Saturday, 28 November 2015

Pilatus Cogwheel Railway

Last week we have admired the breathtaking panoramic views from Mount Pilatus. Well, I hope they did not take all your breath away because we still need to go down. And trust me, this will be an experience of its own.

We have come to the top of Pilatus with the cable car. We will go down from the opposite side of the mountain, using the Pilatus Cogwheel Railway. We will take this nice red train ...

... and go down through this nice tunnel (and many others).

If you wonder what "cogwheel railway" means I will show you - this is a train that uses cogs to hold to its way. Obviously the railway is different from the ones you usually see when travelling between cities. But it also differs form other cogwheel railways, because the cogwheels are mounted horizontally not to let the train slip when the rail is over 45 degrees steep.

The Pilatus Cogway Railway is the steepest of this type in the world. Its inclination goes up to 48%, with an average of 35%.

 The reason why the railway needs to be so steep is that Mount Pilatus is steep itself.

Yes, yes, you saw it right. There are people who go down on foot. Just three hours and a half says the guide. Around six hours if you wish to go up. Good luck to whose who try.

Honestly speaking I am not sure where to keep my focus. On the amazing alpine views ...

... or on the amazing trail we are on. Put your heads back to the train, we are approaching yet another tunnel!

The railway includes several small trains. We are likely to meet many of them just in front ...

... or behind us.

The tunnels are luckily short, you can see here that one of them ends just after it has began.

Thanks to it we can admire those amazing rocks. Have you noticed the multi-shade layers? I bet they used to be horizontal but the force of the tectonic plates on the move has made them vertical.

We are now mid-way, in a place where the trains in opposite directions can pass each other. Now everybody waves!

The water you could spot in the back is Lake Lucerne that we have seen from the top of Mount Pilatus last week.

The trail is still steep.

And so are the surrounding rocks. This one looks as if a giant would cut it with a huge knife.

Finally, we are getting closer to see (or rather - lake) level. Blue, green, red, the magic of nature at its best.

Last glimpse from the window (do not lean out!).

Those of you who wish to continue their journey with a boat will find the marina on their left hand side.

So we have finally arrived. But look, there is no place for the train to turn around.

I am sure that you wonder how they will make the train go back. Will it jump to the other rail? Well, not. The rail will come to it.

And then, the train will move sideways. Notice like the pantograph goes up to reach the electrical lines. At the begining the Pilatus Cogway Railway was powered with steam. Today it uses of course electricity.

I hope that you have enjoyed our ride on the Pilatus Cogway Railway.

Looking at the lower station and the little hill behind it I would not have guessed that a ride on this nice train would be almost like flying on a dragon.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Mount Pilatus

This November was one of the warmest and most sunny since many years. I decided to take advantage of this fact and show you a place that is amazing in all periods and weathers but most of all on a truly sunny day. Mount Pilatus is for sure not the highest in Switzerland since it is only 2 128 meters high. But it dominates the landscape of Luzerne and offers fantastic panoramic view of the area. We could of course climb to the top but I propose that we rather take a cable car.

Here comes the lower station of the cable car railway. You surely spotted the dragon image - Pilatus Mountain is believed to be a dragon rock supposedly fell from the sky in the year 1420.

The gondolas seem very small when you look at them from the street level.

But in reality they are the size of a car, able to take four people at a time. And a little horse on top.

Let's jump in. Pilatus is the high mountain just in front of us.

When you look back, you can see a glimpse of the city behind us.

In the middle of our way we need to switch the gondola for a bigger one. Just enough time to look up to the mountain we are heading for.

The second type of gondola can take 55 people an needs less than 4 minutes to reach the top.

Look, there is a little church on the hill. I am really wondering how people get there for their masses.

Finally, the upper station of the cable car is just in front of us. I must say that this rock is really impressive.

And here we are. On top of Mount Pilatus, a mountain that was believed for many years to be cursed.

Have you noticed the red spot? It is a paraglider. More gliders are getting ready on the slope.

And here comes another one!

When you turn to the right, you will see a strange structure on one of the peaks.

This is a battery of artillery and a radar. because of its location, Mount Pilatus has a huge strategic significance for the Swiss military defence.

It is not allowed to go close to the radar, but we can go to a peak next to it and have a look in the direction of the city of Zug.

Look - it is the little church that we have seen from the cable car.

The little lake in the background is actually not that small. It is Lake Zug.

