Adventure in the Alps

Trip Start May 22, 2005
Trip End Jan 22, 2006

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Flag of Switzerland  ,
Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Lucerne has a stunning lake and a medieval old town with ancient rampart walls and towers, all set in the shadow of the soaring Swiss Alps. It's here where we actually heard cowbells tinkering in the hills. We took a couple of scenic cruises on Lake Lucerne, sitting back as we passed one tiny Swiss hamlet after another.

The public transportation system in Switzerland runs ON TIME. If the boat is supposed to leave at 11:26 am, the engine starts at 11:24 am, the warning horn blows at 11:25 am and the ship pulls out at 11:26 am.

The real adventure in Lucerne was when we took a day trip up Mt. Pilatus with an altitude of 2,000 metres. There are two ways to get to the top. There is a long ride by cable car from Kriens and there is a cogwheel railway (the world's steepest) from Alpnachstad. We took the cable car up and planned to take the cogwheel railway down. When we got to the top, it was clear and sunny and the views were indescribable. We noticed dark clouds in the distance and we remembered that Alex had warned us that the weather in the mountains can change very quickly and that lightning storms occur frequently. Before we knew it, the sky darkened completely, and it started to rain. Then it started to pour. Then it started to hail. Then gale force winds struck, and thunderous lightning followed. Luckily, we had not yet hiked out into the trails as we had planned or had been suggested to us. We took cover in the mountaintop restaurant and prepared to take the cogwheel railway down as soon as the weather abated. It didn't abate for another hour and so we sat there and watched as patio furniture was blown off the mountainside and parts of the restaurant flooded.

With a break in the weather, we made a dash for the railway station only to find out that the lightning had disabled the cogwheel railway and the cable cars were not operating due to the high winds. We huddled there with all the other stranded tourists for another three hours, during which time two people were actually struck by lightening and we watched as they had to be airlifted out by rescue helicopter. By this time, we realized that this was probably not a storm in the regular course, as evidenced by the frazzled and frantic looks on the faces of the workers on the mountain, despite their unconvincing assurances to us that this was normal. After about four chilly hours stranded at the top, the winds finally died down so that the cable car could operate. We made it back to the city and retreated to our hotel room to dry off. Although we were disappointed we weren't able to take the cogwheel railway as planned, we felt blessed to have been able to make it back safe and sound. What a day.
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jjwong on

Glad you guys made it out safe. It is horrible when the weather turns on you like that all of a sudden.

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