The easiest mountain day trip from Lucerne is to the top of Mt. Pilatus.
Following a ten minute bus ride out of the city center, you simply hike a small hill and board your first of 3 gondolas and begin an hour-long ascent to the top of the imposing mountain.
Of course you can hike most of the way, stopping at small barns to rest along your trek. Or, you can just look down on them from your smoothly-gliding gondola and feel absolutely no remorse, as we did. The gondola seemed like a great investment in that moment.
Eventually, you arrive in a large visitors center at the top of Mt. Pilatus. Complete with cafe, theater and even a hotel for the adventurous guest, this little place must have been an absolute nightmare to construct. I can imagine that it becomes quite crowded in the summer, but -lucky us- February left it quite quiet with no more than 150 people there the entire time. The peak allows you to look at various strings of peaks and lakes all around you. From the back side, craggy white peaks stretch as far as the eye can see. From the front side, metallic puddles of vast lakes disappear into expanses of green fields. And on this one miraculous day, the sun shone bright and the sky beamed blue, as if to just say “You’re not in Finland anymore”… though our burning retinas already new that (seriously, sunglasses would have been a good call…but who even knows where those are?)
Prepare for your eyes to burn with all of the beautiful sights! I spent days going through these pictures to find the best 20-ish for your enjoyment!
The observation platform has a few decks for maximum viewing angles. At first, you exit onto the lowest deck, looking out over a snowy bowl and those endless spines of mountain tops. Then on the other side, you can walk through man-made caves carved into the mountain face, occasionally peaking out at the valley below. Finally, you can climb to the top for a full 360 degree view of it all. We took our time through all three arenas, making sure to both take our photos as well as admire with out the obstruction of a lens.
Like any majestic peak, Mt. Pilatus is surrounded by legends and lore. Of course, it was believed in medieval times that dragons occupied the sheer cliffs of the mountain. Not evil fire-breathing dragons, however, but dragons that possessed healing powers. There are tales of farmers fainting upon seeing the beasts, a man dying while trying to slay one, and even a wingless dragon being washed down the mountain and into the river in the city my a massive thunderstorm. A man lost on the mountain once fell into a cave where two dragons were hibernating for the winter. They nurtured him, kept him warm, and showed him what to eat until the spring came, when they flew out of the cave with him and laid him down in a field.
There is also the legend of Pontius Pilate.
The towns people believed that the spirit of Pontius Pilate lived in the waters of Lake Oberalp, where he would induce massive thunderstorms for simply disrupting the stillness of his water. How he came to reside there is another legend-more far removed than most- but the townspeople were so convinced that the lake itself was forbidden. One night in 1585, however, a local priest and some residents took to the lake to challenge the ghost. When throwing stones and churning the water failed to produce a reaction, it was believed that the curse had been broken. It is said now that he only rises every Good Friday, endlessly attempting to cleanse his bloody hands in the dark mountain waters.
The final gondola to the peak
Just before our final decent, a pair of para gliders took off of the summit and swooped around on the winds. It was incredible to watch their control, hovering just over peaks for a period of time before dipping and riding the drafts around the mountain.
And then we made the trek home (Whew those gondolas are exhausting!) completely elated from the extended exposure to some gloriously warm sunshine!
And of course, we had to finnish our grueling trip to the top with an expertly poured Weissbier (or maybe 2) and enjoy the bright sunshine on our faces! Ah, to sit outside without the confines of a parka, and gaze upon one of this world’s great beauties!
This I thought was a pretty funny -and typical- shot from the GoPro. This is basically what it is to travel with us. There is never a lack of Beastie Boy album cover shots when using a GoPro; just be prepared to also see some rather unflattering angles of your -usually confused- face