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Stadt Luzern approaching Verkehrshaus 1999.jpg.jpg
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.
Stadt Luzern leaving Weggis.jpg.jpg
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.

In 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.

Evening at Vitznau.jpg
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.
Uri at Brunnen 2008.jpg
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.

Click here for more details about Lake Lucerne and photographs at all the piers

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