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Cycling Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838

Skeleton Routes:

Basel Routes:

Biel / Bienne Routes:

Shaffhausen Routes:

Konstanz Routes:

Zurich Routes:

Bern Routes:

Luzern Routes:

Featured

Cycling Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838

As a keen long distance cyclist and a collector of antiquarian travel books, I endeavoured to follow the 136 Routes around Switzerland described in perhaps the most influential travel book of all time.

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“Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland”, printed in 1838, was one of the first of a distinguished series famous in Victorian England.  In the 1830s, Englishmen of the middle classes were travelling abroad in increasing numbers and they needed this new kind of book.

The Handbook was a valuable companion to those intrepid British travellers, not least for the fact it was one of the earliest major modern Continental guidebooks as a source of information, not readily found elsewhere in English at the time; from practical information about the route, the tolls to be paid, the history of the towns featured, and the quality of the accommodation and food offered by the inns along the way.

Whilst it is true that guidebooks had been written for the English Lake District as far back as 1778 (and famously by Wordsworth in 1810), followed by early guides to spa towns like Bath, Tunbridge Wells and Scarborough, the first real English-language European travel guides didn’t appear until John Murray published Mrs Mariana Starke’s “Travels On The Continent: Written For The Use And Particular Information of Travellers” in 1820. Like many of the French equivalents which had started to appear at the same time, the book was difficult to use and covered too large an area.

A new kind of travel book was needed. One that was easy to follow yet filled with both the practical information provided by the likes of Mrs Starke and Karl Baedeker in Germany, together with a brief history and account of the places in which it covered. This is where John Murray came in.

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His Scottish grandfather, John MacMurray, had set up the famous publishing house on Fleet Street, London, in 1768, passing the business on to his son, John Murray, in 1809. Publishing the likes of Lord Byron, Coleridge and, perhaps most famously, Jane Austen’s “Emma”, the company had become one of the most influential in the world with the family wealth helping fund the travels of John Murray’s twenty one year old son, who was also confusingly named John Murray… they liked to keep it in the family, obviously.

He first travelled to Europe in 1829 with the intention of learning German, only to arrive in Rotterdam and be frustrated by the lack of practical information available for the foreign traveller. He decided to take notes, jotting down facts of everywhere he visited. On his return to London, he arranged his travels into Routes, added his notes, together with a general history of the towns along the way, and presented them to his father who was so impressed that he suggested a title for it, possibly inspired by Heinrich Heidegger’s 1790 “Handbuch für Reisende in der Schweiz” (“Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland”), creating a new English word in the process – “Handbook”, “Hand Book”, or “Hand-book”, as they would later inconsistently print.

With his father’s money, young John Murray made further trips to Europe over the next six years, making notes along the way for his friends to try and follow and proofread. The first “A Handbook For Travellers On The Continent” was published in 1836, covering Holland, Belgium, The Rhine and North Germany, with a second volume released in 1837 comprising Southern Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Danube.

Whilst compiling notes for his travels in France, Scandinavia, Russia and Italy, young John Murray realised that the task in hand was so huge, he was unable to do so alone, especially given that he was in line to take over running the publishing company from his aging father – he would later go on to publish Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and David Livingstone’s “Missionary Travels”. Therefore, he came up with an alternative for his Switzerland Handbook which would change travel writing forever; he would split the work between himself and a collaborator, choosing mountaineer William Brockedon to write the second half of the book devoted to the Alps, of which he was an expert.

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Switzerland in 1837 was at an interesting juncture of its history, the profound changes set in motion by the 1798 revolution from Napoleon’s rule still working themselves out, with the country’s neutral freedom only being recognised in 1815.

When John Murray was travelling Switzerland, the cantons were still very much distrustful of each other – indeed, the bloody Battle of the Hülftenschanz had only just split the canton of Basel five years prior to the book’s publication in 1838 and the Sonderbundskrieg Civil War was to take place less than a decade later, shaping the country as we better know it today. Different towns even had their own currencies, making it incredibly hard for the young writer to guide English travellers:

There is hardly a country in Europe which has so complicated a Currency as Switzerland; almost every canton has a Coinage of its own, and those coins that are current in one canton will not pass in the next. Let the traveller, therefore, be cautious how he overloads himself with more small change than he is sure of requiring.

Fortunately, most towns, with the exception of St Gallen, Appenzell and Grisons, also accepted French Francs as payment (you could get by in those three Eastern cantons with Bavarian Florins). In fact, it was only in 1825 that Aarau, Bern, Basel, Fribourg, Solothurn, Vaud and Valais had come together to accept a uniform currency of Swiss Francs, worth 10 Batzen or 100 Rappen. The Swiss Franc was introduced finally across the whole country in 1850, some 12 years after Murray published his book.

It wasn’t just currency issues that the Victorian English traveller had to cope with, Switzerland in 1837 had their own measurements for distances.

There is not less perplexity and variation in the measurement of distances, than in the calculation of money, in Switzerland. Distances are reckoned throughout Switzerland, not by miles, but by stunden (hours, i.e. hours’ walking) or leagues.

And if that did not confuse the reader, then his detailed explanation probably did:

The length of the stunde has been calculated at 5278 metres, or 2708 toises = 1800 Bernese feet; 21,137 of such stunden go to a degree of the equator. To make this measurement agree with the actual pace of walking, it is necessary to advance 271 Paris feet in a minute. It is a reproach to the Swiss Government that no authorised measurement of the roads throughout the country should have been undertaken by them at the public expense. Since the correction of the weights and measures in 1833-34, 3-10ths of a metre (=3 decimetres), or 132,988 Paris lines has been constituted the legal Swiss foot, and 16,000 Swiss feet = 1 stunde.

Far easier to follow was Murray’s structure for the book. He had split the country into 136 different routes, even offering condensed “Skeleton Tours” tailored for the traveller’s needs, containing “only the more interesting scenes”:

  • Carriage Tour of About Two Months, beginning at Basel and ending at Schaffhausen
  • Tour Of A Fortnight (on carriage roads and footpaths from Schaffhausen to Basel)
  • Tour Of Three Weeks On Foot (from Basel to Bern)
  • Tour Of A Month Or Five Weeks (Schaffhausen to Basel)
  • Tour Of Thirty-Two Days, chiefly on foot (Geneva to Basel)
  • Tour Of About Ten Weeks (Schaffhausen to Geneva)
  • A Summer’s Tour Of Three Months, to include all the spots best worth notice in Switzerland, passing as little as possible twice over the same ground (Basel to Geneva)

It was the 136 individual routes that I had decided to follow. Using modern technology like GPS and Google Maps to calculate the modern equivalent of his specified Swiss stunden, together with helpful guidance from websites and modern travel guides, I planned to follow Murray’s directions as closely as possible, using my cyclocross bicycle and only dining and staying in establishments that existed back in 1837 (there’s not so many).

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With such modern aids, it is hard to imagine what travelling around Switzerland must have been like for a 29 year old John Murray back in 1837. It dawned on me, that both my chosen modes of transport, the bicycle and train, would not have even been invented and the ways of travelling would have been restricted to hiking, horseback, mule or the various public transport options:

 

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  • Diligence ~ a stagecoach pulled by four or more horses, “attached to the post office” with room for around twelve passengers, carrying luggage on the roof. “The places are numbered and all baggage exceeding a certain fixed weight is charged extra, and often greatly increases the expense of this mode of conveyance, which is one reason among many why travellers should reduce their baggage to the smallest possible compass.”  Murray wasn’t impressed with Swiss transport, which “are by no means so well organised as in Germany. On some routes, particularly in going from one canton into another, passengers are sometimes transferred into another coach, and run the chance of waiting several hours for it, being set down in a remote spot to pass the interval as they may, and this not unfrequently in the middle of the night.” 

 

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  • Post-horse ~ a smaller, faster horse drawn carriage that delivered mail and had room for four passengers.  Murray informed the reader that “posting is unknown in most of the cantons of Switzerland” but that the Government had plans “to authorise the establishment of post-horses throughout Switzerland” the following year, 1838.

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  • Voiturier ~ a privately hired horse drawn carriage for two or more people

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  • Char-a-banc ~ a horse drawn carriage for two people with a bench placed sideways on four wheels with curtains like a four poster bed, or seats arranged behind each other, which were so low down that passengers could jump on and off without the horses having to stop

 

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  • Steamboat ~ introduced to the Swiss Lakes in 1818.

 

The most hilarious way of travelling though had to be by Tragsessel.

Even the aged or invalid female is by no means debarred the pleasure of taking a part in difficult mountain expeditions. Those who are either too infirm to either walk or ride, may be carried over the mountains in a “chaise-a-porteurs” (German: Tragsessel), which is nothing more than a chair, carried in the manner of a sedan upon poles, by two bearers

Still in operation some 43 years later, Mark Twain described this comical form of transportation in my favourite book, “A Tramp Abroad”, as such:

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The Alpine litter is sometimes like a cushioned box made fast between the middles of two long poles, and sometimes it is a chair with a back to it and a support for the feet. It is carried by relays of strong porters. The motion is easier than that of any other conveyance. We met a few men and a great many ladies in litters; it seemed to me that most of the ladies looked pale and nauseated; their general aspect gave me the idea that they were patiently enduring a horrible suffering. As a rule, they looked at their laps, and left the scenery to take care of itself. ~ Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880


The following timeline should put into context the age in which Murray travelled Switzerland:

  • 1798 ~ Napoléon Bonaparte invades Switzerland and renames it “République Helvétique”
  • 1803 ~ Napoleon partially restores Switzerland’s sovereignty
  • 1814 ~ Frederick William III of Prussia takes back control of the canton of Neuchatel
  • 1815 ~ Following the final defeat of Napoleon in Europe, the Congress of Vienna declares the rest of Switzerland fully independent again, taking neutral status. The canton of Neuchatel enters as a principality belonging to, but not ruled by, the King of Prussia
  • 1830 ~ The first proper passenger steam train runs from Liverpool to Manchester
  • 1833 ~ The Battle of the Hülftenschanz sees the canton of Basel split into two as the rebellious countryside folk (Basel-Landschaft) outnumber and defeat a professional army of 1200 troops armed with 14 cannons from the city (Basel-Stadt)
  • 1837 ~ John Murray travels through Switzerland taking notes for his book
  • 1838 ~ “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland” is published
  • 1844 ~ “Baedecker’s Die Schweiz” is published, recognised as being Karl Baedecker’s finest book and the turning point in his career as a publisher of travel guides
  • 1847 ~ A Civil War between Catholic and Protestant cantons, sees 130 people killed as the national army easily defeat the “Sonderbund” Catholic alliance (Luzern, Fribourg, Valais, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Zug)
  • 1847 ~ [10 years after Murray] The first railway line in Switzerland opens from Zurich to Baden
  • 1848 ~ A peaceful revolution sees the Swiss take Neuchatel back from Prussia
  • 1849 ~ King Frederick William IV of Prussia presses for his rights to Neuchatel
  • 1849 ~ The first road is built with asphalt in Val de Travers
  • 1852 ~ [15 years after Murray] The first telegraph system in Switzerland links St.Gallen and Zurich
  • 1852 ~ The United Kingdom, Austria, France, Russia, Denmark and Sweden acknowledge Prussia’s right to Neuchatel but instruct King Frederick William IV not to take back power without their approval
  • 1855 ~ The Zurich – Winterthur railway line opens
  • 1856 ~ Loyalists to King Frederick William IV of Prussia revolt and try to take back Neuchatel. The revolt fails and 530 aristocrats are arrested with the Swiss refusing to release them
  • 1857 ~ With Prussia and Switzerland preparing for war, new French emperor Napoleon III and Britain take the side of Neuchatel. King Frederick William IV backs down and a diplomatic agreement is made to release the prisoners whilst he retains the title Prince of Neuchatel but renouncing his sovereignty over it. The canton becomes a full member of Switzerland
  • 1858 ~ The first railway tunnel is built at Hauenstein on the Basel – Olten line
  • 1858 ~ Irishman Charles Barrington makes the first ascent of the Eiger
  • 1863 ~ [26 years after Murray]  Modern football is invented in England
  • 1863 ~ Englishman Thomas Cook introduces organised tours of Switzerland, starting mass tourism
  • 1864 ~ The Zurich – Luzern railway line opens
  • 1865 ~ [28 years after Murray] Pierre Michaux and his son Ernest open the first pedal driven velocipede factory, in France, producing 400 “boneshakers” a year. Made from cast iron, the pedals were attached to the front wheel and it even had brakes
  • 1865 ~ Englishman Edward Whymper makes the first ascent of the Matterhorn
  • 1869 ~ By now the Michaux velocipede factory is producing over 70,000 “boneshakers” a year
  • 1871 ~ The Mount Rigi cogwheel railway is opened
  • 1873 ~ The British introduce bobsleighing to Switzerland, at Davos
  • 1874 ~ Modern tennis is invented in England
  • 1874 ~ “Cook’s Tourist’s Handbook to Switzerland” is released, aimed at a wider, less sophisticated middle class audience than the “Murray’s Handbook for Travellers”
  • 1875 ~ Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé invent milk chocolate in Vevey
  • 1877 ~ [40 years after Murray] The first telephone line in Switzerland links Bern and Thun
  • 1878 ~ The first electric light in Switzerland is installed, at the Kulm Hotel, St Moritz
  • 1880 ~ Mark Twain releases “A Tramp Abroad” which hilariously details his exploits in Germany, Switzerland and The Alps during 1878
  • 1880 ~ Johanna Spyri writes “Heidi”
  • 1880 ~ The British introduce curling to Switzerland, at St Moritz
  • 1882 ~ The Gotthard Tunnel is opened, becoming the first alpine railway line (Basel – Luzern – Bellinzona – Milan)
  • 1885 ~ [48 years after Murray] The bicycle, as we know it today, is invented in England
  • 1896 ~ [59 years after Murray] The first motorcars hit the road in Switzerland
  • 1898 ~ The Gornergrat railway opens in Zermatt
  • 1902 ~ [65 years after Murray] Englishman Henry Lunn introduces skiing to Switzerland, in Grindelwald
  • 1938 ~ A German-Austrian party become the first to climb The Eiger’s North Face
  • 1979 ~ Jura becomes a canton, splitting from Bern, with its capital in Delémont
  • 2015 ~ 178 years after John Murray first started his travels in Switzerland, I start my cycle, retracing his steps from 1837

Day 1 ~ Skeleton Tour Of A Fortnight

Schaffhausen – Zurich

Schaffhausen to Zurich, by Eglisau.
9 stunden – 29 ½ English miles.

A diligence runs daily, in about five hours

Given that it took five hours, back in 1837, to do a relatively short journey, which now is achieved in just 40 minutes by train, or in less than three hours on a bicycle, it never ceases to amaze me the time that Murray must have put into researching each route for his “Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838″.

There is another road, somewhat longer and more hilly, on the left side of the Rhine, by Andelfingen – (Inn: Bar) – a village of 2000 inhabitants, and the large manufacturing town of Winterthur (5 stunde), described in Route 9

Living close by, I am more than familiar with both routes, normally using both as a regular afternoon outing in an attempt to shed the winter blubber, only to arrive home fatter on each occasion as a result of the local wine and smiley Spitzbuben (“Horny Boy”) tarts consumed along the way. This, however, was the first time Hammer and I had followed the path with Murray’s notes for company, so we chose to ignore the more interesting but “somewhat longer and more hilly” side of the Rhine; a tough 5km addition through Andelfingen, with its church almost as big as the village itself, and where, despite the passing of 180 years, has seen very little population change. The covered wooden bridge still stands over the Thur and the Restaurant zum Bären continues to serve food with its bakery providing for the less sporty cyclist on their ride to Winterthur, before it joins up with the suggested route into Zurich, which we would take instead.

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Day 1 actually follows “Route 8” in Murray’s Handbook, a pleasant way to start his recommended “Skeleton Tour of a Fortnight”, despite the shortage of attractions between Schaffhausen with her Rhinefalls and Zurich, just 56km later.

Schaffhausen was the perfect place to begin the tour, as it is probably the most beautiful city in the whole of Switzerland; its ornate buildings and small pedestrianised town centre, surrounded by the old city walls and the imposing Munot castle, high above with its vineyards sloping down to the Rhine.

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Schaffhausen, a town of 7500 inhabitants, stands on the right bank of the Rhine, just above the spot where the rapids and falls commence, which render that river unnavigable as far as Basle. It was originally a landing place and magazine at which the portage of goods began and ended, and owes its origin and name to the boat or skiff houses here erected.

The river remains unnavigable from Schaffhausen, (population now 35,000), unless you’re crazy enough to try and sail a boat over The Rhine Falls, the biggest waterfalls in Europe. Instant death is guaranteed. Talking of which, I love the description the police put out of a jogger who witnessed the death of a 76 year old local who accidentally fell to his death in the falls, whilst admiring the view in 2013:

“The man is about 30 years old, about 190 centimetres tall, of slim build, wearing a grey and blue jogging suit”

Oh, yeah, I forgot the important bit…

“He had a three-day beard.”

Now, I’m not sure how long it takes you to grow a beard – especially if you’re a woman – however I think it is a fairly safe bet that not everybody sprouts stubble at the same rate, and I guess the Schaffhausen Police’s description of a “three-day beard” would be slightly different to that of the Appenzell Police.

Pleasure cruises and small rowing boats sail upstream towards Bodensee (Lake Constance) with the traditional Weidling wooden boats lining the river banks of the town and popular for hitching a ride on – apparently you just ask the boatman as he passes by, presumably getting your pretty girlfriend to wave her thumb in the air, whilst you hide behind a bush (it once worked for me), holding a crude cardboard sign in her other hand which states your preferred destination along the river – “Rhinefalls” obviously being less successful than “Schlatt”.

It is almost exclusively on account of its vicinity to the celebrated Falls of the Rhine, that Schaffhausen is visited. It has little resort, except from the influx of travellers, it being one of the portals of Switzerland, and there is little within the town to deserve notice.

We were confused by Murray’s comments about “little within the town to deserve notice”, not least for the fact the grumpy sod had devoted almost two pages of his “Handbook” in detailing how beautiful the buildings were.

The wall and turreted gateways of the town have been preserved and furnish very picturesque subjects for the pencil.

The city walls, dating back to 1250, still stand in parts, with the Obertorturm, being the oldest original building in town, dating back to 1273.  It got me wondering how many modern buildings will still be standing 740 years from now. I dread to think what my hometown of Manchester will look like with some of the build-them-quick-build-them-cheap eyesores that have arisen in recent times; a get-rich quick policy being replicated by Swiss developers at an alarming rate.

