Hot 5: Lucerne and Lausanne, Switzerland
By Dennis Hensley
In my week in Switzerland, I took practically every mode of transportation known to man?except a car. This was a nice change of pace for a road-weary Angeleno like myself. I didn't even take a taxi from the airport to my hotel. I took a train, using my versatile and highly recommended Swiss Pass, which gives you unlimited rail, bus and boat travel as well as free entry to 450 museums.
The most offbeat modes of transport occurred on my first full day in the country, when I took the 'Golden Round Trip' up one side of the majestic Mt. Pilatus and down the other. The outing began with a relaxing boat ride on beautiful Lake Lucerne from downtown Lucerne to a town at the foot of Pilatus called Alpnachstad. From there, my fellow journalists and I hopped on the world's steepest cogwheel train -- which happened to be celebrating its 120th birthday that very day -- and climbed up through the clouds to Kulm peak, 2132 meters above sea level.
There's not a while lot up top; just a few gray, older buildings -- restaurants, hotels, a screening room -- and trails and terraces for taking in the spectacular 360-degree views. It struck me as the kind of spot a James Bond villain would choose for a lair; pretty to look at, a little foreboding and complicated to get to.
After enjoying a tasty fondue lunch and a video presentation about the mythology of the mountain, which involves Pontius Pilate, friendly dragons and a lost barrel-maker, we were serenaded by an old man playing a wooden instrument called an alphorn. This thing is so long and heavy that one end has to rest on the ground. It's the Jeff Stryker of woodwinds, basically.
The journey down started with an aerial cable car ride similar to attractions I've tried in Palm Springs and Vancouver. We disembarked halfway down the hill at Krienseregg, a picnic and recreation area where you can harness up and explore a rope park or, if you're feeling a need for speed, you can try out Switzerland's longest summertime toboggan run. I opted for the latter and it was silly, speedy fun.
The final rush was still to come; a smooth as ice and pleasantly unnerving ride down the lower half of Pilatus in a small, bubble-like, panorama gondola. After disembarking in Kriens, I took a short bus ride back to Lucerne using my trusty Swiss Pass. All in all, Mount Pilatus offered a magic mix of adventure and spectacle. It's not to be missed.
Watch Dennis's YouTube video of Mount Pilatus: