From ultimate views in Lucerne to contentedly stuck on the Alsace Wine Route
Although we are only halfway through our trip, we felt on leaving yesterday that our farm B&B in Lucerne is sure to be the highlight of our honeymoon, if not the most idealistic setting we might ever experience. Situated on a sloping hillside our view overlooked Lake Lucerne with a mirror image hill opposite and alps fading endlessly into the horizon. If that already were not enough, there were cows with bells clanging wandering back and forth beneath us, chickens and rabbits to our right, and apricots and cherries in either direction ripening in the sun; and just to make sure we were really feeling welcome, probably the happiest dog I've ever seen in my life who made fast friends with us immediately. With the scent of the pastures above, and a sun drenched terrace all to ourselves, it was simply the quintessential Swiss experience one could conjure up in one's wildest dreams.
Breakfast included croissants, peach kuchen, homemade jams and breads, various heavenly swiss cheeses, muesli, homemade yogurt and fresh berries, farm cherries, and milk from the cows for our coffee…although I'm not generally a big breakfast person, I managed to eat more in one sitting than I might otherwise eat in a whole day. Undoubtedly, we will be returning to Finland a couple of kilos heavier, but this is no time for counting calories!
The only tourists amidst the neighbouring farms, we wandered up the hillside our first evening enjoying the changing and expanding views, encountering along the way a young couple tossing hay, pigs and other animals, and feeling as far away as possible from our everyday urban lives. Returning from our walk, we were approached by an elderly gentleman carrying two woven baskets full of cherries which I assumed he was trying to sell us as he spoke with Mico in German. We would have been more than happy to buy some; however, he was simply excited to offer us the chance to taste just how good they were, proudly relating how he had just picked them. Shortly afterwards as we took up our seats for the evening on the terrace we were presented with a full bowl of the same cherries, and a glass of home-made kirsch liqueur to accompany them. We learned then that the gentleman we had met was the proprietor's father. On leaving yesterday morning we were further presented with a basket full of cherries to take with us. This is the kind of B&B experience one might hope for, but is so exceptional to find you feel you need to pinch yourself to be sure it's real…you don't dare to!
As another highlight, Tuesday, we took what is known as the Golden Round Trip tour to Mt. Pilatus (2132 metres), which is comprised of several parts. Part one, a boat trip tour of Lake Lucerne, includes stops at various small towns along the way and is a great way to see the area particularly on a hot sunny day (it was over 30 degrees already at 9:00 in the morning as we left); part two is a half hour ride up the mountain on the world's steepest cogwheel railway, which clunks it's way up like an old rollercoaster thrilling you with increasing views, and occasional dark tunnels, before finally depositing you at the summit where the ultimate alpine views extend in all directions before you. We climbed several viewpoints there, and took one skinny ladder down to a spot where there were no railings - Mico made it a couple steps further than I but we both suffered vertigo so badly that we chickened out and opted to scramble back to safety with knees trembling still for some time afterwards. Part three was a gondola ride down the other side, by which time at the bottom the temperature was 40 degrees - it's not often that I will concede it's too hot, but it was scorching.
Yesterday we were meant to be off to Baden-Baden, but due to sunburns which could not endure a scrubbing we postponed this and headed towards Strasbourg instead, following the Alsace wine route. Our first stop resulted in a recommendation to see the villages of Riquewihr and Ribeauville, for nice examples of Alsace towns. In Ribeauville we decided to stop and wandering about looking for accommodation led us to a lady in a doorway, who in turn led us to an apartment style place where we happily settled for the night. We got no more than stepping inside the door before the owner invited us to join him for a glass of wine, over which Mico spoke with him in German while I got my first chance to practice my (very!) rusty French, as English was not an option. As a lovely addition, he played for us music written by his son, and beautifully sung by his daughter and grand-daughter - another priceless B&B moment.
We had intended to land in Salzburg today, but find ourselves still here now in a town called Obernai for the night, willingly having given up Baden-Baden for the pleasure of wandering through vineyards you literally can get lost in (we did briefly), visits to wineries and obsessive picture snapping of the charming little Alsace towns on this route. Colourful half-timber houses and winding cobblestone lanes lead you along, while tempting French bakeries pull you in, and time seems of no essence anymore. Tomorrow it really is Strasbourg, however - and this time we mean it!