Elsewhere, along the city walls, the Schwabentor (to the left as you come out of the station) was added in 1361, whilst the Diebsturm, dating back to 1414, was one of two towers built into the wall that acted as a prison. It became an air raid shelter during WWII, protecting the locals from those American pilots unable to read maps, and has been empty ever since due to having no door. We were left fascinated by this 600 year old structure, which has been built around and blocked in, basically serving no purpose and with absolutely no way of accessing. I presume that it was empty when they bricked it up, however I have visions of the last occupant running back inside unnoticed, to double check that he had indeed turned the oven off and unplugged the iron, at exactly the same time the bricklayer was temporarily distracted by his workmate, taking the lunch order for the kebab shop.

As I say, it’s hard to argue that there is a more beautiful town in Switzerland than Schaffhausen, with its old town being kept intact and dating from long before Murray rode through its gates, making his description just as accurate today as it was to the 1830’s English traveller.

It is distinguished above almost every other town in Switzerland by the antique architecture of its houses, whose fronts and projecting oriel windows are decorated with carvings and stucco work.

Many of them were originally entirely covered externally with fresco paintings, but of these there are now few examples; the house called Zum Ritter, nearly opposite the Couronne, is one of the most remarkable of those that remain. 

Haus Zum Ritter still stands at Vordergasse 65 and is now a chemist, its beautiful painted facade looking like some sort of medieval tattoo.

The Couronne, opposite, is now the Coop bank and a plaque on the wall details its original purpose as an inn.

The houses or halls of the ancient Guilds, or Zunfts, are worthy of attention on account of their quaint inscriptions and allusive ornaments.

There were originally ten guilds represented in Schaffhausen, each possessing a most magnificent guild house, from which they would create the rules that crastsmen would abide to when practicising their specialist job. In essence they were almost cartels and, as a result, wielded great control over the city.

Nearly all the buildings were sold in the 1850s, however each still stands with the exception of the Rebleuten (wine growers guild), which was destroyed on 1st April 1944 by 60 tonnes of U.S. bombs – the city’s border location obviously confusing the 50 trigger happy American pilots, who somehow mistook the city for Ludwigshafen am Rhein, some 235 km away. April Fool’s Day indeed!

The Zunfthaus zum Rüden (house of males), which sounds like a medieval gay bar, is now the Hotel Zunfthaus zum Rüden at Oberstadt 20; the Gerbernzunft (tanners guild) has become the Restaurant Gerberstube at Bachstrasse 8; and, the prettiest, Gesellschaft zun Herren, the guild for the most noble families, is now the the Herrenstube at Fronwegplatz 3, which still boasts the stunning Baroque facade.

Other guilds included the shoemakers, the locksmiths, the plumbers, carpenters, merchants, butchers, bakers, doctors, hatters, tailors, fishermen, TV satellite dish fitters, saddlers, and, my favourite, the fork makers, whose meetings at Fronwagplatz 7 possibly also permitted the spoon makers to attend as an invited +1 guest.

Apparently, one uninvited imposter to a meeting at the Gesellschaft zun Herren was asked by a shocked nobleman, “Who are you? And how did you get in here?”

“I’m a locksmith… and… erm… I’m a locksmith!” came the reply, before they hastily redirected him down the street to the Zunft zun Schmiden.

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Behind Haus Zum Ritter, Münster Allerheiligen (All Saint’s Church) is the oldest building in the city.

The Munster – originally the Abbey of All Saints – was founded 1052. It is a building in the Romanesque, or round arched style, remarkable for its antiquity, the solidity of its construction, and as exhibiting an unaltered specimen of that style. 

The church seemed to have a relaxed door policy, accepting all saints, not just the miracle workers or martyrs for the cause.

The arches of the nave are supported by single circular columns, and those in the centre of the transept by square piers of the most massive kind.

Whilst indeed massive, the church would be less impressive or historic as those we would visit later in the day.

The cloister attached to the church contains a profusion of monuments of the magistrates and patrician families. 

Kloster Allerheiligen (All Saints Abbey) is now home to an art museum, natural history museum and a pretty herb garden. A stroll around the cloisters made for a pleasant break from pushing the bikes through the crowds of tourists on the Old Town streets.

The Town Library contains the collection of books of the celebrated Swiss historian Mueller, who was born here.

The Bibliothek am Münsterplatz moved from the original Ministerialbibliothek, a few doors down, to this old grain house at the back of the Münster in 1923. Even to this very day, the library still boasts that “the brothers Johannes von Müller and Johann Georg Müller are among the important personalities that Schaffhausen has produced.”  Their “Muller Brother’s Greatest Hits” collection is spread over a total of 240 archive boxes (30 linear meters) including over 40,000 letters. With such an expansive output, God knows how they found time to do anything else in the day, let alone afford the international postage charges… Their astonishing output is bettered only by the FBI’s collection of Hillary Clinton emails.

Johannes Muller was one of the most famous historians of his time and his letters include correspondence with, amongst others, Goethe, Schiller, Georg Forster, the Justin Bieber Fan Club and Humboldt – not to be confused with the Hublot watch company. Talking of which, Schaffhausen’s most famous export, other than The Rhine river, IWC (the International Watch Company), are based by the riverside next to the library.

On the height above it rises the curious and perfect feudal castle called Unnoth or Munnoth. 

Despite being a regular visitor to Schaffhausen, I had never been up to the castle, so my reaction on entering it, was one of pure amazement. First of, we had to cycle the steep but delightful zig zagging footpath from town, reminiscent of Lombard Street in San Francisco, which was still part of Mexico, and probably called Calle Lombardo, when Murray would have trekked or hailed an Uber Mule up to Munot.

Its towers have walls of great thickness (18 feet), said to be of Roman (?) construction; the building, however, was not finished in its present state till 1564.

The moated round castle that greeted us, at the top of the climb, appeared rather different to the perspective we had got from the town below, and the Roman influence was obvious. It’s believed that they once had a watchtower here, however the earliest records date back to 1098, possibly explaining Murray’s sceptical questioning of the claim, something he does throughout the “Handbook” when repeating some of the more fanciful Swiss versions of history.

Because of its location on the hill, the moat was never filled with water, however they did throw some fallow deer in there to graze. Hardly as impenetrable as Bern’s bear pits but, if the enemy did still try to cross, they are likely to be killed by falling carrots and apples, chucked in the general direction of Bambi and her mates by the tourists above.

It is provided with bomb-proof casemates, capable of sheltering many hundred persons. Many subterranean passages lead from it.

The castle is free to enter and, on walking through the tiny door, we were not prepared for the impressive cavernous interior, which is lit by the sunlight, shining through holes in the roof. Totally unmanned, there’s no signs leading you around, so we were free to explore like adventurous children.

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One of the passages led up a historic steep spiral path, made from shiny white pebble stones, which proved rather difficult for Hammer and I to climb with cycling cleats attached to our shoes. As we took one step forward, and slid three steps back, desperately clinging on to the walls for leverage, we could only comfort ourselves with the fact the return would be considerably faster, deducing that an Olympic speed skating position should also be adopted.

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At the top of the staircase, we emerged from the tower, unexpectedly, onto a huge platform, which is used as a beer garden.

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A year after Murray’s book was published, in 1839, the Munotverein organisation was formed by a local art teacher as an attempt to preserve the building. Today the club still exists and the roof of the castle plays host to weekly black-tie balls, an open-air cinema and opera performances. For over a hundred years, traditional ballroom dances have taken place in the round, with strict well-defined steps and sequences – something which obviously appeals to the peculiar Swiss habit of following rules, which perhaps can be traced back to the Zunfthauses.

The lovely lady in the rooftop kiosk recommended a Munötler wine to help calm our nerves for the slippery walk back down to the bikes. Made from Pinot Gris grapes, grown on the hillside of the castle, it was to be the first refreshment of our tour obeying the rule that, other than necessary isotonic sports drinks and gels, we could only eat and drink produce that would have been available to John Murray back in 1837.

As we took in the view of the vineyards below, whilst sipping the delicious wine and admiring the panorama of the city and the Rhine snaking past, it dawned on me that our mammoth “Skeleton Tour of a Fortnight” cycle trip would actually commence once we had been reunited with the bikes.

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That, in itself, was no mean feat; We had to use all our skiing knowledge – pizza, plough, pizza, plough – as we slid back down the spiral staircase in our cleats, desperately trying to grab a hold of the wall to slow us down and save the poor heavily breathing souls, struggling up in the opposite direction, from being swept swiftly back to the bottom.

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We carried the bikes down to the river via the more manageable steps on Romerstieg (behind the castle), which dropped us off directly at another guild house. This time the Fischerzunft (fisherman’s guild), now the Restaurant Fischerzunft, which is well worth a visit, if not for its stunning location alone.

As we climbed into our saddles, we watched the boats come and go from the landing stage outside the zunft house, with the trains on the impressive bridge above passing less often than the tourists would have liked, with their cameras primed in position for the perfect action shot, caught in that dilemma of “if I wait for the next train, I could be here for an hour” versus “if I leave now, it will no doubt come a minute later”.

Diligences go daily from hence to Zurich and Offenburg (on the road to Strasburg and Frankfort), three times a week to Constance. A steamer runs twice a week between Schaffhausen and Constance.

How many times have you ran for a bus or a train, only to miss it by a matter of seconds, and left to think “bloody hell, I’ve got to wait another 15 minutes before the next one, now”? Well, imagine poor old Frau Fischer, back in 1837, slowed down by her heavy grocery shopping from Schaffhausen market, missing the steamer home to Konstanz, and cursing to herself, “For feck sake, I’ve got to wait another three days before I can get the next boat home. I better call my family to let them know that dinner won’t be ready. Oh, hang on, I’ve got to wait another 40 years before the telephone is invented. Nevermind, I’ll be home by then.”

Nowadays, the Schaffhausen URh boats go four times a day, and take 5 hours.Trains go almost every half hour to Zurich (an hour away) and Offenburg is just two hours by train (changing at Singen).

The celebrated wooden bridge over the Rhine, of a single arch, 365 feet in span, was burnt by the French in 1799, and is replaced by one of the most ordinary construction. A model of the original may be seen in the town library; the architect was a carpenter from Appenzell, named Grubenman.

I love the fact that Murray always namechecked random architects, carpenters and artists, possibly as a result of having nothing else to say about the subject, or simply just repeating what he had read in Ebel’s guide. Nonetheless, his writings would have allowed such workmen to then advertise the words “Internationally Renowned” to future clients. However, it has to be said, in this particular case, the original Grubenmann-Brücke was bloody impressive.

The concrete Rheinbrücke Schaffhausen–Feuerthalen that now stands in its place certainly lacks the same imagination, and the name of its architect was probably forgotten before construction was even completed…

 


SCHAFFHAUSEN ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS:

Faucon, best.

Opened in  1799 as the tap house to the famous Brauerei Falken, which is now the fifth largest in Switzerland, the beer was originally brewed next door at the tavern “Zum Zedernbaum”. As well as the local ale, today, Restaurant Falken, at Vorstadt 5, serves local specialities including a Schaffhauser Pfanne; a plate of mixed meats, vegetables and rosti.

 

Couronne, not recommended.

The 3 star Hotel Kronenhof, at Kirchhofplatz 7, close to the Haus Zum Ritter, dates back to 1489 with previous guests including Goethe, Tsar Alexander, General Dufour and Michel de Montaigne. Whilst Murray, may not have recommended it, “very good” reviews online, show it’s improved its game since.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]


 

 

The best mode of visiting the falls from Schaffhausen is to hire a boat from thence (costs 48 fr) and descend the river, which already forms a succession of rapids, by no means dangerous under the guidance of a boatman accustomed to the river.

Nowadays, the best mode of visiting the falls from Schaffhausen is to cycle from thence (costs nothing, other than mud, sweat and gears) and follow the river on the left side through Flurlingen towards Dachsen.

Leaving Schaffhausen, the road runs along the peaceful and narrow Rhine river, which gives no indication of the violence that lies ahead as it passes by the IWC headquarters, with their equally beautiful watches. The shere mention of which will surely see me rewarded with a complimentary sample.

When the increased celerity of the current and the audible roar announce that the skiff is approaching the falls, the steersman makes for the left bank, and lands his passengers under the picturesque castle of Lauffen, situated on a high rock overlooking the fall, within the Canton of Zurich. It is occupied and rented by an artist who speaks English, and charges 1 franc admission for each person.

I’m not sure if the woman behind the admissions counter at Schloss Laufen was an artist, however she spoke English, and charged us 5 franc admission for each person to the Rhinefall.

 

The advantage of approaching the fall on this side, is that nothing is seen of it until it is at once presented in its most magnificent point of view, from the little pavilion perched on the edge of the cliff immediately above it.

The little pavilion still stands, and its multicoloured windows offered different perspectives of the falls, adding a monochrome glow to the view.

Several flights of very rude and slippery wooden steps conduct from this pavilion to a projecting stage, or rude balcony, of stout timbers, thrown out like the bowsprit of a ship, from the vertical cliff to within a few feet of the fall. It actually overhangs the roaring shoot, and though perfectly secure, seems to tremble under the impulse of the water.

Whilst stood on this “projecting stage”, easily over a hundred times in my lifetime, I’ve often wondered to myself – as is the wont of Aquarians apparently – how they went about constructing it. Now that I know it even existed as far back as Murray’s visit in 1837, I’m even more baffled, and less trustful of his words that it is “perfectly secure.”

Here, covered with the spray, the traveller may enjoy the full grandeur of this hell of waters; and it is only by this close proximity, amidst the tremendous roar and the uninterrupted rush of the river, passing with the swiftness of an arrow above his head and beneath his feet, that a true notion can be formed of the stupendous nature of this cataract.

I never grow bored of looking down at the water rushing beneath my feet, whilst getting soaked from the spray above. The Rhinefalls certainly are a place that you should visit at least once in your life. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been at least a hundred times (I live locally and it’s on my regular cycle route). I remain in awe of its seasonal changing beauty and the impact it has on the coach loads of tourists who usually stop here first on entering Switzerland. For they are certainly the greatest introduction one would ever need to the most spectacular country on earth and one can only imagine the reaction of the Victorian British, stood here with Murray’s Guide in hand..

The best time for seeing the fall is about 8 in the morning, when the Iris floats within the spray (provided the sun shines), and by moon-light. The river is usually most full in the month of July. The Rhine above the fall is about 300 feet broad; the height of the fall is reduced to 70 feet. 

I’ve never seen my own village at “8 in the morning”, let alone the Rhine Falls; for I rise only in double figures and, anything before, my eyes are usually so blurred from lack of sleep, you could tell me the toilet flush was The Rhine Falls, and I’d probably believe you. I have seen it “by moon-light” however (the falls, as well as my toilet), and I can confirm, especially during a full moon, it is truly serene with not a tourist in sight, other than some “30 years old” jogger, “about 190 centimetres tall, of slim build, wearing a grey and blue jogging suit” and with “a three-day beard” (again, we’re still taking about the falls, not my toilet).

That is unless of course you visit on July 31st – the eve of Swiss National Day – when they have a spectacular firework display over the falls; one of the highlights of the calendar which attracts over 10,000 people (so get there early). In 2016, tightrope walkers even crossed the falls before the pyrotechnic display, getting their timing just right, much to the disappointment of the crowd, who were secretly baying for the rockets to make the whole performance that little bit more exhilarating.

Crossing the river by the little ferry boat, and by walking back up to the castle and across the railway bridge, constructed at some skill and cost in 1857, twenty years after Murray’s visit, we got to view the falls from the Neuhausen side.

Its appearance from the opposite side of the river is tame in comparison, and the first impression from thence, made by the finest cataract in Europe, will most probably prove disappointing.

This vista is where the coach loads of tourists get dropped off and, far from proving to be “disappointing”, might well be “tame in comparison”, but it offers a great view of the entire falls, and the castle above.

The river, after its leap, forms a large semicircular bay, as it were to rest itself; the sides of which are perpetually chafed by the heaving billows. Here in front of the fall, on the right bank, stands the Castle of Worth, a square tower, containing a camera obscura, which shows the fall in another and a very singular point of view. 

Schlössli Wörth is now a fantastic fine dining restaurant but, with such an amazing view, it’s no surprise that it comes at a hefty price tag (CHF 40+ for main courses). There is also a cheaper self-service restaurant on this side of the river for those on a budget and happy to make do with burnt Cervelat sausages and overpriced ice cream.

From this tower to the foot of the rock on which the castle of Lauffen stands, several ferry boats ply to convey visitors across; charging 4 batz each. 

Having come across the river by one of these little ferry boats, I can confirm it no longer costs 4 batz each. The 3 minute journey is now CHF 3 each way, (or CHF 5 return).

Two isolated pillars of rock, standing in the middle of the stream, divide the fall into 3 shoots. Seen from behind these pinnacles seem eaten away by the constant friction of the water, and tottering to their fall; indeed, as the rock is soft, the waste of it within the memory of man must be considerable.

From this side of the river, the two “isolated pillars of rock” are the centrepoint of the view and, as we walked alongside the falls, towards the railway bridge, we got to see the erosion Murray talked about close up.

The boats are much tossed about in their passage, but sometimes approach the base of the pinnacles above-mentioned without risk, provided they keep clear of the eddies.

It turns out, according to the modern day know-it-all, Jimmy Wikipedia, that “an eddy is the swirling of a fluid and the reverse current created when the fluid flows past an obstacle”, rather than angry local fishermen Edward Osterwalder and Edwin Haefliger.

For just CHF 7 you can be “much tossed about” in your passage – cheaper than Amsterdam, I’m reliably informed – or for a whopping CHF 20, the boats will even drop you off at “the base of the pinnacle.” Make sure you ask the ferryman to come back and collect you though, as it can be a cold and wet night stuck out there on the rock in the middle of the falls. Although, in saying that, you will get to benefit seeing the falls at their best, “about 8 in the morning” and “by moon-light”.

Close to the fall is an iron furnace; the wheels of the hammers are turned by the fall, and the draught caused by rush of the water supplies the place bellows.

The “iron furnace”, with its waterwheel, still stands next to the falls. Amazingly, in 1944 the Swiss Government agreed to build a power station at The Rhinefalls, after initial plans in 1887 and 1913 were shelved. Opposition was so great, 15,000 people signed a petition, including Nobel Prize winning author Hermann Hesse and Red Cross President Carl Jacob Burkhardt. The Swiss Government backed down and the site became a permanent tourist attraction for future generations.

It was Murray’s words, “the wheels of the hammers”, that sharply reminded us we needed to get the wheels of the Hammer back on the road again, as we still had a full afternoon cycling ahead of us with the city of Zurich to explore. We quickly rushed over the impressive railway bridge and back upto the castle, where our bikes were waiting.