Alright, let's turn back. I propose that we go now up the other peak, the one above the cable car station.

Luckily there is no need to have ropes and pickaxes. The stairs are pretty comfortable. But I really recommend that you hold tightly the handrail

And finally here it comes. The most amazing view of Lake Lucerne, known also as the Lake of Four Cantons.

It is surrounded by mountains - some a bit lower ...

... and others high enough to be covered with snow even on a sunny day.

I propose that we go now down back to the railway station.

The big white building is a fancy hotel.

Let's take a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the view.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Today we will be visiting the second biggest city in Switzerland (and still not its capital!) - Geneva. Unlike Zurich, Geneva is a French speaking city so do not be surprised if you find inscriptions in French in the streets and offices, like here - on the main Post Office ("Hôtel des Postes").

Actually in our hotel I have seen people from Northern part of Switzerland talking to the receptionist in English! They did not speak French and the receptionist did not speak German, so even though they were all coming from the same country, they had to use a language that was foreign to all of them.

But as a matter of fact, Geneva is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. It is said that over fifty percent of the inhabitants hold a foreign passport. This will not be so surprising if you realise, that Geneva is the seat of many international organisations, like the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

 Geneva houses also the European headquarters of the United Nations.

Opposite to it, on the Place of the Nations, you can see a huge chair with one broken leg. It was designed to help politicians visualise the effects of land mines and cluster bombs, and thus put some pressure on UNO to ban them completely.

Another truly international organisation in Geneva is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN.

If this building does not ring a bell, I bet this one does. It is called The Globe of Science and Innovation and is in fact a type of museum. Unfortunately it undergoes now some reconstructions and the exhibitions are largely not accessible.

Of course, the history of Geneva dates many centuries back, before anybody would think that it is Earth going around the Sun (not mentioning the Large Hadron Collider). So let's get back to the Old Town.

Geneva had its own bishop in year 379. Hands up those whose countries were Christian at that time. I do not see too many hands ... The city is nowadays protestant, the most important catholic church is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Geneva, build in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The Cathedral of Saint Peter, built somewhere in the twelve century, is now a protestant church.

 Still, you will find next to it signs leading to Santiago de Compostela.

Inside, the cathedral is modest.

This is due to the fact that not only it is a protestant church - the Protestant Church of Geneva as a wing of the Calvinism, so a branch of the church that is known for simple, unadorned churches. Actually, John Calvin himself was teaching in the Geneva cathedral, you can still see his chair.

One of the great things about the St. Pierre Cathedral is that it is possible to climb up the towers. We did it
recently in Bardejov, but there only one tower was possible to be climbed. From the top you can see a panorama of the city ...

... and the cathedral itself.

If you look well, you can spot one of the biggest tourist attractions of Geneva. If you missed it, no worries, I will take you there in a few minutes.

Just before we leave, we need to quickly sneak into a little chapel, called Maccabees Chapel, next to the main entry. Very much different from the rest of the church.

Before we leave the Old Town, I will quickly show you two more buildings. The first one is the Arsenal, currently siege of the National Archives. It is nicely decorated and you can see some real cannons below the arcades.

Just on the other side of the street, you can see the Town Hall. The flags of Switzerland and Geneva are hanging every few meters.

Let's now leave the Old Town and go down the hill. We need to pay a tribute to the Reformation Wall.

It was built in 1909 and literally embedded into the city walls of Geneva, to highlight the importance of the city for the Reformation and the importance of Reformation to the city. The triggering event was 400th birth anniversary of Calvin, who amongst others founded the University of Geneva. You will find him here - second from the left.

As we go out of the park, you can take a look at the Grand Théâtre de Genève, so the local opera house. For me, it looks like a smaller version of Opera Bastille. But Geneva is still lucky to have one. In the seventeenth and (partly) eighteenth century the Calvinist influences made the city refuse the creation of an opera house.

Now we have visited the almost all tourist attractions of Geneva. Yes, I remember that I promised you something more. Here it comes - the Jet d'Eau. It is 140 meters high, sending up five hundred litres of water every second, at a speed of two hundred km/h.

Jet d'Eau is only open when the weather conditions are favourable. In case you are unlucky when you come to the city, you may take a glimpse at this video (in French of course!)

Alright, it is time to go now. So says the flower clock so it has to be true. I hope that you have enjoyed the visit.