Monday, January 17, 2011

BCers Visit Italy, Switzerland & France; Pt 15: My World On Cloud Nine In Lucerne

I VISITED MANY GRAND churches in Europe and traveled BC mountains. But never have I felt such awe of creation as when atop Mount Pilatus over Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Pure white clouds lapped against blue-hued mountain peaks that looked like islands floating in the sky. If heaven is (as some imagine) "up there" somewhere, I could surely touch it from here.

To reach the summit we sailed higher and higher in our gondola through wisps of cloud cover that made the day appear dreary from below. At its highest level, Mount Pilatus is close to 7,000 feet.

It was last October when we visited. There was no snow yet at the elevations we reached. The climate was crisp and refreshing.

As we soared further upward, we heard only the haunting chime of bells worn by cattle that roamed freely along the hillsides.

Farmhouses nestled on grassy slopes.

Cottages looked meticulous and in good repair. It is doubtful their occupants had the luxury of electric heat.

Perhaps destined to end up on dinner tables eventually, the grazing sheep seemed content in their ideal setting of wide open spaces.

We discovered a hotel and restaurant etched into the mountaintop as well as interesting caves and stairways to greater heights and lookouts.

I was glad that safety rails lined the parameters. The atmosphere was eerily still. Although I felt fine physically I discovered I had less stamina due to the low pressure of oxygen at the high elevation. I also found that as long as I didn’t lean or stand too close to the edge of railings, my fear of falling into the abyss was overwhelmed by sheer wonderment.

It was wonderful to meet fellow Canadians from the Maritime provinces who allowed me to take their picture. It seemed ironic that people from complete opposite sides of the country would meet on a mountaintop in Switzerland.

The enormity of the landscape was dwarfed by the frame of a photograph and the subtle ranges in color seemed diminished through the lens.

Is was not easy to convey the full depth and scale of the breathtaking view. I wasn’t prepared to lean over the dizzying height and my camera (with no strap) could have slipped from my hands.

These black birds called dohle were enjoying the scenery. They reminded me of small crows but their pleasant warble as they glided effortlessly from the railing was much more musical.

There was ongoing work to prevent slides.

I was surprised to learn of the myth that the body of Pontius Pilate, who (according to the Bible) ordered the death of Jesus, was thrown into a lake on the mountain, giving it its name. However, it is also possible the name was derived from the Latin word pileatus, meaning “capped” because the mountain is often capped by either clouds or snow.

What goes up must also go down and it was soon time to leave the majestic mountain on a cogwheel train that is apparently the world's steepest.

People in ancient times believed that dragons with healing powers lived in the ledges and caves of Mount Pilatus. Descendants of these flying creatures are said to inhabit the area today. Symbols of the dragon are on various paraphernalia, including transportation vehicles.

I was wishing I had wings of my own in case something went wrong with the train. We proceeded downward (we were told) at a 48 degree angle. We could see several hikers looking very tiny below.

The secret to good health in Lucerne is not the dragons but the vigorous outdoor pastimes of the locals. I have never seen such fit people.

The railway we traveled on would no doubt soon be buried in snow and unusable in the coming winter season.

Some rocky landscapes resembled pictures I had seen of the moon.

Other areas were filled with greenery and remnants of snow

When I saw this cottage, I instantly thought of the book I read long ago about Heidi, a young girl who was cared for by her grandfather in the Swiss Alps.

We moved further down past milky streams of white clouds.

The occasional building hugged the slopes.

As we slid down the track to earth and Lake Lucerne, I hung onto the thought we would never forget the surprising serenity we found at Mount Pilatus.

Explorers can find more sites from around the globe at My World.


  1. What a fabulous place Lucerne is in your shots. And what an amazing experience for you! Lovely.

  2. Wow! If I show this to Dick, he's going to want to change our proposed driving itinerary yet again to include Switzerland. Fabulous photos.
    See you soon.
    Luv, K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. What a marvelous experience! I think you were really close to being able to touch Heaven. :)

  4. Wonderful tour through your photographs of the trip. I love how you captured so much of the landscape.

  5. Thanks for this great tour!
    I love Switzerland but have never been to the region of Pilatus.

  6. I loved the time I spent in Switzerland although I didn't get to see this and how gorgeous, breathtaking it is!! Your photos are superb as always and the next best thing to being there! Thanks for sharing your trip!! Hope you have a great week!


  7. Breathtaking views! I bet the air was thin at 7000 feet.

    I have been on a gondola ride, but was not so comfortable taking pictures looking down. You did very well!

  8. Switzerland is a beautiful country to see. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River.

  9. The whole of Switzerland reminds one of Heidi, no?
    I saw Mt. Pilatus from a distance, so glad to see these captures.

  10. Wonderful shots of Switzerland, a true scenic beauty.

  11. I had an image of Switzerland in my mind after reading Heidi as a child, but my picture book did not show the alps as magnificently as your photos. I felt your awe, Penelope. I clicked on the photo of the dohle and found it interesting to see their orange beaks and feet. I wonder if many of the sheep would be used for their wool rather than for their meat, but either way, it is good to know they roam freely. Your eloquent words and keen eye brought a place I have dreamed about a step closer.


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