 

 



RHINE FALLS ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS:

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There is a good inn close to the Rhinefall… At the village of Neuhausen, 10 minutes’ walk from the fall, there is a clean and moderate small inn, Zum Rhinefall: charges – beds 2 fr, dinners 3 fr, breakfast 11⁄2 f.

Whilst there is now an ugly 1980s building housing a Hotel Rhinefall, it is not the same Hotel Zum Rhinefall mentioned by Murray.  For historic accommodation, you can’t do much better than the Dachsen am Rheinfall Youth Hostel, located in the thick walls of Laufen Castle on the opposite side of the river, right above the waterfall itself.

[CLICK HERE FOR BEDS]

 

As mentioned, for food, you can’t do much better than the excellent Schlössli Wörth, an fantastic fine dining restaurant with a fine view (CHF 40+ for main courses).


 

 

The walk from the Falls to Schaffhausen is very pleasant, and commands (as you approach) several pleasant landscapes, of which the town is the principal object. 

Heading back towards town, so we could cross the bridge over to Neuhausen, the route took us along the beautiful riverside, with Schaffhausen, Munot and its vineyards in full view.

Re-approaching The Rhine Falls on the right hand side of the river, we were now following the route of Murray’s “Skeleton Tour of a Fortnight.”

 

 

ROUTE:

0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN BAHNHOF

0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ SCHWABENTOR   → flat

0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ RESTAURANT FALKEN → flat

0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ OBERTOR   → flat

0km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ ZUNFTHAUS ZUM RUEDEN (Oberstadt 20) → flat

1km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ DIEBSTURM (Neustadt 13)   down  10 m

1km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ ZUNFT ZUN METZGERN (Fronwagplatz 7)  up  20 m   down  20 m

1km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ GESELLSCHAFT ZUN HERREN (Fronwagplatz 3) → flat

2km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ HAUS ZUM RITTER (Vordergasse 65)  → flat

2km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ MUENSTER ALLERHEILIGEN   down  10 m

2km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ KLOSTER ALLERHEILIGEN   → flat

2km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ BIBLIOTHEK AM MUNSTERPLATZ   → flat

2km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ RESTAURANT GERBERSTUBE (Bachstrasse 8)  → flat

3km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ MUNOT     up  40 m

3km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ RESTAURANT FISCHERZUNFT (Fischerstubengässchen 2) down  40 m

3km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN URh  → flat

3km ~ SCHAFFHAUSEN ~ GRUBENMAN BRUCKE  → flat

6km ~ FLURLINGEN  up  5 m   down  10 m

8km ~ SCHLOSS LAUFEN AM RHINEFALL  up 30 m   down  5 m (NB, leave bike here)

8km ~ RHINEFALL SCHLOESSLI WOERTH  → ferry

If necessary, return to collect bike via bridge and cross back over to right side of Rhine

11km ~NEUHAUSEN  up  60 m   down  30 m

13km ~SCHAFFHAUSEN  → flat

 


Route 6 ~ Basel – Zurich

Route 7 ~ Schaffhausen – Konstanz  >

All routes ~  Introduction ~

Route 1 ~ The Weissenstein

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Murray’s suggested “Excursion to the Weissenstein” appears at Moutiers” (Moutier), 58 km into Route 1, “Basle to Bienne and Bern by The Val Moutiers”, which had already been a long gradual climb up to this point.

Even without this 30 km side trip (and another to the Chasseral at Biel/Bienne, further along), Route 1 is still a mighty 140 km long, so this 560 metre ascent is best only attempted if you are either mega fit or splitting your journey into two days.

I was neither, but in the interest of writing this book, I attempted it anyway.

There is a car road from Moutiers to the summit of the Weissenstein, a distance of about 10 miles, up hill nearly the whole way, and the latter part very rough and bad; fit only for the cars of the country, one of which drawn by two horses, may be hired here to go and return for 20fr.

This is the first of two times Murray visits the Weissenstein, as he also approaches it from the much harder Solothurn side in Route 3.

Whilst the entire route from Moutiers to the summit is now tarmaced, “the latter part”  boasts an average gradient of 15% for the final 5km. It’s a muscle popping climb that would test even pro cyclists.

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It passes through the villages of Grandval (Grossau) and Ganzbrunnen; the ascent occupies 3 hours and the jolting is very severe.

The Grande-Rue through Grandval becomes the Route Cantonale as it starts the climb up to the tiny village of “Ganzbrunnen” (Gänsbrunnen), just a 30 minute, or 9 km ride from Moutier, 200 metres lower.

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With just a population of 95, the German-speaking village is both the highest and one of the smallest communities in Solothurn, and is centred around an impressive quarry, the zum Mühlehof old mill and adjacent Hotel St.Joseph (currently temporarily closed down), which takes the French name for the village (“St.Joseph”, that is, not “Hotel”).

Depending on whether you believe Matthew or Luke (if you haven’t read it, you may be surprised to learn the Bible has contradictory passages), Joseph was the son of King David of Israel & Judah, although, somehow unexplained by either, was a poor carpenter in Nazareth. He’s more famous as being the husband of Mary and Jesus’s stepdad.

When his wife got pregnant, he knew that the child could not possibly be his, although, in fear of being sentenced to death by the Vatican, I’ll let you come to your own conclusions as to how he knew that fact. He also had no idea his wife was carrying the son of God, despite a few tell tale signs; she’d bought a whole new wardrobe and started to wear new perfume, and there was that suspicions text message from the Almighty he’d found on her iPhone when she once left it unlocked.

Despite this, he loved his wife so much that he could not bare to see her stoned to death, the punishment for cheating women back then, so, after sharing out their CD collection and deciding who should have custody of their donkey, he told her to pack her bags and leave, allowing her to do so quietly so she would escape the wrath of the audience on the Jerry Springer Show.

Then, one night, after he’d been drowning his sorrows with wine and cheese, an angel came to him in a dream and told him, “take her back mate, the real father is actually the Holy Spirit. It will be a son, and you should call him Doug. Actually, forget that, he’d be called Diego in Spanish; the South Americans won’t believe you. Go with Christopher. Ah, no, Christopher Christ, sounds like a Country & Western act from Nashville, and Chris Christ sounds like a Texan hip hop band. Nathaniel?  Nope, he’ll get called Naz at school. Naz of Nazareth; doesn’t work. What about Brian? or Jesus? Yeah, go with Jesus… Jesús… Iesous… I like it… Jesus Christ do I like it!”

So, after recovering from his hangover in the morning, Joseph did just that and we all lived happily ever after. Well, apart from the odd crucifixion, occasional crusade here and there, religious wars, holocaust and terrorist attacks. But we can’t blame Joseph for that, although he is the patron saint of dying.

He’s also the patron saint of expectant women, which is ironic as he never got anybody preganant himself.  Personally, I think he should be made the patron saint of dreaming.

Now, there’s not a lot in the Bible to say who Mary originally thought the father was, nor how relieved she was (and for what reason) when she heard about Joseph’s crazy dream. However, in the days before Jeremy Kyle and DNA testing, she obviously chose to believe him… as have 15 billion people ever since.

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Much to the dismay of St.Antonio, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, and St.Francisco, St.Joseph, or San Jose as he his known to his Spanish cousins, has leant his name to more places around the world than anybody else in history, including here at… erm… Gänsbrunnen (or, as we say in Mancunian, Goose Fountain).

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An old carriage at the station – which despite serving barely twenty houses, seemed popular with hikers presumably returning to Solothurn after crossing the Weissenstein and exploring the Naturpark Thal – conjured up thoughts of Victorian travellers in the 1890’s. You could picture them travelling the scenic route with their updated “Murray’s Hand-Book For Travellers In Switzerland” on their lap. That said, the Solothurn-Münster-Bahn wasn’t actually introduced until 1908, four years after the 19th and final edition of Murray’s guide was published, by which time they were probably carrying the more popular 23rd edition of “Baedeker’s Switzerland”, the first (released in 1863, when Murray was on his 10th edition), were openly and accredited almost direct translations of John Murray’s own work.

 

It was at Gänsbrunnen that the mountain finally came into view and, unfortunately for my motivation, the Passhöhe sign informing me of the 15% gradient for the remaining 5 km, a killer 360 metre climb, which explained why the “jolting is very severe” if you’re in a horse drawn carriage or riding piggyback on a much fitter cyclist’s pannier rack.

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Mentally, and physically, I had prepared myself for the high Alpine mountain passes which I knew would appear later in Murray’s Handbook, however I never expected to be making an equally challenging climb on Route 1, barely three hours after leaving Basel.

Whilst it might have been shorter, it was certainly a lot steeper than most of the famous climbs, with the main difference being the entire ascent was made through the forest, which gave a restricted monotonous view of trees and the seemingly never-ending road ahead, climbing for as far as the eye could see.

In fact, other than the opposite approach of the Weissensteinpass from Solothurn, the steepest in the whole of Switzerland at an incredible 20%, there are only three other mountain passes more punishing than the climb from Gänsbrunnen; the Pragelpass, in Schwyz (18%), the Col de l’Aiguillon, in Vaud (18%), and the Ächerlipass, in Obwalden (16%). On learning this fact, I quickly checked the index of “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland in 1838” and made a note to become a lot fitter by the time I reached Route 75.

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As the forest road snaked up the pass, zig zagging around three hairpin bends, interspersed with punishing 1km long straight ascents, I could picture Murray in a carriage, being jolted back and forth, complaining about the “very severe” conditions and cursing the poor horses in front.

Being deep in the forest, equally as severe were the flies and mosquitos which seemed to be attracted to the sweet smell of the sweat pouring off me. I was just thankful the canopy of trees protected me from the heat of the sun.

The top of the pass, is actually on another switchback, the sign being surrounded by nothing but trees, as the road snakes around the corner for a steep descent into a valley.

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Sadly, reaching the top of the pass was not the last of the climbs, as the welcome 30m drop was quickly followed by a steep 38m climb back up again to the Hotel & Kurhaus Weissenstein.

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The Inn of the Weissenstein, and the still more elevated summit of the mountain called Rothi-flue, 2 miles to the east of it, command one of the finest distant prospects of the Alps which can be named. 

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The great chain of snowy peaks etc, here seen, spread out along the horizon, extends for a distance of nearly 200 miles, from the Sentis on the east to the Mont Blanc in the west. Immediately in front rise the Jungfrau, Schreckhorn and other giants of the Bernese chain.

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In the foreground, amidst a varied expanse of wooded hill and verdant vale are seen the lakes of Morat, Neuchatel and Bienne, while the silvery Aar, on which stands the town of Soleure, winds like a snake at the foot of the mountain.

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As if the ascent hadn’t tested my heart enough, I almost had a full on heart attack, whilst descending through the forest at 65km/h when a large stag ran out of the trees right across my path.  The smell of burning from my disc brakes almost overpowered the smell of fear in my cycling shorts.

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Route:

30km round trip to the Weissenstein (including 5km, 15% climb)

0km ~ MOUTIER

15km ~ WEISSENSTEIN  ↗ 790 m   ↘ 15 m

30km ~ MOUTIER  ↗ 15 m   ↘ 790 m


Route 1 ~ Basel – Bern via Münster Thal

Route 1 ~ The Chasseral  >

All routes ~  Introduction ~

Route 16 ~ Mount Pilate

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Mount Pilate is sometimes ascended from Lucerne, but the journey is difficult, occupying 6 ½ hours; the greater part must be performed on foot, and the view from the top is decidely inferior to that of the Righi.

I’m not sure if Murray was trying to put his readers off making this ascent, however today most tourists to Luzern also make a trip to the summit of Pilatus a must-visit, aided by the steepest cog railway in the world, which opened in 1889.

As Murray’s notes were written fifty years previous, such an easy journey to the top was sadly out of the question for me, so I set off on the “difficult” journey by bike, having no idea of the tough ascent that lay ahead.

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The road up it from Lucerne proceeds in a South West direction, by the side of a wild torrent, which, when swollen by rain, is very injurious to the habitations on its banks; and, in the last century, destroyed many houses in the town.

The Unterer Krienbach stream runs alongside the lefthand side of the road, but does not appear until after Kriens, where it was tamed from flooding by being built over, the water now flowing underneath the town on its way to the Reuss in Luzern city centre.

Skirting the base of the mountain it passes through the hamlet of Krienz, Obernau, and Herrgotteswald; then, crossing a ridge covered with pasturages, descends into the Alpine valley of Eigenthal.

“The hamlet of  Krienz” (Kriens) is now a bustling town, heavily built up and swallowed by the growing city centre of Luzern.

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It is a popular connection point for those tourists using the cable car gondolas, which run direct from the pretty Schloss Schauensee in its town centre to Fräkmüntegg, and thence to the top of Pilatus in a glass aerial cable car cabin, taking less then 40 minutes in total. Sadly, this wouldn’t have been a shortcut available in Murray’s time, so I continued cycling up to Obernau, where the road turns off into pretty open meadows.

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This is where it gets tough; the steep 7 km climb through the forest, running alongside the once “wild torrent”, seemed to be a popular training route for local cyclists and is as tough as any high Alpine passes I have encountered.

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It is a punishing cycle up zigzagging chicanes to the stunning church at “Herrgotteswald” (Hergiswald).

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The film-set perfect spot took me by surprise, not least because of its lack of detail in “Murray’s Hand-Book For Travellers In Switzerland 1838”.

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Occupying a dominant location on the mountain side, it seems rather odd that Murray does not detail the Wallfahrtskirche Hergiswald, a pilgrimage church dating back to 1489 and taking its current form in 1652 with the altar modeled as closely as possible to that at Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy,  with a Black Madonna and paintings by famous Luzern painter Kaspar Meglinger.

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Sadly, the long ascent didn’t end there as the road continued to zig zag up the mountain through forests, eventually reaching the aforementioned “ridge covered with pasturages”, before, as promised, it “descends into the Alpine valley of Eigenthal.”

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The Eigenthal valley offers one of Switzerland’s prettiest views and, whilst most hikers heading up to Pilatus had to park their cars at Talboden, I was able to continue cycling 2km further to the historic farm restaurant at Unterlauelen, where, after 2½ hours hard slog in the saddle, I ditched the bike and changed into my hiking boots.

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The towering mountains of the Pilatus massif above gave an idea of how far I’d have to climb, seeing as the route to Pilatus Kulm was to take me over the peak of each.

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Had I been religious, I would have said a much needed prayer at the tiny chapel behind the restaurant, however, as it was, I just sat there imagining John Murray or William Brockedon, his collaborator for the mountain routes, kneeling in front of the altar, begging God for his assistance in what lay ahead, this being the days before Powerbars and isotonic drinks.

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Beyond this the path becomes steeper, and is only practicable on foot.

Indeed, the ascent is not only “steeper” but “only practicable” for the fittest hikers with suitable footwear, clothing, walking poles and plentiful provisions.

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The path is crude, with loose rocks acting as makeshift steps and various sudden drops testing the faint hearted. The added danger of falling rocks adds to the equation. It is certainly not to be attempted in wet or windy weather, nor without proper hiking equipment; something the warning signs inform you about, rather inconveniently, once you have already reached the summit.

Other than various metal ropes to help you find your footing on the steepest, most dangerous sections, and the occasional painted indications of which direction the path ascends, I’m guessing very little has changed since Murray’s time. I was just thankful that the necessary clothing and backpacks have become lighter and sportier over the years.

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There is a very remarkable echo near the Bründlis Alp. Above this vegetation ceases and naked rock succeeds.

In an attempt to see how “remarkable” the echo was, I randomly shouted “Hello!” at various cliff faces and, lo and behold, Murray was right: My screams not only produced numerous replies of “Hello”, but impressively did so in a Swiss German accent, one “Hello!” even bouncing back to me in a female voice. It wasn’t until a fellow hiker came sprinting down the mountainside to try and save me from whatever danger he feared I was in, that I realised why the art of yodelling was originally invented.

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A cave in the face of the precipice, near this, is called St.Dominick’s Hole, from a fancied resemblance in a stone, standing near its mouth, to a monk.

It’s stories like this that highlight the difference between the Swiss and the British:

Look carefully at the rock at Dominihöhle and it actually does clearly bear a “fancied resemblance” to a praying monk, with a very big… hmmm… “hole”.

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It could be any monk to be honest, however, as the 12th Century monkey burner from Route 7 performed the greatest miracle ever (getting 104 nuns rat-arsed with a self-refilling cup of never-ending wine), I’m more than happy to go with St.Dom.

 

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Because of the uncanny resemblance, the Swiss decided to name the cave after him.

The Brits most certainly would not have done this. Instead, they’d just have christened the monk with the new nickname, “Cave Arse” or “Cavern Bum”, whilst the young girl whom the Jungfrau is said to resemble, would probably be monikered “Mountain Tits”.

It reminds me of when I first moved to Switzerland and kept referring to my landlord by his first name, something that, unless you’re still living in the 1970’s, bankers, lawyers, doctors and accountants in the UK would do likewise with their customers.

I was instructed by my shocked Swiss friend, “you can’t do that in German. It’s incredibly disrespectful!”.

“How can he feel disrespected?”, I protested, “I’ve just given him a bloody expensive bottle of whisky as a gift and pay him thousands in rent every month”, before adding, “In England, you earn respect, you don’t demand it.”

Fortunately my landlord had lived in America, so understood the informalities of the English language just as much as he enjoyed the Scottish whisky. He was sympathetic to my disgraceful linguistic etiquette and agreed only to increase my rent marginally as a punishment.

Anyway, back to the Dominihöhle.  Legend has it, that an old chapel in Bründlen had been destroyed by a landslide. The statue of St.Dominic was miraculously moved into the cave, which had previously been called by various other names. It is said, that afterwards, the figure in the rock only answered to the name of “Domini” and anybody who dared call it by another name would die in the same year. Watch this space.

 

The cavern was reached in 1814 by a chamois hunter, Ignacius Matt, at the risk of his life.

Looking up at the incredibly inaccessible cave, I couldn’t help but think “what an absolute nutter!”. Then again, when your parents call you “Ignacius”, you’re probably not so bothered whether you live or die, and it can’t be the first monk’s crack that has been penetrated with a bit of effort.

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It takes nearly 5 hours to reach the chalets on the Bründlis Alp, the highest human habitation, occupied by shepherds only in the summer months.

Although I had saved almost two hours by cycling rather than hiking, it was still a testing two hour ascent from Unterlauelen, of which Murray was probably referring, to Oberalp, the “highest human habitation”, still occupied “only in the summer months” by an elderly Swiss gentleman.

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The traveller may here obtain shelter for the night, but nothing deserves the name of accommodation.

Unlike at Alpwirtschaft Unterlauelen, where you can sleep in small wooden cow huts, sadly, there’s no option for the weary hiker to eat, drink or sleep at Oberalp – not that I checked if the old man was listing his sofa on AirBnB or was serving takeaway pizza. Instead, I chose to eat my own sandwiches on the adjacent bench, rather than cheekily asking to join him and his daughter at the al fresco dining table.

