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Side-Wheeled Paddle Steamers
LUCERNE (VIERWALDSTAETTERSEE), SWITZERLAND
The highly popular tourist city of Lucerne is the starting point
for paddle steamer trips, most of which run the full length of the
lake to Fluelen and back, with one paddle steamer assigned to serve
Alpnachstad, on a subsidiary lake joined to the main body of water
at a narrow channel near Stansstad.
In the photo left,
the paddler Stadt Luzern approaches Verkehrshaus pier with the city
of Luzern in the background to the left. The Verkehrshaus - the
Swiss National Transport Museum - is a massive tourist draw.
Whilst Lucerne occupies relatively flat ground, it is not long
before paddlers reach distinctly mountainous scenery, and from the
pier at Lucerne there is a good view of the mountain, Rigi, often
regarded as the first of the "Alps". The Rigi is a popular
excursion for tourists, reached by paddle steamer from Lucerne via
the village of Vitznau where a rack-railway takes visitors to the
top for magnificent views and walks. There is the option of returning
via nearby Weggis by cable car to make an interesting round trip.
the photo (right) PS Stadt Luzern leaves Weggis on its return to
Lucerne in 2001. Vitznau can just be seen in the extreme right of
the picture. The Rigi is high up above the left of the photo.
Once at Vitznau, the alpine foothills rear up into the background.
In the evening, when this shot of PS Unterwalden was taken in 2001,
the setting sun lingers long over the pier as it sets to the west,
siredtly over the low-lying city of Lucerne. Whilst other piers
lie in the shade with the sun lost behind high hillsides, the long
summer evenings at Vitznau are particularly pleasant. On selected
days of the week, the SGV runs late afternoon / early evening
cruises from Luzern turning at Vitznau to allow tourists extra time
to enjoy the village and pierside restaurants, especially after
returning from a day at height on mount Rigi.
Two thirds of the way down the lake is Brunnen, the main resort.
A small valley gives a small area of relatively flat land adjoining
the lake, but even here, the wooded hillside rears up steeply behind
the pier. The pier has been expanded in recent years to handle the
ever-increasing crowds catching the steamers back to Lucerne after
a pleasant day trip.
The "endstation" is Fluelen where lake Lucerne ends
and real alpine territory is close. From Brunnen down, the lake
gets the additional name of "Urnersee" and it is here
that the slopes get steeper and barer and the piers cling tenuously
to the lakeside. Fluelen is different. At this point a flat plain
brings water down from the hills but allows a transport route
onwards into the Alps and untimately into Italy through steep and
sinuous mountain passes only recently made more passable by highly-engineered
motorways and railway tunnels. The photo, left, advertises the "Wilhelm
Tell Express" at the entrance to the pier and one paddle steamer
service still sails under this branding. In the early days
of railways, there was no line alongside the lake and the steamer
trip from Luzern to Fluelen was part of the main route south. This
is no longer the case for most passengers, but tour companies do
recreate the journey and bring considerable patronage to the paddlers
as a result.
here for more details about Lake Lucerne and photographs at all the piers
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