expensive. Prices, including for transportation, have frankly shocked us. We have easily spent over $100 each day, but because we spent nothing on the day we drove down and will spend little tomorrow on our drive back our daily average won’t be affected too much. Besides buying a few of the exotic truffle flavors I also bought a Victorinox (makers of Swiss Army knives) vegetable peeler that juliennes. It was just $5US and I expect it to last for years.
Back to Strasbourg we go tomorrow morning – our great challenge will be to locate a gas station near the drop off for the car so we can fill the tank. We’ve had a terrific time in beautiful Switzerland, the best Airbnb experience ever, and we’re so glad we were able to fit this short trip into our schedule.