The peaceful location, occupying an Alpine meadow, is breathtaking, and I could fully understand why the old chap would continue to make the effort to trek all the way up here to escape the coach loads of foreign tourists back in the city.

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It is said that the large bog next to the old man’s hut is from where the Pilatus massif takes its name. Once a tiny lake, known as Pilatussee, it was blamed for the terrible storms in the area.

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According to a wild tradition of considerable antiquity, this mountain derives its name from Pilate, the wicked governor of Judæa, who having been banished to Gaul by Tiberius, wandered about among the mountains, stricken by conscience, until he ended his miserable existence by throwing himself into a lake on the top of the Pilatus. The mountain, in consequence, labours under a very bad reputation.

With 3½ hours of climbing still to go, I wish it had have been “on the top of the Pilatus”.

It would appear Pilate died even more times than the Son of God, whom he crucified, given that, amongst other legends, the ancient Greek scripture entitled “Mors Pilati” (“Death of Pilate”), seemed to have been added to, amended and localised with each translation. In it, Emperor Tiberius, bed-bound with man flu, tries to book an appointment with his doctor, Jesus Christ, however is told by Pilate, who has already crucified the miracle-worker by this time, that the surgery is fully booked for at least another month. Tiberius finally learns the truth after Pilate is grassed up by eyewitnesses.

The story goes on to say that, at his trial, circa 36 A.D., Pilate had the audacity to wear Jesus’ robe, presumably his coat of many colours, which at first softened the Emperor’s heart before he thought, “ah, fuck it” and orders the Roman governor to be horribly executed or forced to commit suicide.

His body was thrown into the River Tiber, however it caused such a storm, they had to fish it out and send it First Class Airmail to Vienne in France, where it was chucked into the Rhone. Again, it played havoc with the weather system, so Vienne sold it at their local Bodyshop to Lucerne, where it was either buried or dumped in Lake Luzern, before being drowned again at the lake in Oberalp, depending which version you believe. Given I’d struggled to climb up to Oberalp with little more than a backpack, I can only imagine how cumbersome dragging a cadaver up here must have been.

A similar version also says his final resting place was at Lago di Pilato in Italy’s Sibillini Mountains, where his body was dumped in a potato sack and placed on a cart, pulled by cattle which were left free to wander aimlessly until they fell into the lake.

The corpse is said to rise every Good Friday to sit on the bank of the old lake at Oberalp, practice pilates and wash his unavailing hands, which makes me wonder why there are so many variations to his death, when, surely, historians could simply just go up to him and ask how he came to be here.

From its position as an outlier, or advanced guard of the chain of the Alps, it collects all the clouds which float over the plains from the West and North; and it is remarked, that almost all the storms which burst upon the lake of Lucerne gather and brew on its summit. This almost perpetual assembling of the clouds was long attributed by the superstitious to the unquiet spirit still hovering round the sunken body, which, when disturbed by any intruder, especially by the casting of stones into the lake, revenged itself by sending storms, and darkness, and hail on the surrounding district.

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So prevalent was the belief in this superstition, even down to times comparatively recent, that the government of Lucerne forbade the ascent of the mountain and the naturalist Conrad Gessner, in 1555, was obliged to provide himself with a special order removing the interdict in his case, to enable him to carry on his researches upon the mountain.  

I always find it fascinating how, thanks to the wonders of modern science, we now easily scoff and dismiss such mumbo jumbo superstitions, yet people still take the rest of the Bible and other religious scriptures as fact. Why do people follow one god, yet dismiss all the Prehistoric and Ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Mayan, Hindu, Greek, Roman, Aztec, Inca, African, Māori, Norse and Buddhist gods, nearly all of which pre-dated belief in our “modern” God?  I guess the PR and marketing teams responsible for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, back in the day, were just so much more talented. Either that, or they were much efficient at chopping the heads off non-believers.

Talking of which, Gessner did well to convince the Catholic government of Lucerne to leave him alone under supervision, with the promise he would not throw anything into the lake, “to enable him to carry on his research upon the mountain”, (the Gnepfstein, or Mittaggüpfi), for the 1555 New York Times Best-Seller “Descriptio Montis Fracti sive Montis Pilati”, especially given the fact that Pope Paul IV had banned his books on account of him being Protestant. In fact, booksellers in Venice later successfully protested the Inquisition’s blanket ban on Gessner’s books, and some of his work was eventually allowed onto their shelves after it had been “cleaned” of any conflicting opinions.

In 1585, the dean of Luzern went to the lake with the magistrate and a crowd of locals to refute the legend. They threw stones into the lake, waded through the water, dug holes in it, went snorkeling, played a game of water polo and rented out pedalos. As there was no storm on the mountain tops above, they had disproved the legend.  To be safe, nine years later, Lucerne Council decided to dry the lake through excavations and any such threat was removed. All subsequent storms have been blamed on immigrants or global warming.

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The lake, the source of all this terror, turns out, from recent investigation, to be beyond the limits of canton Lucerne, and on the opposite or the East side of the Tomlishorn; so that the Town Council had no jurisdiction over that part of the mountain, which belongs to Alpnach.

So, after all that effort, the lake belonged to the canton of Obwalden in the first place? See you in court, Luzern!

It’s an easy mistake to make, as geographically it does fall in the canton of Luzern, however as Oberalp is so cut off, it is aligned with Alpnach in Obwalden, the nearest town.

It is rather a pond than a lake, is dried up the greater part of the year, and reduced to a hepatitis of snow, which being melted in the height of summer, furnishes water to the herds upon the mountain, which resort to it to slake their thirst. There is no other lake upon the mountain.

And we all know who to blame for that!

It’s interesting to read that it’s not just in these days of Club 18-30 cheap package holidays that “hepatitis” rates increased “in the height of summer”.

Photo: Memch Wikipedia

 

It took me 30 minutes to climb the 140 metres from Oberalp to Felli (1690m above sea level). The surface at the top resembled something from another planet, perhaps one that would be nearer and with more facilities than the 3 hours of climbing I still had to conquer on the way to Pilatus Kulm.

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As if the first 2½ hours hiking hadn’t been tough enough, the steep climbing wasn’t over, as the exposed brow of the first of four peaks I had to cross, loomed high above.

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Skirting the cliff edge as it made its way up the spine of the Widderfeld (2076m), the path offered spectacular views and acted as the geographical boundary between the cantons, my left foot being in Luzern, my right in Obwalden, and my middle one swinging from one to another, as I headed slowly up the hill.

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I figured that I must now be directly above St.Dominic’s bald bonce and, looking down, I could see how high I had climbed in the 3 hours hike to this point, barely halfway to the summit of Pilatus.

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Climbing into and above the clouds, which, obviously, as explained by meteorologists, were made by Old Pontius down in his lake below, it was possible to make out Sursee in the distance on the Luzern side.

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Whilst, the view in the Oberwald direction spanned the stunning Uri Alps and beyond, their tips popping out over the clouds like shark fins.

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It was at this point that the climb became a descent and, as if the exposed rough narrow path wasn’t scary enough, it involved a huge drop down a cliff edge with a metal rope providing the only safety protection. One false step and you’d be a gonner.

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There was no warning of this in Murray’s notes and I wondered how they would have overcome this dangerous obstacle in 1837, or in wet weather in 2017 for that matter.

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Seemingly descending almost as far as I had climbed up in the first place, this did not bode well for what lay ahead, seeing as the remaining peaks of Gemsmättli, Tomlishorn and Pilatus were all much higher than the point of the Widderfeld to which I had reached.

Having to climb across an ice field on all fours, whilst trying not to stare into the abyss below, added to the sense of danger but gave my clothes and exposed legs a nice muddy coating which served as a warning to the passing hikers heading in the opposite direction, many of which seemed far too old to be able to do likewise, let alone be able to lift themselves up the steep rock face further along.

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Then came the next climb, a seriously long punishing ascent up the back of the Gemsmättli and crossing into the canton of Nidwalden.

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Dropping down around the imposing face of the mountain, the view opened up onto the Alpnach valley below.

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From here, the path became extremely narrow, perched right on the top of the mountain ridge, as it snaked round the Tomlishorn, continually climbing. It’s not a place you want to be in windy weather as it’s a sheer drop on either side and there would be nowhere to escape to for shelter.

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Once again, metal ropes save you from inevitable death and, when Pontius Pilate decided to clear his moody clouds, the expansive view of the path, snaking along the tip of the mountain to the peak of the Tomlishorn was revealed in all its frightening glory.

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Daring not to look down, views of the pretty chapel on the Klimsenhorn could be spotted opposite, with the city of Luzern appearing in the background.

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The Tomlishorn, the highest peak of the mountain, is 5766 feet above the lake, and 7116 feet above the sea level; but the view from it is said to be inferior to that from another peak, the Esel (ass).

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After hiking for well over 4 hours, passing only a handful of fellow adventurers along the way, it came as a bit of a shock to be surrounded by so many tourists at the viewing platform on the top of the Tomlishorn, many clearly not dressed in suitable Alpine clothing.

They’d obviously made the 35 minute walk along the tourist footpath, from the cable car and train station at the Pilatus Kulm, however I made sure to congratulate them on their efforts nonetheless.

The summit of the Tomlishorn and the ridge of Pilatus in front, marks the cantonal borders of Nidwalden, on the left, and Obwalden, on the right, with the mountains of Glarus, Central Switzerland, the Bernese Oberland, Diablerets, Schrattenfluh, Napf, Jura and the Black Forest, all on view.

Whilst the “view from it is said to be inferior” to that found above the Hotel Pilatus-Kulm, and much of what had come before from my own perspective, the walk itself from the main tourist hub at the station is certainly worthwhile, as it works its way along the mountainside, passing through tunnels carved into the rock.

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John Murray or William Brockedon would obviously not have taken this route to the Kulm. Instead, they would have put their lives in the hands of the the old Tomliweg, an extremely scary, shaded path, much of which has fallen down the mountainside, hugging the cliff wall of the Chastelendossen.

Incredibly, it wasn’t until 1862 that wire ropes were added to that incredibly narrow path. Needless to say, you won’t see hordes of tourists on this path and it even takes balls just to watch a video of some hikers attempting it. [watch here].

Back on the more sensible route, the Esel (ass) peak and Pilatus Kulm resort at its base had finally come into view.

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It felt wrong, having made such an effort to reach Pilatus Kulm through tough remote Alpine terrain, only to be surrounded by so many tourists at the top. I pictured Edward Whymper conquering the Matterhorn or Edmund Hillary reaching the summit of Everest, only to be confronted with a crowd of Spanish and Chinese tourists, in Hard Rock Cafe T-Shirts, dining on Rösti and drinking ice cold Rivella from an overpriced restaurant, looking somewhat bemused as to why these physically exhausted overdressed new guests had also not taken the cable car or cog railway up.

The Hotel Bellevue, which was replaced by the modern glass rotunda in 1963, was originally built in 1860, which made me wonder how the hell they got all the materials and equipment needed to build it, let alone the kitchen ovens, up the mountain in the first place.

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It certainly wasn’t by train, as, at a gradient of up to 48%, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world didn’t actually operate until 1889.

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As Murray points out, the best view is to be had from the Esel, or “Ass”, located directly above the modern Hotel Bellevue.

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The view from the Oberhaupt allows an impressive panorama of the whole resort as well as the pretty little chapel, seemingly hanging on for dear life to the side of the Klimsenhorn far below.

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According to some the name Pilatus is only a corruption of Pileatus (capped), arising from the cap of clouds which rarely quits its barren brow, and which is sometimes seen rising from it like steam from a cauldron.

And here was I believing that Pontius Pilate actually did commit suicide in the mountain lake below, unable to overcome his guilt for crucifying Jesus. It just goes to show that it is not just in this modern Internet era that people believe and share bullshit until it becomes more quoted than the truth.

Whisper it quietly around these parts, however the mountain was already called Mons Pileatus long before Ponty was associated with it. But you believe what you want to believe, just don’t go all Donald Trump on me: “Your book is terrible. No, I’m not going to give you a reason. You are fake news!”

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Whilst most people would take the train back down to Alpnachstad, or the cable car to Kriens, in 1837 that was not an option.

There is another path from the summit down the opposite side of the mountain, by which Alpnach may be reached in 3 hours.

 

I would have taken this route, or even the modern transport options, had it not been for the fact my bicycle was parked up at Unterlauelen and I’d left it too late to connect with the last bus back to Eigenthal from either Alpnach or Kriens.

Instead, I took the steep direct path back down to where I had started, which begins in the Drachenweg themed tunnel path at the Hotel Bellevue, tracing the medieval legend of a dragon with healing powers that is said to have resided in one of the caves on the mountain, presumably grounded by air traffic control because of the heavy clouds created by his neighbour, Pontius Pilate.

From here it is a crude path down sharp limestone rock, dropping down 200 metres to the Klimsenkapelle on the Klimsenhorn peak.

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Built in 1856, 22 years after Murray published his Handbook, it was adjacent to a large hotel, which tragically burnt down in 1967.

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As any hiker will tell you, there’s nothing that makes you more apprehensive than having to walk through a field of cows when they have young calves with them. Every year, you read stories of innocent walkers being attacked and often killed in Switzerland, when the footpath happens to cross grazing cattle. In fact, the same week I visited Pilatus, a hiker was killed in Austria and another almost killed in Switzerland by angry bovines.

Imagine then, how much I was shitting it when I suddenly found myself within headbutting distance of a large family of wild Steinbock on the descent from the Klimsenhorn.

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Fortunately, they seemed to be less alarmed than me when the footpath went directly in between themselves and their babies.

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I could have stayed there watching them play for hours, however with the rain clouds rolling in and at least 3 hours of hiking still to complete, I reluctantly had to say my goodbyes.

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Whilst the views rewarded me for the effort, my knees were starting to punish me for a day of hard cycling and climbing, not helped by the sheer steepness of the path.

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More metal ropes provided much needed assistance, however the crudeness of the path, loose rocks and steep drops required severe concentration.

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The route would be almost impossible to cover had it been raining, the limestone effectively becoming as slippery as ice and the gradient acting as a waterfall. With that in mind, it became a race against time as Pontius Pilate sent over the moodiest dark cloud he could muster. It was at that point that I regretted earlier shouting “Cuthbert” and “Polycarp” into Dominic’s Hole.

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Incredibly pretty throughout, there was plenty to distract the attention away from my now failing knees.

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However, no matter how far I descended, the bottom of the valley just seemed to be getting no nearer.

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After two hours of descending, I reached the old farmhouse at Oberlauelen, where the path became more manageable if not any less steep, for the remaining hour through the forest.

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I just had time for a reassuring look back up to the top of the mountain, to see where I had dropped down from, before the heaven’s opened, soaking me to the bone before I could even reach Unterlauelen again.

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Pontius Pilate had certainly kept true to his legend.


Route 16 ~  Luzern

Route 17 ~ Luzern – Brunnen >

All routes ~  Introduction ~

Route 16 ~ Lucerne

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Lucerne, chief town of the Canton, and one of the three Vororter, or alternate seats of the Diet, lies at the North West extremity of the Lake of Lucerne, and is divided into two parts by the river Reuss, which here issues out of it.  

Whereas many of Murray’s notes (and title) in his “Hand-Book For Travellers In Switzerland 1838” seem be lifted from Ebel’s massive four volume 1823 “Handbuch für Reisende in der Schweiz”, which was obviously aimed at those with incredibly large hands, much of his description of Luzern seems to be influenced from an article published two years previous in “The Saturday Magazine” (No. 205, September 12th 1835).

In that article, it explains that the “Vorort”, the name given to the temporary home of the Swiss government, the Diet or Tagsatzung, as it was known, would be located in Luzern during 1837 and 1838, the time that Murray visited.

Zurich had been the capital of the Swiss Confederation in the 15th Century, with Lucerne taking the role for the Catholic cantons, following the Protestant Reformation. When Napoleon invaded the country, turning it into the Helvetic Republic in 1798, Aarau was temporarily made the Capital for six months before Luzern took the role for the entire country.

With the disbanding of the Helvetic Republic, in 1803, and the creation of Switzerland as we know it today, the Vorort rotated between Aarau, Zürich, Bern, Luzern, Fribourg, Solothurn and Basel – making the E.U.’s farcical monthly move from Brussels to Strasbourg look rather efficient.

By 1815, everybody agreed that this arrangement was stupid, and the choice of Vorort was restricted to Zürich, Bern and Luzern, with each being the Swiss capital for two years at a time. It wasn’t until 10 years after Murray’s book went to print that Bern became the permanent seat of the Government and sole capital of Switzerland.

Its population is about 7500, all Catholics, except about 180 Protestants. Lucerne is the residence of the Papal Nuncio.

Luzern was the most powerful of the Catholic cantons in 1837 and was home to the Pope’s ambassador to Switzerland.

Whilst much of the country became Protestant after the Reformation, Luzern, even to this day, remained staunch Catholic, with 60% of the population ticking the box on the last census. The 180 Protestants might have increased by 9,000 but they still only make up 15% of the population, being outnumbered by atheists and those of no faith.

Following the closure of various Catholic churches by the Diet, ten years after Murray’s visit, on 3rd November 1847, Lucerne was joined by fellow conservative Catholic cantons Fribourg, Valais, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Zug in a civil war against the fifteen more liberal cantons (including fellow Catholic cantons Ticino and Solothurn), who were seeking to bring the Confederation closer together. Lasting barely three weeks, the Sonderbund War was quickly won by the Swiss Confederates (who excluded neutral Appenzell Innerrhoden and Neuchâtel, both of which were made to pay compensation to the wounded veterans, as punishment for their chickenshit approach).

By the time Luzern had surrendered on the 24th November, only 86 of the 180,000 combatants had been killed (60 Swiss Confederates and 26 Catholic Sonderbund), thanks largely to the reluctance of the commanders from both sides of being sent into battle against their fellow countrymen. This stance is best remembered for the charm offensive played by Confederate Commander Henri Dufour, who, as well as refusing to equip his troops with more powerful rockets, to “avoid as far as possible to give this war a violent character which cannot but harm our cause”, also passed some battle plans along to the Catholics to avoid needless bloodshed.

Perhaps the World would be a much safer place today, had George W. Bush taken the same approach in his battle for hearts and minds.

The Battle at Gisikon, just outside of Luzern, was the most bloody, with 37 dead and over 100 wounded. It was the first battle in military history in which horse drawn ambulances were employed, with nurses from Zurich treating both sets of wounded on the battlefield. Such humanitarian actions led to the creation of the Red Cross by Swiss businessman Jean-Henri Dunant in 1859, of which Dufour would be one of the original “Committee of the Five” members.

