Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lucerne, Switzerland

Today we are going to visit Lucerne. Lucerne is in the German speaking portion of the country located in the north-central part of Switzerland. Lucerne is the the capital city of the Canton of Lucerne (same name). Lucerne is the largest populated city in Central Switzerland. It's metropolitan area consists of 17 cities and towns that make up three cantons. Sort of like Houston or Los Angeles with all the smaller cities within the city itself.

Lucerne is surrounded by gorgeous scenery, Lake Lucerne, Mount Pilatus and Rigi (Swiss Alps), and it's very own attractions such as Chapel Bridge, Lion of Lucerne, and the Glacier Gardens. Lucerne is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Over the weekend I found myself eagerly flipping through pages of my Swiss tour guide. I came across one of the most amazing memorials I've ever seen. The monument is called, "Lion of Lucerne." What caught my attention was the beautiful lion sculpture carved into a rock. I can only imagine what a sight it must be standing before it in person.

A Danish artist, Bertel Thorvaldsen, sculpted the monument in the early 1800's as a way to honor the fallen Swiss Guards. The sculpture is carved in a sandstone cliff, near Lucerne's Glacier Garden and the Bourbaki Panorama.

Not only is it absolutely gorgeous but the history behind the memorial is very interesting. During the French Revolution, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and their children were caught fleeing the country. The heated political situation had become very dangerous for the royal family as the people of France began to form an alliance against the King. They wanted more rights but King Louis XVI pushed back their efforts. The people were also very disgusted with the queen and considered her heartless towards their suffering. This is where we get the "let them eat cake" phrase. There was a bread shortage and bread was the staple source of food for the working class.

Not only did they feel that the Marie Antoinette was heartless but rumors spread through out the countryside that she was spent money on her extravagant promiscuous lifestyle. The anger and anxiety of the people caused them to quickly formed riots outside the palace. Many of the French aristocrats fled the country. Marie Antoinette refused many attempts because she did not want to leave the king. However, the family finally decided to escape by disguising themselves as servants of a wealthy baroness. They were captured within 24 hours after their escape and returned to the palace.

On June 20, 1791 a violent mob broke into the Tuileries Palace and massacred over 700 Swiss officers and soldiers. They imprisoned and executed the royal family. Princesse de Lamballe, a royal attendant, was beheaded. They put her head on a spike and paraded it up and down the street in front of Marie Antoinette's prison window. She fainted at the news of her loyal companion's fate.

King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were both put on trial and found guilty for numerous accounts. They were eventually both executed.

Millions of tourists come from all around the world to visit the amazing memorial. Including the infamous American author, Mark Twain. Mark Twain said this about the Lion of Lucerne "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." I couldn't agree more, Mr. Twain.

Lucerne is a very unique city full of interesting attractions.

The Bourbaki Panorama Lucerne has a impressive circular painting of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It was painted by Edouard Castres in 1881. Oh, I can't describe in words how much I would love to see this painting and the Lion of Lucerne. I could spend countless hours taking it all in.

Chapel Bridge is the oldest wooden bridge in Europe!!! It was built in 1333!!! It's sole purpose was to protect the city from attacks. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century. However, the majority of these paintings were destroyed in a fire back in 1993. The bridge was quickly rebuilt but the blackened structure still can be seen today.

Did you know over 20 million years ago central Switzerland was a tropical paradise similar to Hawaii? The entire region was covered under a huge glacier about 20,000 years ago. The glacier began melting and created water ways through the region. With the combinations of water currents, vortexes, and giant water potholes, this formed a wonderful glacier garden. You can visit the Glacier Garden at http://www.gletchschergarten.ch/ to read more about it. My friend told me that she has visited this museum and that there is a Mirror Maze that was created back in 1896 for a national exhibition. Wow! I truly want to visit Lucerne and see all these wonderful things.


marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Such beautiful pictures. I would love to visit someday. So much history and such fabulous architecture. I was fortunate enough to go to Germany about 20 years ago and I loved it, sure wish I could travel more. Thanks for the tour.

Thanks also for following my blog. It is wonderful to meet you. Hugs, Marty

Jacqueline said...

I made it to southern Switzerland when I went to Italy, but not Lucerne. This is so beautiful. I must go someday. Loved all of the history too. You are so lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Europe. It is just amazing and I love that you have recorded it by blogging about it.

Bill said...

I'm enjoying your tour of Switzerland! Also very much liked the post about Margaret Mitchell and GWTW -- loved it when you shared at the end that you're related to Clark Gable. The only celebs I've turned up on my family tree are the actress who played Rose of Sharon, Henry Fonda's sister in Grapes of Wrath, and ... Mel Gibson (but shhhh ... we're not claiming him these days!).

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post and blog!
Kisses from Croatia and happy weekend.
Zondra Art

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