The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

Trip Start Apr 28, 2007
Trip End Oct 26, 2007

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Friday, July 6, 2007

We left Paris, as we had arrived, by train. This one was high speed, and fully booked. We found it an interesting cultural exchange to negotiate our allotted space with one German frau who was quite determined that we shouldn't restack her luggage. She probably understood our English but didn't let on. James came with us to Switzerland, and commented on his experiences to date of the various European national characteristics, notably the Teutonic in this context.
There was a short time at Basel for us to get a quick connection to Luzern and Jen went ahead to sort tickets while Brian and James schlepped luggage. Jen was through immigration before the officials were at their posts, but Brian & James found they were efficient and easy-going, so we made our connection, and arrived early to be met by Joy at Luzern.  
Kussnacht am Rigi is a short drive around the lake from Luzern, and immediately we experienced the gorgeous alpine/ lake scenery that is always featured on the chocolate boxes. Joy and Gary live pretty much on the lake, Vierwaldstatter See (looked like it should be Lake Luzern to us) with just a small park between their wonderful new apartment and the lakefront. After our Paris pod which was too small to be called a pad, we revelled in the luxury of large spaces and comfort.  All that was missing was Gary, who was back in NZ on business, so we necessarily kicked back with a few wines over dinner on the balcony, to toast him. We did miss you Gary! From Gary and Joy's place we woke each morning to cowbells on the surrounding hills - each one a different pitch.
We were looking forward to relaxing and staying put for a little while and it felt so good to be out walking in fresh alpine air.  Joy eased us into her "regime" with a bike ride over the hill to another village at the end of the lake, where they were winding up their Rose Festival. The Swiss do festivals with flair. We heard the local brass band play some stirring numbers while we enjoyed a beer on the pier.
Joy has recently had her article on A Week in the Life of a Swiss Hausfrau published in the August edition of New Zealand's Next magazine, although Joy could never be any ordinary hausfrau - it's a contradiction in terms. Joy told us that her Friday hikes with ex pat friends are featured in her article, and then she told us about how lost they had got on recent hikes - really, we didn't want to know. 
Joy and her hiking mates had arranged an easy hike up the Rigi, their local "hill" of around 1900metres. "Easy" is a relative term when the other parties are frighteningly fit. Fortunately, one of them needed to get back early so the plan was changed to ride the gondola most of the way up, climb a few hundred metres, then walk the thousand or so metres down. We admit it was all worth it - the view as we climbed the rest of the way up, and from the top, was spectacular. We could see the Eiger, the Jungfrau and other big alpine mountains that we should remember. Gary and Joy's place was a speck in the distance below. Knowing that The Rigi is "local" we didn't expect a repeat of previous Friday Hikes where getting lost is part of the day. We set off to climb down the hundreds of metres and only later learned long after we were lost, that Joy had insider information that she had not shared; her map said some of the track down was closed (in 2006) due to a slip, but she had been sure that would not now still be the case. So Joy led us confidently astray and with no track to find, we came down steep banks and wound up in a farm with the farmer less than impressed about our visit. We were within a very few close kilometres of Gary and Joy's place at that point; it was clearly in sight, but our car was many more kilometres in the opposite direction around the mountain. It's a good thing we all have a sense of humour, sustained over many hours.
We went into Luzern on Saturday for the farmers market and took in the buildings from the 14th Century, as shown in our photos, along with the colourful array of produce, cheeses, charcuterie and fruit and veges.
In Switzerland it was cherry season and we stopped the car often to buy from the farmers' unmanned road-side stalls. They are completely trusting that you will pay - it seemed to be a hallmark of the Swiss.
An evening music concert in Zug, with local pianists of huge talent drew an impressive crowd, which we were part of with Joy, and her friends Ruth and Roger.
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