Excluding the time in 2012 when a Swiss Guard accidentally cut himself with his own halberd whilst tying his shoelace outside the Vatican, and another, in May 2014, whilst holidaying in Barcelona with his family, had his Victorinox Swiss Army Knife stolen on La Rambla, Gisikon remains, to this day, the last battle in the history of the Swiss military. The victory of the Confederates basically went on to shape Switzerland into the country we know and love today.

Anyway, I’ve digressed by ten years; let’s return to Luzern in 1837…

 

It is not a place of any considerable trade or manufactures, but their absence is more than compensated by the beautiful scenery in which it is situated on the borders of the finest and most interesting of the Swiss lakes, between the giant Pilatus and Righi, and in sight of the snowy Alps of Schwytz and Engelberg.

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Indeed, it is this location that still makes Luzern Switzerland’s most popular tourist destination and a description in Woldemar Raden’s incredible tome, “Switzerland It’s Mountains And Valleys”, published forty years after Murray’s Handbook, even takes pity on it, for its lack of masculine manufacture:

“Lucerne, has no trade, and her chief occupation consists in managing her hotels and attending to her summer visitors – not a very arduous one, it must be confessed; but this is no discredit to her, being merely a natural result of her past history, which has at times led her through dark paths under the guidance of aliens, and those who were enemies of the fatherland. But no doubt in time Lucerne will develop her many resources and become all that she ought to be.”

Between the guidance of the strict Catholic Church, the liberal Protestant-leaning Diet, and now “aliens”, you could forgive the people of Luzern for being a petrified bunch who spent their days looking up at the sky waiting to be struck down or beamed up at any minute, dare they step out of line.

 

The town is still surrounded by a very picturesque circle of feudal watch-towers, and is walled in on the land side;

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This description still applies 180 years later and the Museggmauer wall, originally built in 1386, is still almost entirely intact.

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There are nine towers, all still in use, with the Männliturm (Little Man Tower), the Wachturm (Watch Tower), Zytturm (Time Tower) and Schirmerturm, all open to the public.

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The Zytturm houses the oldest clock in the city, built in 1535, and, because of its grand old status, chimes, every hour, one minute ahead of all the other clocks in the city.

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but its chief peculiarity is the number and length of its bridges.

In this day and age, the advancements in engineering allow bridges to be built almost anywhere, but back in Murray’s time, the four bridges over the Reuss were as famed for their number as they are today for their beauty.

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The lowest, or Millbridge, is hung with paintings of the Dance of Death;

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At the foot of the old city wall is the Spreuerbrücke, dating back to the 13th Century and connecting the mill on the right bank to that in the middle of the river. Today it acts as a footbridge from Mühlenplatz to the Baseltor gate with its Natur-Museum and Historisches Museum.

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45 of the original 67 painted wooden panels, dating back to 1616, still hang proudly in the wooden roof of the bridge.  It is said that this was the most famous “Dance of Death” fresco in the world at the time, largely inspired by Hans Holbein the Younger’s famous wood cuttings in Basel, almost 100 years earlier.

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Depicting the dead as skeletons, summoning people from all walks of life to dance along to their grave, the “Danse Macabre” first appeared in Paris in 1424 and has gone on to inspire various artists, together with famous pieces from the world’s greatest composers; Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saëns, Gustav Mahler, Benjamin Britten, and Bruce Dickinson.

A historic wooden Nadelwehr (needle dam), which controls the level of the lake, runs alongside the bridge.

 

The second, or Reussbrücke, is the only one uncovered and passable for carriages;

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Just a few dance steps along the river from Spreuerbrücke, the metal Reussbrücke links Krongasse with Kramgasse on both sides of the Old Town, with a fine view obtained from the various benches placed along it.

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A plaque on the wall of the adjoining Koch bakery says that the beautiful Sonnenberg House im Zöpfli was acquired by Marshal Jacob Anton Thüring von Sonnenberg in 1787 for his son Alfonso, the spoilt Koch!

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Ignoring the pretty Rathaussteg footbridge, which was introduced long after Murray’s visit, the next bridge is amongst the most famous in the world:

The upper, or Capel-brücke runs in a slanting direction across the mouth of the Reuss, whose clear and pellucid sea-green waters may here be surveyed to great advantage, as they rush beneath it with the swiftness of a mountain-torrent.

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Flowing out of the lake at great speed (more noticeable at the Spreuerbrücke), the water remains just as “clear and pellucid” as it passes under Kapellbrücke, the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe, which was built in 1333.

Against the timbers supporting the roof of this bridge is 77 pictures;

There were actually 110 triangular pictures in the roof of the bridge at the time of Murray’s visit, 48 less than previously displayed before the bridge was shortened from its original path (here) to the steps of the Jesuitenkirche in 1835, and 86 more than survived a devastating fire in 1993.

Started by a cigarette thrown into a boat moored underneath the bridge, and accelerated by spider webs, the fire engulfed the bridge not long after midnight on the 17th August 1993, destroying two thirds of its historic structure, including 86 of the original 17th Century paintings.

Incidentally, I had walked over the bridge the evening before, as a spotty 18 year old on a backpacking holiday around Europe. Being the days before mobile telephones and the Internet, the first I learned of the fire was on my weekly phone call home, via the payphone at a campsite which consumed Swiss Francs quicker than a FIFA delegate; my parents having read about it in the English newspapers shortly before my postcard with its picture had arrived.

Today, the bridge has been rebuilt with 30 of the 47 recovered pictures restored. The 25 removed paintings, from when the bridge was shortened in 1835, have been rehung in place of some of those lost and, despite 148 copies being made of the original pictures, a public referendum decided that only the originals be displayed, with the charred remains of those tragically lost kept in place, as a reminder of that awful night.

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Because of this recent fire, Murray’s description of the paintings is slightly outdated:

Those seen in crossing from the right to the left bank represent the life and acts of St.Leger and St.Maurice, Lucerne’s patron saints.

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Originally created in the 17th century by local painter Hans Heinrich Wägmann, the paintings were made to promote the Catholic church at a time when it was under attack from the Protestant Reformation.

Crossing from St. Peters-Kapelle and the Pickwick Pub to Luzern Theatre and the Jesuitenkirche, the life and veneration of the city’s two patron saints are depicted in all their glory.

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Leodegar of Poitiers – not to be confused with The St.Leger donkey race – was a Catholic priest from AD 650 who, in falling out with his arch enemy, Ebroin, the evil Frankish Mayor of Neustria, had his eyes gouged out, the sockets burnt with red hot irons, his lips chopped off and his tongue cut out, before being imprisoned in Normandy.

Still, it could have been worse; Normandy is a beautiful place to be imprisoned, especially in summer.

A few years later, following a false trial in which he presumably employed a lawyer to speak on his behalf, he was finally taken into a forest near Calais and murdered in a contract killing requested by Ebroin.

As well as being the patron saint of Luzern, a city he never visited, he is also the patron saint of eye troubles; something he was far more familiar with.

As for the other dude in the paintings, I tell the story of St.Maurice in Route 16, the obstinate Roman legion leader who ignored instructions to engage in wanton slaughter of fellow Christians and was decimated for his disobedience. Ironically, he is also the patron saint of gout, an equally excruciating form of torture, with which I am currently suffering as I write this from my sickbed, a packet of frozen peas wrapped around my ankle, as punishment for the 25 delicious cocktails I drank last night, whilst judging a cocktail competition.

I’m presuming, like Leodegar, Maurice too was canonised for martyrdom, rather than the incredible miracle of being able to change from a black African to a white European, some 1500 years after his death in the eyes of Catholic artists and sculptors.

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The subjects of those seen in the opposite direction as taken from Swiss history, and are not without some merits.

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The history of Luzern and the Swiss Confederation was shown in the paintings on the opposite side, from William Tell and his Golden Delicious, to Swiss mercenaries fighting for foreign money, and FIFA Presidents carrying sealed envelopes and suitcases of banknotes. Sadly, most of these were lost in the fire.

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Near the middle of the Capel-brücke, rising out of the water, stands a very picturesque watch-tower, called Wasserthurm, forming a link of the feudal fortifications of the town.

Predating the bridge by 30 years, the “Water Tower” has been used over the years as a prison, a torture chamber, a library and, today, is home to a tourist gift shop, flogging postcards, watches, cuckoo clocks, stuffed marmots and other clichéd tat, to the hordes of Chinese, Indians and Arabs, who have largely replaced the Brits, Americans, and Japanese, ever since the Swiss Franc became too strong for a fortnight’s vacation.

Apparently, an artillery association is based in the tower above but, given that the swans, ducks and seagulls appear unperturbed on the water below, they can’t be a very good shot.

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It is said to have once served as a light-house (Lucerna) to boats entering the Reuss, and hence some have derived the present name of Lucerne.

Murray’s 1837 version of false news?  Whilst it is true that “Lucerna” is also Latin for “lamp”, the area around the city was known as “Luciaria” when the Roman Empire fell, some 600 years prior to any sailors worrying about crashing into the bridge, but it’s a romantic snippet nonetheless.

Today, the Kapellbrücke may be one of the most photographed landmarks in Switzerland, however it’s crazy to think that, back in 1837, it would not have even been the most impressive bridge in Luzern.

That title was reserved for the now destroyed Hofbrücke, of which I can only rely on Murray’s description to understand the magnitude of its standing. I headed to the middle of the modern Seebrücke road bridge, built in 1870, long after Murray’s visit, and looked out over the lake to the spot where it would have crossed:

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The Hofbrücke, the longest of all the bridges, was originally 1380 feet long, but has lost 300 feet since 1835. It extends across the lake, within a few feet of the shore to the church of St. Leodegar, and the Convent and Court (Hof) of its former abbots.

Looking towards the famous Hotel Schweizerhof, on the left, it’s easy to picture where the bridge would have stood as the road, on the opposite side of the line of trees, takes exactly the same path, having replaced the bridge in 1852.

Taking 15 years to build, from 1352 to 1365, the Hofbrücke originally extended from where the Hotel Zum Rebstock now stands, at the foot of the Hofkirche steps, all the way to where the pedestrian crossing now sits outside the Restaurant Schwanen, an incredible 385 metres.

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Inspiring the Spreuerbrücke and, later, the Kapellbrücke, it was decorated with a series of 239 triangular wooden paintings, dating back to the mid 1500’s.

The paintings in its roof illustrate the Scripture.

“Lessons for every heart; a Bible for all eyes.”

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I love this sketching of the Hofbrücke from 1820, not least as it is a painting which required the artist, Johann Jakob Meyer, to paint six other paintings within it. It makes me wonder what he would have done had the style of these been completely different from that of his own.

Unlike the bridge itself, 113 of its triangular ceiling paintings have been preserved and stored in depots.

It commands a charming view of the lake, the Alps, the Righi, and the Pilatus.

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This view can now obviously be had from the quayside, which began to replace the remaining section of the bridge with the construction of the Hotel Schweizerhof in 1844. By 1852, the entire bridge had been demolished and superseded by the new quay, remaining, to this day, one of the most popular lakeside promenades in the whole of Switzerland.

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Near the middle of it is an index painted on a board, the diverging lines of which point to the different mountains and peaks visible from hence, each of which is named for the convenience of strangers.

At the same point on Schweizerhofquai now sits a graffitied “index painted on a board, the diverging lines of which” would, if you could make them out, “point to the different mountains and peaks visible from hence, each of which is” tagged by a selfish lowlife “for the” in“convenience of strangers.”

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By the time of Murray’s visit, the bridge had been shortened and redirected to end at Schwanenplatz, where the famous Bucherer store now stands.

 

A considerable portion of ground has been gained from the lake by curtailing this bridge, and throwing out a sort of quay; the new Inn of the Swan stands on this space.

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This is also the landing place of the steamboat.

Schifffahrtsgesellschaft des Vierwaldstättersees (thankfully abbreviated to SVG), first operated a steamboat on the lake in the very same year Murray visited (1837), and still sail from close to this landing place today.

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The oldest ship in their large fleet is the Paddle Ship Uri, which first set sail in 1901.

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The lakeside promenade takes the route of the Hofbrücke to the steps of the Hofkirche, with its iconic twin spires.

In churches and other public buildings Lucerne has no very prominent objects, though several which are highly pleasing as monuments of the progress of the nation, and of its manners and customs, exist.

Bloody Hell, it takes a lot to impress Murray!

Whilst he doesn’t namecheck them, I presume he was referring to the baroque Jesuitenkirche St. Franz Xaver, down by the Kapellbrücke, dating back to 1633, and the 16th Century St. Peters-Kapelle, at the opposite side of the bridge.

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He does, however, find time for the important Hofkirche St. Leodegar.

The church of St.Leger, Hof-, or Stifts-kirche, is a modern building, except the two towers, which date from 1506.

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When he says “modern building”, Murray means 1638, just a mere 200 years prior to his visit.  The reason the towers outdate the main building can be blamed on the Book of Genesis:

Genesis 1:21: “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…

“Except when it is constantly shitting on your roof. Then it is bad.”

And so it was, on Easter Sunday, 1633, a Rentokil pest control officer, tasked with shooting jackdaws that had nested in the church roof – a task surely approved by God – accidentally burnt down the 9th Century complex when his shot sparked a fire in the dry wooden roof.

Murray doesn’t go into much further detail about the impressive church, which is ornately decorated with various statues and images of the city’s two patron saints, Leodegar (the disfigured priest) and Mauritius (the Roman legion leader).

The church was actually built on the spot of an old monastery dedicated to St.Mauritius, which had been donated in AD 735 by the cartoon pig, Pepin The Short, King Of The Franks (Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Stapleton, Frank Sidebottom, Frankenstein, Anne Frank, French Franc, and Swiss Franc).

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Following a series of leveraged buyouts, it finally fell into the hands of Alsace-based multinational church operator, Abbaye de Murbach SARL, who introduced their own patron saint, St. Leodegar, to the franchise.

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Maurice is depicted in all his military clobber, throughout the rich decorations, whilst Leo still has both his eyes intact, although for some sick reason, like all those around him, he seems to be brandishing a drill.  Two huge wooden carvings appear of both on each of the impressive doors, which opened automatically as I approached.

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At first I thought this was some kind of miracle – although, with two patron saints to choose from, I couldn’t be sure which to attribute it to. Maybe there was a God after all, and this was his way of beckoning me into his inner sanctum to repent my sins (although with five minutes to the church closing time, he was pushing it fine).

Sadly it turned out to be just an electric motor with a sensor but I was happy to see that whilst the church could no longer cure lepers and invalids, they were at least making prayer wheelchair friendly, especially given all that St.Leo had gone through to get his sainthood.

The adjoining churchyard is filled with quaint old monuments, and the view from the cloister windows is fine, but similar to that of the bridge.

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Whilst the “quaint old monuments” remain, “the view from the cloister windows” has largely been blocked by the backs of the tall modern buildings that have been erected between the church and the lake. 

 

The Arsenal, near the gate leading to Berne, is one of those venerable repositories common to the chief towns of all the cantons, in which are deposited the muskets, artillery &c., for arming their contingent of troops.

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Built in 1568 for weapons, grain and salt storage, the Alte Zeughaus served as the canton arsenal until as recently as 1983, before making way for the Historische Museum Luzern, a theatrical museum with actors celebrating the history, culture and folklore from the canton. In truth it’s just a warehouse full of the most random objects you can think of. Like a random search on eBay for “antique” and sort by “Highest Price First” – which incidentally, throws up more than a few items at over $20,000,000 which I’m sure the Historische Museum Luzern currently have saved on their Watch List.

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It contains some rusty suits of ancient armour and several historical relics and trophies of Swiss valour, such as the yellow Austrian banner, and many pensions of knights and nobles taken at the battle of Sempach; the coat of mail stripped from the body of Duke Leopold of Austria, who fell there; the iron cravat, lined with sharp spikes, destined for the neck of Gundeldingen, the Schultheiss and general of the men of Lucerne, who died in the hour of victory.

Amongst numerous weapons and uniforms from the 13th century, many of the items viewed by Murray in 1837 are still on display amongst the 3,000 objects from the museum’s 20,000 piece collection, including the metal shirt of Duke Leopold III of Habsburg and one of the most important flag collections in Switzerland.

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There’s numerous examples of “the iron cravat, lined with sharp spikes” used as a painful method of shame for petty criminals, although there’s no mention of Schultheiss Gundi.

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Also seemingly missing, or correctly relabelled since Murray pointed out their dodgy description…

A sword of William Tell, and a battle-axe, borne by Ulric Zwingli, at the battle of Cappel  (Route 16), are of very doubtful authenticity: though the malice of the enemies of Zwingli may have led to the assertion that he took active part in the fight, it is believed that he assisted his countrymen merely with exhortations and consolations of religion.

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Likewise, gone, are..

Several Turkish standards deposited here were captured at the battle of Lepanto, by a knight of Malta, who was a native of Lucerne.

Instead the museum is celebrated for its large collection of captured flags from the 10.000 strong Milanese army, defeated by just 600 Swiss, 100 years earlier at the Battle of Giornico in 1478.

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My favourite item though was a bicycle, dating back to 1935. It was supposedly ridden from Schwyz, over the Furka Pass, to Zermatt in one day, a distance of some 175km over some of the toughest mountain climbs in the country, where its owner then climbed the Matterhorn and rode home again. An impressive feat, if true, even by today’s standards although I approached the tale with as much scepticism as Murray had for some of the other exhibits.

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The Stadt Haus, on the right bank of the Reuss, a little below the Capel-brücke,  is the place of meeting of the Diet, whose sittings are open to the public. The Council Of the canton also assembles in it.

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A new bridge crosses the river to the beautiful Altes Luzerner Rathaus, with its medieval tower. Built in the style of the early Florentine Renaissance, it is still used today by the city council, whilst its riverside arches house a brewery. Various objects from the old town hall, including fourteen Christoph Murer glass-plated windows, dating back to its opening in 1606, can be found over at the Historische Museum Luzern.

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General Pfyffer’s model (in relief) of a part of Switzerland may interest those who desire to trace on it their past or future wanderings; but it is not so extensive nor so well made as that at Zurich; besides which 1 fr. 50 c. is demanded for admission – decidedly more than it is worth.

I adore Murray’s grumpy honesty and I wondered how many Victorian travellers, also following his Handbook, actually thought, like me, “fuck it, he’s been wrong on everything else he’s slagged off!”, and still paid the entry fee regardless.

Although, I must admit, at CHF 15 entrance fee to the Gletschergarten Luzern, where it is now stored, I too balked at whether entry would be “decidedly more than it is worth.”

Next to the Lion Monument, The Glacier Garden was opened in 1873, some 35 years after Murray called by, when Josef Wilhelm Amrein-Troller stumbled upon a 20 million year old glacier in his wine cellar.

