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Judy Crowell: Springtime in Lucerne, Switzerland

Immerse yourself leisurely in the fragile, fleeting beauty of a Swiss spring

I have swum in the summer waters of Lake Lugano, surrounded by mirrored reflections of tall, green mountains. I have panicked during a fall drive on the terrifying hairpin turns of the Gotthard Pass. I have thrilled in the winter to the blinding ski slopes at “the top of the world” in St. Moritz. I have prayed in the spring while suspended in a cable car hundreds of feet above Lake Zurich (almost nine months pregnant with my first child). And if I could return only one more time in my life to Switzerland, it would have to be to Lucerne in the springtime.

The fragile beauty of cherry trees in bloom; soft sounds of tinkling cow bells worn by placid brown cows munching wildflowers; frothy streams rushing down from the Alps; fields of dandelions swaying in gentle breezes, making you swear to throw out all your weed killer when you get home; luscious, melt in your mouth, white Cavaillon asparagus; brightly colored primroses poking through mountaintop snow. This is Lucerne in the spring.

A good place to start your visit is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) built in 1333. Gaze up at the bridge’s gables, and 120 captioned triangular paintings chronicle the city’s history. A must-see is the Swiss Transportation Museum (Schweizeriches Verkehmuseum Luzern), featuring examples of steam and electric locomotives, one cutting through the Gotthard Pass. Experience the first revolving cable car in the world that takes you into snow and ice at the peak of Mount Titlis (10,000 feet).

Travel by nostalgic lake steamer from Lucerne to Alnachstad and then the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to Mount Pilatus (7,000 feet) and enjoy fabulous views. A spectacular ride by aerial cableway and gondolas takes you down to Kriens for the bus back to Lucerne.

From Mount Rigi you can see the Alps and as far as France and Germany. Take a boat from Vitznau with departures every hour. In 90 minutes you’ll be on top of the “Queen of the Mountains” and later you can return via aerial cable car to Weggis, then boat back to Lucerne.

Springtime and the mountains are guaranteed to lure you and keep you out of doors. Ignore the Swiss watch precision, which characterizes Swiss life, and immerse yourself leisurely in the fragile, fleeting beauty of a Swiss spring.

Luxury Hotels

» Hotel Montana: Art deco décor with a spectacular view of Lake Lucerne.

» The Hotel: An urban luxury boutique hotel.

» Palace Lucerne: Framed by the Alps and right on Lake Lucerne.

» Park Hotel Vitznau: A fairy-tale castle of a hotel, situated on Lake Lucerne and at the foot of Mount Rigi. Renovations are under way to make it even more breathtaking.

Medium-Priced Hotels

» Hotel des Balances: Along the Reuss River with a Venetian feel.

&raquo ;Hotel Seeburg: Gianni Versace designed rooms with round bathtubs in the center of the bedrooms.

» Hotel Hofgarten: Cozy rooms and a handsome wood portioned exterior façade.

» Villa Maria: A unique bed and breakfast along the lake promenade.

Luxury Dining

» Jasper, at the Palace Lucerne: For Mediterranean cuisine.

» Montana Scala Restaurant: Stylish restaurant with lovely views from the terrace.

» Astoria Thai Garden: Opulent setting and fine dining.

» The Old Swiss House: If you must choose only one spot to dine in Lucerne, it would have to be The Old Swiss House. Visitors from around the world are drawn to this gem, one of Switzerland’s most outstanding and attractive restaurants featuring exquisite Swiss and French cuisine. Stocked with more than 50,000 bottles of some of the rarest vintage wines, you’ll enjoy exemplary service in cozy and elegant 16th century surroundings.

Still run by the Buholzer family, it was at The Old Swiss House that August “Gussie” Busch, president and CEO of the world’s largest brewery, Anheuser-Busch Inc., while dining met Trudy Buholzer, daughter of the proprietor. They married a year later and went on to have seven children. Not to be missed is The Old Swiss House specialty, wienerschnitzel with lemon and egg noodles.

Medium-Priced Dining

» Wirthhaus Galliker: Traditional Swiss cuisine in a charming 17th century atmosphere.

» La Perla: For lovers of Italian food.

» Opus: Modern restaurant in an historic old town building.

» Witshaus zum Rebstock: Authentic local fare.

Sightseeing

» The Lion Monument (Lowendenkmal): The Dying Lion of Lucerne is one of the world’s most famous monuments, hewn out of natural rock to commemorate the heroic death of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuilleries in 1792.

» Guided city walks: Many options are available.

» Classical cruises on Lake Lucerne: From one to six hours in duration, with musical or culinary themes.

» The Rosengart Collection: Outstanding private collection of important paintings.

Noozhawk contributing writer Judy Crowell is an author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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