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The huge “model (in relief)” can now be found in what the cellar of the rather big house Joe was able to build as a result of the garden’s popularity. Pre-dating the invention of the train, let alone model railway sets, it was created by General Franz Ludwig Pfyffer, who obviously had far too much time on his hands between 1749 and 1786.

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It’s the oldest mountain relief in the world, and remains an incredibly impressive piece of cartography almost 270 years later.

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I tried to head to Murray’s next destination but got lost somewhere within the Mirror Maze, built in 1898 in the style of Granada’s Alhambra.  It took me around four hours to get out of that thing, and only then, after leaving breadcrumbs to help me. I think I actually passed through Granada at one point.

 

The Gothic Fountains which are to be observed in all parts of Switzerland are here of singular beauty and originality.  

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Apparently, there’s around 225 fountains in Luzern however the best example of one that prefers apocalyptic punk music, is probably the beautiful Neptunbrunnen at Mühleplatz.

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The fountain at Weinmarkt is said to be oldest, and possibly dates back to 1332, although nobody knows for sure. Obviously with “the number and length of its bridges” the residents of Luzern were too pre-occupied to notice, and by the time they came to document it, there was confusion as to whence it first appeared.

“Hey, does anybody know when this fountain was erected?”

“I’m not sure Johann. It wasn’t there this morning.”  

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At Meyer’s shop, near the Swan, books, prints, panoramas, and maps, relating to Switzerland, may be had in great profusion.

Given the size and weight of books back then, not least his own published “Handbook”, and that travelling in 1837 would have been hard work, involving poor road conditions and limited space for carrying possessions, usually in non-waterproof canvas cloth bags; I doubt that many of Murray’s readers would have stocked up their reading material in “great profusion”.

I’ve not been able to locate Meyer’s shop, however the area is now surrounded by large stores packed with more expensive gifts (and hordes of frivolous Chinese tourists with an apparently generous baggage allowance), where “Rolexes, Rados, Breitlings, and Omegas, all made in Switzerland, may be had in great profusion.”

 

One of the most interesting of the sights of Lucerne is, without doubt, the Monument to the memory of the Swiss Guards, who fell while defending the Royal Family of France in the bloody massacre of the French Revolution, August 10, 1792. It is situated in the garden of General. Pfyffer, about half a mile outside the Weggis gate.

Even today, photographs fail to do justice to the scale of the Löwendenkmal, and you can only imagine the reaction of readers to Murray’s guide when they set their eyes on the colossal monument for the first time, most of which would have only had his description to help form their preconceptions.

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The design is by Thorwaldsen, executed by Ahorn, a sculptor of Constance.

I’m not sure how Ahorn executed Thorwaldsen, however I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if it was by a hammer blow to the back of his head or a chisel through the heart of the Dane.

It represents a lion, of colossal size, wounded to death, with a spear sticking in his side, yet endeavouring in his last gasp to protect from injury a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the Bourbon, which he holds in his paws.

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The figure, hewn out of the living sand-stone rock, is 28 feet long, and 18 high, and it’s execution merits very great praise.

The amplitude and level of greatness of this statue – and anything else for that matter – can be grasped just by the simple fact that even the consistently miserly Murray describes it as meriting “very great praise”.

Beneath it are carved the names of the soldiers and officers who fell in defending the Tuileries Aug 10, 1792. The loyalty and fidelity of this brave bunch, who thus sacrificed their lives for their adopted sovereign, almost makes us forget that they were mercenaries, especially standing forward, as they did, as the protectors of Louis and his family, at a moment when deserted, or attacked, by his own natural subjects.

Perhaps this is the most famous reminder that, throughout history, the Swiss have been more than happy to fight other people’s battles, provided the money was right, and their bought loyalty, steadfast bravery, and diligence to the job, was far stronger than the patriotism shown by their adopted comrades.

What some would call bravery, others would call stupidity, and it is perhaps the realisation that you can still earn money in times of conflict, by not actually participating, that has lead them to being the oldest neutral country in the world (1815) and a nation of bankers.

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During the French Revolution of 1789, Louis XVI and his family were forced to leave Versailles and were kept under surveillance at the Palais des Tuileries in Paris, which was next to the Louvre.

Not long after the king had finished eating his cornflakes on August 10th 1792, the Republican National Guard, together with revolutionaries from Marseille and Brittany stormed the palace, which was being guarded by 950 veteran Swiss mercenaries, 930 gendarmes, 2000 royalist national guards, 200–300 Chevaliers de Saint Louis, and other royalist volunteers.

With Louis fleeing bloodshed through the palace gardens, his national guards leaving with him for protection, there was little incentive left to protect the palace.  The gendarmerie deserted their posts, crying “Vive la nation!”, with many other guards deciding to join their Republican counterparts, who were advanced by a mob of men, women, and children, all armed with gardening tools and kitchen utensils.

As the 20,000 strong Marseillais stormed the building, all the remaining French loyalists surrendered or switched allegiance, leaving just the Swiss Guards to defend the Palace from the inside.

“Surrender to the Nation!”, shouted Republican General François Joseph Westermann in German.

“We should think ourselves dishonored!” came the somewhat stupid reply, “We are Swiss, the Swiss do not part with their arms but with their lives. We think that we do not merit such an insult. If the regiment is no longer wanted, let it be legally discharged. But we will not leave our post, nor will we let our arms be taken from us.”

A 45 minute stand-off ensued, during which the Swiss threw down some of their cartridges as a token of peace, the French urging them to surrender. Then all hell broke lose.

Firing from above, the Swiss repelled the insurgents, killing up to 400, including hairdressers, laundry-men, tailors, hatters, shoemakers, painters and decorators, harness-makers, carpenters, joiners, locksmiths, domestic servants, artisanal toothpick makers and IT support analysts.

Following such an unjust ambush, the French, including many of the surrendered royalists, quickly developed a violent hatred towards the Swiss and returned in greater numbers.

Louis, hearing the gunshots from where he was hiding at the bottom of the garden, instructed the Swiss via Whatsapp to lay down their arms and retire to their barracks, an order they ignored, knowing to do so, would mean certain death.

It wasn’t long though before they ran out of ammunition and those Swiss Guards unable to escape through the back garden of the Palace, were carried off to the Town Hall, and put to death beneath the statue of Louis XIV.

Of the nine hundred, six hundred were killed in battle or massacred after surrendering. Two hundred more died in prison or during the September Massacres that followed. The monarchy collapsed and France became a Republic. Six years later, Switzerland was under the rule of Napoleon.

There is a quiet solitude and shade about the spot which is particularly pleasing and refreshing.The rocks around are mantled with fern and creepers, forming a natural frame-work to the monument; and a streamlet of clear water, trickling down from the top of the rock, is received into a basin-shaped hollow below it, forming a mirror in which the sculpture is reflected.

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Mark Twain describes this spot best in my favourite book, “A Tramp Abroad”, 1880:

“Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.”

One of the very few survivors of the Swiss Guard, dressed in its red uniform,  now rusty and patched, resides in a cottage hard by, as a guardian of the monument and cicerone to the stranger.

Apart from about a hundred Swiss, who avoided capture and execution by escaping through the Verbena and the Laurels in the back garden of the Tuileries, the only survivors of the regiment were 300 lucky troops who had been sent to Normandy to escort a grain convoy a few days before the 10th August.

The cottage, occupied by one of the survivors, still stands proud, next to the monument, within the Gletschergarten.

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The cloth for the altar of the little chapel adjoining was embroidered expressly for it by the Duchess d’Angoulême.

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The tiny chapel at the entrance to the park goes unnoticed by the hordes of tourists.  Well, I say unnoticed.  The attention I was showing to it, in research for this book, seemed to be a magnet to a crowd of Chinese tourists, who each took it in turns to copy my attempts at taking a photograph of the altar through the locked door’s window, presumably clueless to the fact that it (once?) boasted the needlework of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s daughter.

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There are many pretty walks and points of view near Lucerne; one of the best is the villa called Allenwinden, perched on the top of a hill outside the Weggis gate, from which it may be reached in a walk of 15 minutes, by a path winding up the hill outside the town walls.

The Weggistor was demolished in 1860 and the villa on Allenwindenstrasse is now privately owned and not accessible, however for “one of the best”, possibly better views (I guess I’ll never know), the nearby Schirmerstrasse overlooks the city walls and tower.

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Gibraltar – a height on the opposite side of the Reuss, outside the Basle gate,  also commands a fine prospect.

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Whilst it offers one of the best views in the entire city, Villa Gibraltar is also privately owned and is only accessible as far as the footpath leading past its gate.

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That said, the more impressive Schlössli Schönegg, also on Gibraltarain, “also commands a fine prospect” and is more accessible.

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It seems somewhat appropriate that I used Google Maps to locate this 1893 Belle Epoque castle, as, since operating as a hotel until 1918. and a private school until 1971, it became an asylum centre in the 80’s, was taken over by squatters in the 1990’s and eventually was bought in 1998 by Endoxon (now Axon), the Luzern company which designed the software behind Google Maps.

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Mount Righi, so celebrated for its panoramic view, is about 10 miles from Lucerne (I.e. the base of the mountain). To reach the summit will occupy at least 6 hours, exclusive of stoppages, from Lucerne. The number of hours will be lessened by taking advantage of the new steamer to Weggis.

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I describe the ascent of the Righi in Route 17, however most people climbing the mountain from their base in Luzern nowadays, will take the 45 minute boat ride to Weggis or Vitznau first, or the 30 minute train journey to Arth-Goldau, and catch the incredible Rigi Bahn cog railway to the summit, rather than hike the 6 hours each way. Introduced in 1870, this was an incredible piece of engineering for its time, and with gradients of 25%, still remains impressive today.

So that travellers will regulate their departure accordingly, remembering that it is of much consequence to arrive at the top before sunset. There are several ways to it, by land, to Kussnacht and Arth; or by water to Küssnacht and Weggis (See Route 17).

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Murray’s Top Tip still applies today and, from the city centre, you can reach Kussnacht, a 4 hour steep hike to the summit, in an hour by boat from Luzern, or just 20 minutes by train. A cable car is also available at Kussnacht to Seebodenalp, just an hour and a half walk from the top.

Arth-Goldau, 30 minutes train ride from Luzern, offers the most popular ascent, 4 hours hike on the 63 Hiking Path), or 45 minutes on the mountain railway,

Weggis is my favourite route, 45 minutes train or boat ride from Luzern and a wonderful 5 hour hike up the Mark Twain Trail, which traces the interesting path he hilariously describes in my favourite book, “A Tramp Abroad” . There’s also a cable car from here to Rigi Kaltbad, an hour or so’s walk from the top.

For many though, Vitznau is where they would depart the boat. An hour’s sailing or train journey from Luzern, where you can then join the mountain railway to the top of Rigi Kulm in just 30 minutes.

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What is important to remember at this stage, is that “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838” completely changed travel guidebooks forever. Rather than just being a collection of historical, geographical and, especially for the time, geological notes about the places featured, like all previous guides, usually released as large multi-volume books, it also included practical information for the traveller to follow, alongside Murray’s own recommendations and musings.

No one should leave Lucerne without exploring the beauties of its lake – so called in German Vierwaldstàdter See – the grandest in Europe, in point of scenery, particularly the farther end of it, called the bay of Uri ; and much additional pleasure will be derived if the traveller who understands German will take Schiller’s “Wilhelm Tell” as a pocket companion, in which admirable poem so many of the scenes are localized (Route 18).

As Murray says, details of the lake can be found in Route 18, as I followed his recommendation and made the hard effort of cycling around it before relaxing with a drink in hand and sailing upon it.

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Those who intend to explore the lake, and visit the Righi, and to return afterwards to Lucerne, should combine the two expeditions, which may be effected in two days, thus go by land to Arth, or by water to Weggis, descending next day on the opposite side, and embarking on the lake, either at Weggis or Brunner.  Sail up the bay of Uri, at least as far as Tell’s Chapel, and return by water to Lucerne the 2nd evening.

Nowadays, you can follow this tip in a day, especially if you use the cog railways, cable cars, trains, buses and boats.

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To avoid being in a mad rush for the last connection home, it is better to spend two and a half hours on the early morning ship to Tellsplatte (“Tell’s Chapel” ) and from there make your way to the foot of the Rigi at Vitznau or Weggis by lake or land. You can catch the train or cable car up the mountain to make up lost time, and jump on the train down the opposite side of the mountain to Arth-Goldau, where trains run late back to Luzern.

It is also possible to start the climb by heading to Arth-Goldau instead, just as long as you are fast enough to catch the last ship onwards at the other side of the mountain.

 

A steamer was launched upon the lake of Lucerne in 1837. It plies regularly between Lucerne and Fluellen, calling at the intermediate places . Further particulars respecting it, and the hire of boats, which may be found in abundance on the shore opposite the Swan inn are given in Route 18.

The steamers had taken to the water the same year Murray visited and today takes just under 3 hours to reach Flüelen. Once a week, in the Autumn, all five paddle steamers gather for a ballet display of nautical formations and choreographed sailing.

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The stunning Luzern station, opened on the edge of the lake in 1856 is now one of the busiest in Switzerland and acts as the main hub of the city, linking to most of Switzerland. Twenty years before it opened, when Murray visited, this was certainly not the case:

Diligences go daily from Lucerne to Aarau; Bàle; Berne, by Summiswald; Berne, by Entlibuch; Soleure; Zug and Zurich; 4 times a week to Schwytz, by Kussnacht and Arth.

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Can you imagine running to catch the diligence to Schwyz and missing it by a matter of seconds, having to then wait a further 2 days until the next one turns up?  Perhaps this is where the Swiss get their punctual timekeeping from.

Amongst many other destinations, frequent trains now go direct to Schwyz in 40 minutes and it takes barely an hour to Basel, Bern, Zug, Zürich, and Olten (where you can change for Aarau and Solothurn).

I always imagine what it would be like to time travel and approach the queue of people waiting at the diligence stop in 1837 and say to them, “Come here chaps, bring your luggage, I will transport you to Soleure in 1 hour and 2 minutes” and then watch their faces at the wonder of the modern train. That said, they would probably be more taken aback by the fact somebody had invented time travel and would no doubt question why I hadn’t used that to transport them to Solothurn instead of an hour’s train journey involving a platform change in Olten.

 

Mount Pilate is sometimes ascended from Lucerne, but the journey is difficult, occupying 6 ½ hours; the greater part must be performed on foot, and the view from the top is decidely inferior to that of the Righi.

I’m not sure if Murray was trying to put his readers off making this ascent, however, today, many tourists to Luzern make the “Goldene Rundfahrt” (Golden Round Trip), taking a steamboat to Alpnachstad and climbing to the summit on the steepest cog railway in the world, which opened in 1899, before coming down the opposite side on the cable car, and taking a bus back to Lucerne from Kriens.

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As Murray’s notes were written fifty years previous, such an easy journey to the top was sadly out of the question for me, so I set off on the incredibly “difficult” journey by bike instead, described in Route 16.

 

 


LUZERN ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS:

 Inns: Schwan –  a new house, in the best situation, and good; in 1837 complaints were made that it was dear

Restaurant Schwanen above the Perosa store on Schwanenplatz, overlooks the lake with its Cafe de Ville offering terrace seating outside and a menu that, whilst good, in 2015 complaints could still be made that it is dear. They don’t offer hotel rooms.

[CLICK HERE FOR MENU]

Balances (Waage) – an old-established house, good, clean, and moderate charges. The four daughters of the late host take the management of the establishment, and the traveller will find in it extreme civility and most excellent attendance.

The chic 4 Star gourmet Hotel de Balances on Weinmarkt dates back to 1807 as “Wirtshaus zur Waage”, and was actually refurbished and renamed in 1837, the year Murray visited; going on to host the likes of famous Irish poet George Bernard Shaw, Princess Louise of Baden and, on numerous occasions, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. The restaurant boasts 14 Gault Millau points and is reasonably priced (5 courses for CHF 105, or 3 course lunch for CHF 45), although the rooms are no longer moderately charged, starting at CHF150.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]  [CLICK HERE FOR MENU]

Rossli (Cheval)

The former grand Hotel Rossli is now a Co-op supermarket on the corner of Mühlenplatz and Rössligasse. It boasts a restaurant.

Whilst not exactly the same, you can still stay at a Guest House Roesli, at Pfistergasse 12, with rooms starting at CHF 80. Belonging to the Baslertor Hotel, you can use their summer pool too.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

There is a good pension overlooking the lake close to the Kapel Brücke

Nowadays, the best fit for this is the popular English pub Hotel Pickwick, where I’m sure Murray would have gone to watch Preston North End beat Notts County to be crowned Champions of the first ever Football League, had he not arrived exactly 50 years too early and exactly 100 years before the first televised game.  Unlike the beer, rooms are reasonably priced from CHF 90.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

Alternatively, the excellent boutique Hotel des Alpes next door also fits the bill and offers a terrace restaurant too, serving regional dishes (3 courses from CHF 30). Rooms start at CHF 135.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]


[FOR A MAP OF ALL THE PLACES VISITED ON THIS ROUTE, CLICK HERE]


Route 16 ~ Zurich – Luzern via Albispass

Route 16 ~ Mount Pilatus >

~ All routes ~  Introduction ~

Route 16 ~ Zurich to Lucerne, over the Albis (by the High Albis)

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10 stunden = 32 ¾ English miles.
A diligence daily in 7 hours.

Or, today, 3 ½ hours by bicycle and less than an hour by train, which goes through the mountain, rather than over it.

The high chain of the Albis intervenes between Zurich and Lucerne, running nearly parallel with the Lake of Zurich.  Two roads are carried across it.

Having already cycled over the first, easier “Low Albis” road on Route 16, this time I’d tackle Murray’s preferred route, and possibly the only one he travelled, by following his notes for the second route over the mountain.

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The second route crosses the High Albis, and in its present (1837) state is dangerous for a heavy carriage, and not fit for any vehicle but a char of the country. It is exceedingly steep, and resembles the bed of a torrent rather than a road.

Indeed, avoiding the traffic on the car road, I took the adjacent footpath over the pass itself, which would have been the original road Murray refers to in 1837, that, instead of following the zig zagging traffic, takes an “exceedingly steep” more direct route up the mountain.

This line of route, however is remarkable for the very beautiful view of the chain of the Alps, and a large part of Switzerland, which is seen from its summit.

Given that the view from the top of the Uetliberg, on the lower route, gave extensive views of Lake Zurich, I was intrigued to see how “remarkable” this panorama would actually be, with the road crossing the Albis 10km further down the lake.

It skirts the shore of the lake as far as Adliswyl, where it crosses the river Sihl, and ascends to the Albis Wirthshaus, or Inn of the Albis, which affords only moderate fare of accommodation, but a magnificent prospect.


RESTAURANTS AT ALBISPASS (16km or 26km):

Today, you can only enjoy food and drink at the Albishaus, which uses local ingredients from neighbouring Langnau am Albis, with dishes starting at CHF 10.50. No ascent of the Albispass is complete without making the additional effort to climb the extra 600m up to the historic restaurant, where you can enjoy the “magnificent” view over a rewarding drink. [menu].


The grandest feature, however, of the view is the snowy chain of the Alps, from the Sentis to the Jungfrau, which fills up the horizon.

Aussichtsplattform

Photo: Tschubby Wikipedia

The panoramic view from  the Albis has been engraved by Keller.

Whilst his work is no longer on display at the watch tower, like much of the Murray’s notes, Heinrich Keller’s information map was also mentioned by Ebel in his 1820 guide. Keller’s many etchings of the Albis and its various views still change hands for hundreds of Francs today, like this one “Der Zugersee vom Albis”:

keller

Back on the road once more…

Bullinger explains:

“Above all there was tremendous joy when Zwingli’s body was found among the dead. All the morning, crowds came up, everyone wanting to see Zwingli. The vituperation and insults hurled against him by many jealous people are beyond description.”

“Vituperation”: now there’s a word that I vow to use more regularly. I wonder in which “German : English Dictionary” the translator found that back in 1531.

“Later that day, a crowd of wild young men collected, including pensioners and mercenaries, whom Zwingli had vigorously attacked and who were equally incensed against him. They considered dividing Zwingli’s body into five parts, sending one portion to each of the Five States. Others disagreed: who would want to carry round or send forward a heretic? He should be burnt. Some of the leaders, like Schultheiss Golder and Amman Doos, came forward, saying that a dead man should be left in peace. This was not the place for action of this sort.”

Amman Doos not.

“No one could tell how it was going to be settled—some talked about the need for luck, and so on. To this the noisy gang replied that they had discussed the matter fully and they wanted some action to be taken. So injustice triumphed, and when the leaders saw that there was nothing to be done they went off.

“The crowd then spread it abroad throughout the camp that anyone who wanted to denounce Zwingli as a heretic and betrayer of a pious confederation, should come on to the battlefield. There, with great contempt, they set up a court of injustice on Zwingli which decided that his body should be quartered and the portions burnt. All this was carried into effect by the executioner from Lucerne with abundance of abuse; among other things he said that although some had asserted that Zwingli was a sick man he had in fact never seen a more healthy-looking body.”

Probably because he’d given up eating Communion bread.

“They threw into the fire the entrails of some pigs that had been slaughtered the previous night and then they turned over the embers so that the pigs offal was mixed with Zwingli’s ashes.”

News of his death lead to celebrations amongst Catholics and other religious leaders and theologians.  Luther Tweeted, “Oh, what a triumph this is, that they have perished. How well God knows his business.”, whilst Erasmus updated his Facebook status to say, “We are freed from great fear by the death of the two preachers, Zwingli and Oecolampadius, whose fate has wrought an incredible change in the mind of many. This is the wonderful hand of God on high.” 

“I admire your courage, Miss errr?”
“Trench… Sylvia Trench…. I admire your luck, Mr?”
“Oecolampadius… John Oecolampadius.”

Goethe, meanwhile, without any further comment, choose only to share a Youtube clip of a parrot dancing to “Another One Bites the Dust” [here]. It remained the most watched video on the platform until the release of “Gangnam Style” many years later.

This being religion though, it was important that Make Believe be used to recruit more gullible pagans, and an alternative account to Bullinger’s seemingly reliable eyewitness account, came this one from fellow Zwinglian, Oswald Myconius, who also claimed to have been there:

“Three times Zwingli was thrown to the ground by the advancing forces but in each case he stood up again. On the fourth occasion a spear reached his chin and he fell to his knees saying, “They can kill the body but not the soul.” And after these words, he fell asleep in the Lord. After the battle, when our forces had withdrawn to a stronger position, the enemy had time to look for Zwingli’s body, both his presence and his death having been quickly reported. He was found judgment was passed on him, his body was quartered and burnt to ashes. Three days after the foes had gone away Zwingli’s friends came to see if any trace of him was left, and what a miracle! In the midst of the ashes lay his heart whole and undamaged.”

Arise Saint Ulrich!

The spot where he fell is marked by a tree, about 5 minutes walk from the church.

The tree, and a monument to Zwingli and his men, still stands proud in the field by the left hand side of the road, on the hill that leads down to the village and medieval church.

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The plaque reading, “Love can kill them, but not the soul, so spoke at this place, Ulrich Zwingli, for truth and freedom of the Christian Church, dying 11th October 1531”.

The Gothic church of Cappel, anciently attached to a convent suppressed soon after the commencement of the Reformation, was built in 1280.

Just down the hill from the battleground is the church, whilst impressive in size is largely bare inside.

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The road opposite the church leads to the pretty village of Rifferswil, and back onto Murray’s original Route.

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With impressive views of the Alps, it drops down to meet the alternative road over the Albis at Mettmenstetten.

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before heading to Knonau, where we rejoin Murray’s notes from the aforementioned route.

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I’ve added a few different photos for those of you who may have already read my musings on these places in Route 16.

There is an inn at the castle. At this place the two roads unite.

Dating back to 1525 as the seat of the Landvogts, Schloss Knonau became the council’s offices in 1816 before being sold to the village President in 1832, who presumably was involved in both the selling and buying transactions. The castle remained in the hands of his family until 1900, and they ran both the post office and Goldener Löwen guest house from the building until 1887, possibly serving John Murray a nice cold beer and stamping his postcards when he passed by.

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In 1926, a doctor bought the entire castle and set up a private mental hospital and in 1998 it was bought by its current owner who converted it to private accommodation, with various rich (foreign) families living in the surrounding buildings.

The road from Knonau to Lucerne proceeds by Rümeltiken and St Wolfgang – where a good carriage-road turns off on the left to Zug and The Righi .

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It’s a beautiful road through open farmland to “Rümeltiken” (Rumentikon Hagendorn), via Niederwil with its Kirche St. Mauritius, dating back to 1510 but rebuilt only ten years after Murray’s visit. The church is idyllically located in the centre of the tiny farming village, with its red, domed baroque tower roof standing out amongst the surrounding old wooden buildings.

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St. Mauritius was a proper Swiss saint. Well, a proper Swiss saint who was born in ancient Egypt and was a soldier in the Roman army before eventually becoming leader of the 6,600 strong Theban legion, dispatched with orders to clear the St.Bernard Pass across Mont Blanc.

Despite offering his military allegiance to Rome, as a Christian, he refused to engage in wanton slaughter and that service to God superseded all else, including his Emperor, Maximian, and the Roman gods, whom he also refused to worship.

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When Max ordered the Theban Legion to harass some local Christians, they refused. As punishment, the Roman Emperor ordered that every tenth soldier be killed, a military punishment known as decimation and possibly the scariest lottery you could ever buy a ticket for.

As Maurice and his men grew more obstinate, refusing further instructions from Rome, a second decimation was arranged before Maximian grew so impatient he ordered all the remaining members of the 6,600 unit be executed (that would be 5,346 if my maths is correct and the previous decimations had gone to plan). History doesn’t state if this was done in further rounds of ten, although I’m sure that InFront Sports in Zug would have been awarded the TV rights, with Maximums allocating 85% of the tickets to sponsors and friends of the FIFA-family.

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The mass execution is said to have taken place at Agaunum – now known as Saint-Maurice d’Agaune, 240 km south in the canton of Valais; the spot now being the site of the impressive Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais.  However, again, this being religion, historians and researchers have struggled to find anything to confirm whether or not the story of the Theban Legion is based on truth, fact or evidence.

It was normal for members of the military in those days to follow Isis – the Egyptian god, not the Islamic State – meaning it would have been incredibly unlikely that an entire squadron would consist of Christians. Either way, the story certainly achieved its aim in attracting pilgrims to the abbey at Agaunum.

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Switzerland seems to have taken the story of St.Mauritius to heart; as well as Saint Maurice-en-Valais, he has given his name to St.Moritz, as well as seven churches or altars in Aargau alone – the canton itself being given to the abbey by Henry I in return for Maurice’s lance, sword and spurs; a transaction that must have made a monk or two smirk. As well as Einsiedeln Abbey, there are six churches in his honour in Luzern, four in Solothurn, one in Appenzell and this one in Zug.

As well as being the patron saint of swordsmiths, weavers and dyers, the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden and numerous cities around the world, he is also the patron saint of the Italian army’s alpine troops, Order of Saint Maurice, Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a historical military order of unmarried merchants in Estonia and Latvia. More importantly, he is also the patron saint of gout.

St. Maurice had been portrayed as a black African knight ever since the 12th century, however due to the developing slave trade in the mid-sixteenth Century, he suddenly enjoyed a Michael Jackson colour change, much to the approval of the SVP (Swiss People’s Party), explaining his pale complexion here in Niederwil.

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The route continues across the main road at Rumentikon, passing near the Ziegelei (Brickwork) Museum, through somebody’s farmyard and an extremely steep unpaved woodland path.

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Alternatively you can also head to St.Wolfgang along a brief stretch of the “good carriage-road”, heading up the hill at Kloster Heiligkreuz instead, which was only a small school during Murray’s time, with construction on the huge monastery not starting until 1862.

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St.Wolfgang is a pretty little hamlet, built around the 15th Century church and popular Landgasthof Rössli Hünenberg, which dates back to the 16th Century when this was the main trade route between Zurich and Luzern. A fine view is had from its terrace over the Reuss valley directly below.

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The village is named after its Catholic church, dedicated to St. Wolfgang von Regensburg, the German priest from the swinging 930’s who studied as a child at Reichenau (Route 7). He retired as a hermit, to what is now Wolfgangsee in Austria, apparently to escape the distractions of worldly life. This was AD 994, what the bloody hell was he escaping? Facetome, 24 Hourglass News, and Tabloid Scriptures?

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He was canonised in 1052 after many miracles supposedly took place at his tomb, including various noted healings from stomach aches, and he remains a patron saint of such ailments today. So who would have thought that there was a patron saint of constipation, flatulence and IBS?.

He is also the patron saint of carpenters and wood carvers, so one can only guess the disappointment on Jesus Christ’s face when he was overlooked for that gig.

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Bizarrely, Murray doesn’t detail St.Wolfgang nor the Wart (or Gesellenhaus) in Hünenberg, just a few metres down the road. Built in 1684 as a courthouse it is now a restaurant and wedding venue.

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The Schützenhaus opposite also dates back to 1686, whilst the adjacent Wirtschaft zum Wartstein also offers excellent dining in a historic building.

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Thence it proceeds along the banks of The Reuss to Gysliker-Brücke, Dierikon, Ebikon, and passing near the monument of the Swiss Guards (Route 16), enters Lucerne.

The road drops down to Rotkreuz and follows the river through the industrial outskirts of Luzern, scattered throughout with many picturesque buildings from the early 1700’s;

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Gysliker-Brücke” (Gisikon),

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Dierikon

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and Ebikon, home to the Schindler elevator company since 1874.

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Elevators had only just been introduced to coal mines in the 1830s, so you can only speculate what Murray would have made of the idea of escalators and travelators back in 1837, let alone Wolfgang von Regensburg, who was already trying to escape ‘modern life’ 850 years earlier:

“This the writer knows to be unquestionably fact; yet he must candidly add, what he also knows from observation, that the absurd conduct and unreasonable folly of travellers on these moving walkways have strengthened the spring of my disdain for my fellow human beings in a very great degree. These mechanical floors were invented by a remarkable fellow who presumed, with reasonable expectation, that they would assist in making one’s journey from A-B somewhat more expeditious, yet, despite years of research and manufacture, the annoying fuckers still decide to stand still on them!

I have even observed on many occasion, languorous travellers standing still, two abreast in some cases, so you too must also stand motionless behind them, moving slower than had you chosen to take the stairs.”

With hindsight, I can now see why St.Wolfgang von Regensburg, decided to escape ‘modern life’ in AD 994.

Leaving Schindler’s Lift behind, it’s a straight run into the city centre.

The route ends in Luzern at the famous Lion Monument, which Murray pays more attention to in Route 16.

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LUZERN ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANT (73km):

 Inns: Schwan –  a new house, in the best situation, and good; in 1837 complaints were made that it was dear

Restaurant Schwanen above the Perosa store on Schwanenplatz, overlooks the lake with its Cafe de Ville offering terrace seating outside and a menu that, whilst good, in 2015 complaints could still be made that it is dear. They don’t offer hotel rooms.

[CLICK HERE FOR MENU]

Balances (Waage) – an old-established house, good, clean, and moderate charges. The four daughters of the late host take the management of the establishment, and the traveller will find in it extreme civility and most excellent attendance.

The chic 4 Star gourmet Hotel de Balances on Weinmarkt dates back to 1807 as “Wirtshaus zur Waage”, and was actually refurbished and renamed in 1837, the year Murray visited; going on to host the likes of famous Irish poet George Bernard Shaw, Princess Louise of Baden and, on numerous occasions, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. The restaurant boasts 14 Gault Millau points and is reasonably priced (5 courses for CHF 105, or 3 course lunch for CHF 45), although the rooms are no longer moderately charged, starting at CHF150.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS][CLICK HERE FOR MENU]

Rossli (Cheval)

The former grand Hotel Rossli is now a Co-op supermarket on the corner of Mühlenplatz and Rössligasse. It boasts a restaurant.

Whilst not exactly the same, you can still stay at a Guest House Roesli, at Pfistergasse 12, with rooms starting at CHF 80. Belonging to the Baslertor Hotel, you can use their summer pool too.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

There is a good pension overlooking the lake close to the Kapel Brücke

Nowadays, the best fit for this is the popular English pub Hotel Pickwick, where I’m sure Murray would have gone to watch Preston North End beat Notts County to be crowned Champions of the first ever Football League, had he not arrived exactly 50 years too early and exactly 100 years before the first televised game.  Unlike the beer, rooms are reasonably priced from CHF 90.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

Alternatively, the excellent boutique Hotel des Alpes next door also fits the bill and offers a terrace restaurant too, serving regional dishes (3 courses from CHF 30). Rooms start at CHF 135.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]


ROUTE:

Zurich to Lucerne, over the Albis (via Albisrieden)
10 stunden = 32 ¾ English miles.
A diligence daily in 7 hours.

At around 50km (plus optional 10km excursion up the Uetliberg mountain), this is a short cycle, although the steep zig zag climbs out of both Albisrieden and Landikon will seriously test your fitness. The possible excursion up to Uetliberg is the only off road section and can also be done by train (although you will need to leave your bike at the station in Uitikon Waldegg). Whilst still enjoyable, it is not as interesting as the alternative over the High Albis.

0km ~ ZURICH

9km ~ ADLISWIL  up80 m   down  40 m

16km ~ ALBISPASSHOHE  up340 m

18km ~ HOCHWACHT  up  85 m   down  30 m

20km ~ ALBISPASSHOHE    up  30 m   down  85 m

21km ~ ALBISHAUS    up  50 m   down  10 m

24km ~ TURLEN (Luzern/Zug Albisstrasse junction)   down  165 m

 


Possible Excursion:

route16c

3km ~ HAUSEN-AM-ALBIS   down  50 m

4km ~ KAPPEL-AM-ALBIS (Zwingli Denkmal)   down  20 m

5km ~ KAPPEL-AM-ALBIS (Kloister Kappel)   down25 m

8km ~ OBER-RIFFERSWIL   up  30 m

9km ~ UNT. RIFFERSWIL    down  10 m


 

27km ~ UNT. RIFFERSWIL    down  100 m

30km ~ METTMENSTETTEN  up  25 m   down  130 m

33km ~ KNONAU   down  40 m

35km ~ NIEDERWIL up  20 m   down  20 m

38km ~ RUMENTIKON HAGENDORN  up  10 m   down  30 m


Possible Route 1 ~ via farm & forest:

40km ~ St. WOLFGANG  up  50 m


Possible Route 2 ~ via main road:

39km ~ HEILIGKREUZ   up  20 m

41km ~ St. WOLFGANG  up  30 m


46km / 47km  ~ ROTKREUZ  up  20 m   down  45 m

49km / 50km ~ GISIKON → flat

54km / 55km ~ DIERIKON → flat

57km / 58km ~ EBIKON → flat

61km / 62km ~ LUZERN~ Löwendenkmal  up  35 m   down  15 m

65km / 66km ~ LUZERN ~ Bahnhof → flat


Route 16 ~ Zurich – Luzern via Albisrieden

Route 16 ~ Luzern >

~ All routes ~  Introduction ~

Route 16 ~ Zurich to Lucerne, over the Albis (by Albisrieden)

uetliberg

10 stunden = 32 ¾ English miles.
A diligence daily in 7 hours.

Or, today, 3 ½ hours by bicycle and just over an hour by train, taking the same route.

The high chain of the Albis intervenes between Zurich and Lucerne, running nearly parallel with the Lake of Zurich.  Two roads are carried across it.

I would take both roads on two separate rides.

1 – The most northern, which, though somewhat longer, occupies less time than the southern road, because it crosses the mountain where it is lower, as it were turning the flank of the chain, and going round its North extremity.

Ah, that sounds like the easier road to me.  All good so far.

This is the road taken by the diligence, and the only one practicable for heavy carriages at present (1837). An improved line is in progress, but it does not redound to the credit of the canton that it is not further advanced, and a year or two will probably elapse before it is finished.

Bloody Zurich council, with their 1837 austerity cuts. It wasn’t until ten years later, in 1847, that Birmensdorferstrasse was finally opened, linking Wiedikon with Birmensdorf. Instead I would take the steep zig zag climb over the hill.

The northern road commences the ascent of the Albis at the village of Albisrieden, about 3 miles from Zurich, passing under the highest summit of the chain, called Hütliberg

Leaving Zurich city centre and heading away from the lake towards the Stadion Letzigrund on Badenerstrasse, home to both FC Zürich and Grasshopper Club Zürich football teams, as well as the famous Diamond League athletics Championships, it wasn’t long before I was turning off on to  Albisriederstrasse which leads to the pretty village of Albisrieden.

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The steep climb starts almost immediately on leaving the village, and although only 2km long, certainly has the heart rate climbing to dangerous levels at almost the same gradient.

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The top of the pass, connects to the “improved line” of the Birmensdorferstrasse at the old Restaurant Waldegg with the TV tower on top of the “Hütliberg” (Uetliberg) remaining visible throughout.

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Having warmed up with the 2km climb, I decided to take a brief excursion and keep on going upwards, following the even steeper 5km climb through Ringlikon and the forest path alongside the railway to the top of the mountain.

Hütliberg, 2792 ft. above the sea-level, and commanding from its top – which may be reached by a foot-path in 1 ½ hours from Zurich – an extensive view.


ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS IN BONSTETTEN (16km or 26km):

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The absolutely stunning Restaurant Löwen still stands proudly on the corner of Dorfstrasse. Its menu specialises in Sicilian cuisine and is reasonably priced although there are no longer overnight rooms available. Apparently the 1958 Swiss film “Es geschah am helllichten Tage” with Heinz Rühmann (nope, me neither) was filmed here [watch here].


Leaving Bonstetten, the road enters the valley floor…

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…passing the stunning Restaurant Frohsinn at the side of the road, which, dating back to 1825, would have been there in Murray’s time.

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I then headed through Hedingen…

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…turned to Affoltern…

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…and was met in Mettmenstetten by the alternative road over the High Albis…

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…before rejoining Murray’s know how at Knonau.

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There is an inn at the castle. At this place the two roads unite.

Dating back to 1525 as the seat of the Landvogts, Schloss Knonau became the council’s offices in 1816 before being sold to the village President in 1832, who presumably was involved in both the selling and buying transactions. The castle remained in the hands of his family until 1900, and they ran both the post office and Goldener Löwen guest house from the building until 1887, possibly serving John Murray a nice cold beer and stamping his postcards when he passed by.

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In 1926, a doctor bought the entire castle and set up a private mental hospital and in 1998 it was bought by its current owner who converted it to private accommodation, with various rich (foreign) families living in the surrounding buildings.

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The road from Knonau to Lucerne proceeds by Rümeltiken and St Wolfgang – where a good carriage-road turns off on the left to Zug and The Righi .

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It’s a beautiful road through open farmland to “Rümeltiken” (Rumentikon Hagendorn), via Niederwil with its Kirche St. Mauritius, dating back to 1510 but rebuilt only ten years after Murray’s visit. The church is idyllically located in the centre of the tiny farming village, with its red, domed baroque tower roof standing out amongst the surrounding old wooden buildings.

DSC_1576_1

St. Mauritius was a proper Swiss saint. Well, a proper Swiss saint who was born in ancient Egypt and was a soldier in the Roman army before eventually becoming leader of the 6,600 strong Theban legion, dispatched with orders to clear the St.Bernard Pass across Mont Blanc.

Despite offering his military allegiance to Rome, as a Christian, he refused to engage in wanton slaughter and that service to God superseded all else, including his Emperor, Maximian, and the Roman gods, whom he also refused to worship.

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When Max ordered the Theban Legion to harass some local Christians, they refused. As punishment, the Roman Emperor ordered that every tenth soldier be killed, a military punishment known as decimation and possibly the scariest lottery you could ever buy a ticket for.

As Maurice and his men grew more obstinate, refusing further instructions from Rome, a second decimation was arranged before Maximian grew so impatient he ordered all the remaining members of the 6,600 unit be executed (that would be 5,346 if my maths is correct and the previous decimations had gone to plan). History doesn’t state if this was done in further rounds of ten, although I’m sure that InFront Sports in Zug would have been awarded the TV rights, with Maximums allocating 85% of the tickets to sponsors and friends of the FIFA-family.

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The mass execution is said to have taken place at Agaunum – now known as Saint-Maurice d’Agaune, 240 km south in the canton of Valais; the spot now being the site of the impressive Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais.  However, again, this being religion, historians and researchers have struggled to find anything to confirm whether or not the story of the Theban Legion is based on truth, fact or evidence.

It was normal for members of the military in those days to follow Isis – the Egyptian god, not the Islamic State – meaning it would have been incredibly unlikely that an entire squadron would consist of Christians. Either way, the story certainly achieved its aim in attracting pilgrims to the abbey at Agaunum.

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Switzerland seems to have taken the story of St.Mauritius to heart; as well as Saint Maurice-en-Valais, he has given his name to St.Moritz, as well as seven churches or altars in Aargau alone – the canton itself being given to the abbey by Henry I in return for Maurice’s lance, sword and spurs; a transaction that must have made a monk or two smirk. As well as Einsiedeln Abbey, there are six churches in his honour in Luzern, four in Solothurn, one in Appenzell and this one in Zug.

As well as being the patron saint of swordsmiths, weavers and dyers, the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden and numerous cities around the world, he is also the patron saint of the Italian army’s alpine troops, Order of Saint Maurice, Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a historical military order of unmarried merchants in Estonia and Latvia. More importantly, he is also the patron saint of gout.

St. Maurice had been portrayed as a black African knight ever since the 12th century, however due to the developing slave trade in the mid-sixteenth Century, he suddenly enjoyed a Michael Jackson colour change, much to the approval of the SVP (Swiss People’s Party), explaining his pale complexion here in Niederwil.

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The route continues across the main road at Rumentikon, passing near the Ziegelei (Brickwork) Museum, through somebody’s farmyard and an extremely steep unpaved woodland path.

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Alternatively you can also head to St.Wolfgang along a brief stretch of the “good carriage-road”, heading up the hill at Kloster Heiligkreuz instead, which was only a small school during Murray’s time, with construction on the huge monastery not starting until 1862.

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St.Wolfgang is a pretty little hamlet, built around the 15th Century church and popular Landgasthof Rössli Hünenberg, which dates back to the 16th Century when this was the main trade route between Zurich and Luzern. A fine view is had from both over the Reuss valley directly below.

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The village is named after its Catholic church, dedicated to St. Wolfgang von Regensburg, the German priest from the swinging 930’s who studied as a child at Reichenau (Route 7). He retired as a hermit, to what is now Wolfgangsee in Austria, apparently to escape the distractions of worldly life. This was AD 994, what the bloody hell was he escaping? Facetome, 24 Hourglass News, and Tabloid Scriptures?

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He was canonised in 1052 after many miracles supposedly took place at his tomb, including various noted healings from stomach aches, and he remains a patron saint of such ailments today. So who would have thought that there was a patron saint of constipation, flatulence and IBS?.

He is also the patron saint of carpenters and wood carvers, so one can only guess the disappointment on Jesus Christ’s face when he was overlooked for that gig.

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Bizarrely, Murray doesn’t detail St.Wolfgang nor the Wart (or Gesellenhaus) in Hünenberg, just a few metres down the road. Built in 1684 as a courthouse it is now a restaurant and wedding venue.

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The Schützenhaus shooting club opposite also dates back to 1686, whilst the adjacent Wirtschaft zum Wartstein also offers excellent dining in a historic building.

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Thence it proceeds along the banks of The Reuss to Gysliker-Brücke, Dierikon, Ebikon, and passing near the monument of the Swiss Guards (Route 16), enters Lucerne.

The road drops down to Rotkreuz and follows the river through the industrial outskirts of Luzern, scattered throughout with many picturesque buildings from the early 1700’s;

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Gysliker-Brücke” (Gisikon),

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Dierikon

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and Ebikon, home to the Schindler elevator company since 1874.

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Elevators had only just been introduced to coal mines in the 1830s, so you can only speculate what Murray would have made of the idea of escalators and travelators back in 1837, let alone Wolfgang von Regensburg, who was already trying to escape ‘modern life’ 850 years earlier:

“This the writer knows to be unquestionably fact; yet he must candidly add, what he also knows from observation, that the absurd conduct and unreasonable folly of travellers on these moving walkways have strengthened the spring of my disdain for my fellow human beings in a very great degree. These mechanical floors were invented by a remarkable fellow who presumed, with reasonable expectation, that they would assist in making one’s journey from A-B somewhat more expeditious, yet, despite years of research and manufacture, the annoying fuckers still decide to stand still on them!

I have even observed on many occasion, languorous travellers standing still, two abreast in some cases, so you too must also stand motionless behind them, moving slower than had you chosen to take the stairs.”

With hindsight, I can now see why St.Wolfgang von Regensburg, decided to escape ‘modern life’ in AD 994.

Leaving Schindler’s Lift behind, it’s a straight run into the city centre.

The route ends in Luzern at the famous Lion Monument, which Murray pays more attention to in Route 16.

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LUZERN ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANT (51km or 61km):

 Inns: Schwan –  a new house, in the best situation, and good; in 1837 complaints were made that it was dear

Restaurant Schwanen above the Perosa store on Schwanenplatz, overlooks the lake with its Cafe de Ville offering terrace seating outside and a menu that, whilst good, in 2015 complaints could still be made that it is dear. They don’t offer hotel rooms.

[CLICK HERE FOR MENU]

Balances (Waage) – an old-established house, good, clean, and moderate charges. The four daughters of the late host take the management of the establishment, and the traveller will find in it extreme civility and most excellent attendance.

The chic 4 Star gourmet Hotel de Balances on Weinmarkt dates back to 1807 as “Wirtshaus zur Waage”, and was actually refurbished and renamed in 1837, the year Murray visited; going on to host the likes of famous Irish poet George Bernard Shaw, Princess Louise of Baden and, on numerous occasions, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. The restaurant boasts 14 Gault Millau points and is reasonably priced (5 courses for CHF 105, or 3 course lunch for CHF 45), although the rooms are no longer moderately charged, starting at CHF150.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS][CLICK HERE FOR MENU]

Rossli (Cheval)

The former grand Hotel Rossli is now a Co-op supermarket on the corner of Mühlenplatz and Rössligasse. It boasts a restaurant.

Whilst not exactly the same, you can still stay at a Guest House Roesli, at Pfistergasse 12, with rooms starting at CHF 80. Belonging to the Baslertor Hotel, you can use their summer pool too.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

There is a good pension overlooking the lake close to the Kapel Brücke

Nowadays, the best fit for this is the popular English pub Hotel Pickwick, where I’m sure Murray would have gone to watch Preston North End beat Notts County to be crowned Champions of the first ever Football League, had he not arrived exactly 50 years too early and exactly 100 years before the first televised game.  Unlike the beer, rooms are reasonably priced from CHF 90.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]

Alternatively, the excellent boutique Hotel des Alpes next door also fits the bill and offers a terrace restaurant too, serving regional dishes (3 courses from CHF 30). Rooms start at CHF 135.

[CLICK HERE FOR ROOMS]


ROUTE:

Zurich to Lucerne, over the Albis (via Albisrieden)
10 stunden = 32 ¾ English miles.
A diligence daily in 7 hours.

At around 50km (plus optional 10km excursion up the Uetliberg mountain), this is a short cycle, although the steep zig zag climbs out of both Albisrieden and Landikon will seriously test your fitness. The possible excursion up to Uetliberg is the only off road section and can also be done by train (although you will need to leave your bike at the station in Uitikon Waldegg). Whilst still enjoyable, it is not as interesting as the alternative over the High Albis.

0km ~ ZURICH

5km ~ ALBISRIEDEN  → flat

7km ~ UITIKON (Restaurant Waldegg)   up  170 m

 


Possible Excursion (you can also take the train from Uitikon Waldegg):

5km ~ UETLIBERG (Uto Kulm Restaurant)   up  285 m

10km ~ UITIKON (Restaurant Waldegg)   down  285 m


 

10km ~ LANDIKON  down  100 m

13km ~ WETTSWIL AM ALBIS  up  80 m

16km ~ BONSTETTEN  up  15 m   down  35 m

26km ~ METTMENSTETTEN  up  20 m   down  95 m

29km ~ KNONAU   down  40 m

31km ~ NIEDERWIL up  20 m   down  20 m

34km ~ RUMENTIKON HAGENDORN  up  10 m   down  30 m


 

Possible Route 1 ~ via farm & forest:

36km ~ St. WOLFGANG  up  50 m

 


 

Possible Route 2 ~ via main road:

35km ~ HEILIGKREUZ   up  20 m

37km ~ St. WOLFGANG  up  30 m

 


 

 

42km / 43km ~ ROTKREUZ  up  20 m   down  45 m

43km / 44km ~ GISIKON → flat

48km / 49km ~ DIERIKON → flat

51km / 52km ~ EBIKON → flat

55km / 56km ~ LUZERN~ Löwendenkmal  up  35 m   down  15 m

56km / 57km ~ LUZERN ~ Bahnhof  flat


Route 15 ~ Zurich – Zug & Luzern

Route 16 ~ Zurich – Luzern via High Albis >

~ All routes ~  Introduction ~

Skeleton Tours ~ Tour Of A Fortnight

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“Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland” offered alternative tours for those not able to follow the full 136 routes that Murray individually described.

“Tour Of A Fortnight” was the shortest, taking in the “carriage-roads, char-roads and bridle or foot-paths”. It’s a great way to experience the country on a short visit and can easily be reduced to 12 days, allowing you two days either side for travelling to and from the country.

 

 

149

Day 1 ~ Schaffhausen, Rhine Fall and Zurich.

 

[NB, Schaffhausen is just 40 mins by train from Zurich Airport; 1 hour 45 mins from Basel Airport; and 3 hours 45 mins from Geneva Airport]


 

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Day 2 ~ Righi

You should cut Route 15 short at Arth (50km) and then follow:

  • ROUTE 17 ~ Ascent Of The Rigi from Goldau

  • ROUTE 17 ~ Summit Of The Rigi

Returning down the mountain to stay at Arth or Goldau (Route 17).

 


 

Day 3 ~ Altdorf – St. Gothard and Andermatt

  • ROUTE 17 ~ Lucerne to Schwyz and Brunnen

cycling from either Arth or Goldau (depending where you stayed overnight), before switching to:

  • ROUTE 18 ~ The Lake Of Lucerne

Covering just the last 13km from Brunnen to Flüelen via Tellskapelle, before switching to the long climb in:

  • ROUTE 34 ~ The Pass of St. Gothard

Stopping at Andermatt after 40km.

 


 

 

Day 4 ~ Furka and Grimsel

  • ROUTE 34 ~ The Pass of St. Gothard

before doing the following 40km climb in reverse:

  • ROUTE 30 ~ Pass Of The Furka

Reaching the summit of the Grimsel and staying at the historic Grimsel Hospiz, both described in:

  • ROUTE 28 ~ Pass Of The Grimsel


 

 

Day 5 ~ Meiringen

  • ROUTE 28 ~ Pass Of The Grimsel

Whilst Meiringen itself is described in:

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Grindelwald to Meiringen

 


 

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Day 6 ~ Grindelwald

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Grindelwald to Meiringen

Whilst Grindelwald itself is described in:

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald

 


 

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Day 7 ~ Lauterbrunnen and Thun

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald by road

covers the paved 17km, mostly downhill, journey (in reverse) through pretty Alpine valley villages and allows you more time to explore Lauterbrunnen. Alternatively:

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald by the Wengern Alp

is possibly the most spectacular route within the entire “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland”.  You can pay to have your bags (and bikes) forwarded on from Grindelwald station to either Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken or Thun, which should help with the ascent of the tough 20km unpaved mountain bike route (in reverse), which climbs to Kleine Scheidegg (avoidable by train if you’ve dumped your bike), before dropping down to the car free mountain resort of Wengen and thence Lauterbrunnen, which is described in:

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen

Again, in reverse, you also follow this quick 15km descent down the mountain on paved roads to Interlaken, where you then join:

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Lake of Thun

Once more, in reverse, you follow the last 30km to Thun, the town described in detail on:

  • ROUTE 27 ~ Bern to Thun

 


 

Day 8 ~ Gemmi Pass and Leuk

  • ROUTE 38 ~ Pass of the Gemmi

Cycling the tough 35km climb from Thun to Kandersteg, you then need to pause the route and make a decision, based upon how long it’s taken you to get here so far.

There’s no way of cycling over the 7 hour Gemmi Pass hiking route, from Kandersteg to Leukerbad, so – presuming you have missed the deadline for forwarding your bike and bags from Kandersteg station to Leukerbad – you are left with a choice of how to complete the route:

  1. Store your bike and bags at Kandersteg station. Hike for 7 hours to Leukerbad + 1 hour to Leuk. Stay in either Leukerbad or Leuk (don’t forget your toothbrush) and catch a return train to Kandersteg and back in the morning to collect your bike.
  2. Get a hotel in Kandersteg and hike for 7 hours to Leukerbad + 1 hour to Leuk. Then get the last train back from Leuk, (usually around 21:40). The next morning, catch the train back to Leuk with your bike.
  3. Leave your bike and bags at Kandersteg station. Hike for 7 hours to Leukerbad + 1 hour to Leuk. Then get the train back to Kandersteg, (last one around 21:40). The next morning – or the same evening if you have time – catch the train back to Leuk with your bike.
  4. Mountain bikers can either cycle (and largely push) their bikes up the steep hiking path from Kandersteg to Sunnbüel, or travel with it on the cable car. Cycle off road to the Gemmi Pass cable car station and catch it down to Leukerbad, carrying your bike on board.
  5. Leave your bike and bags at Kandersteg station. Save 2 hours by getting the cable car to Sunnbüel and then a further 1 hour with the cable car down to Leukerbad. Get the bus to Leuk (40 minutes) and train to Kandersteg (1 hour 15 mins) to collect your bike.  Either stay in Kandersteg or catch the train back to Leuk with your bike, if you have time.
  6. Do as John Murray did, and hike all the way from Thun (sending your bike and bags ahead to Leukerbad from the station). At close to 70km, expect to take 16 hours (although easily reduced if you catch the buses, trains and cable cars along the route).

 

 


 

 

Day 9 ~ Martigny

  • ROUTE 59 ~ The Passage of the Simplon

 

 


 

Days 10 & 11 ~ Tête-Noire and Chamonix

  • ROUTE 116 ~ Chamonix to Martigny

He allows an extra day at Chamonix, possibly to explore Mont Blanc or the other mountains, which are described in detail on:

  • ROUTE 115 ~ Chamonix

Again, if you are pushed for time, you can cut this down to one day.

 


 

Day 12 ~ Geneva

  • ROUTE 115 ~ Geneva to Chamonix

The city of Geneva described in:

  • ROUTE 53 ~ Geneva

 


 

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Day 13 ~ Bern

  • ROUTE 56 ~ Geneva to Martigny

At Lausanne, you have two options to Bern, both followed in reverse. Either the tough 105km

  • ROUTE 42 ~ Bern to Lausanne via Fribourg

Which takes in the historic city of Fribourg after 70km, as described at

  • ROUTE 42 ~ Fribourg

Or the shorter, 100km, route via the castles at Avenches and Murten on the 

  • ROUTE 43 ~ Bern to Lausanne via Murten

The capital city of Bern is described in

  • ROUTE 24 ~ Bern

 


 

3

Day 14 ~ Basel

With the city of Basel being described at:

 

[NB, Basel is just 25 mins by bus or bike from Basel EuroAirport; 1 hour 30 mins by train from Zurich Airport; and 3 hours by train from Geneva Airport]

 


 

Introduction

All Routes >