Rocky Mountain High

We have been living life on the edge. On the edge of a cliff to be exact, waking up in the morning to the view of the Alps and the Lake of Luzern. We have seen the floating skies from above, and we have been looking down on both ship- and air traffic. We have seen the weather shift between rain and shine not only over our own local valley, but across half the country.

It pays to have friends in high places. In this case, a school friend of ES owns a flat on the side of mount Rigi in central Switzerland. The flat is situated in Kaltbad, the only proper village on the mountain. The «Bad» these days is not so «kalt» anymore, the village has a spa with a heated outdoor pool. The name of the place dates from way back however, when a dip in the mountain creek was by all means as cold as cold can get.

Our daily view. We see the Alps straight ahead and the village of Vitznau down to the left.

The flat is in a house built into the slope of the mountain, and it offers an undisturbed view of the lake 1000 meters below. Weather-wise our four weeks were not the best, we had a wet and cloudy June and very often the curtains were totally drawn. But we always got a glimpse of the world once or twice a day, anything from a number of hours to a number of minutes, and that made also the wet and gray days very much livable. The alternative would have been to rent a room down in some town and live thru the same rainy days there. That would have driven us up the walls. Up here, even though we missed the warm days we could have spent on our magnificent terrace, also the wet and cold days were exiting.

So what did we do on our mountain for a month? Being football fans the Euro Championships on TV would have been important wherever we had stayed, but most of the time we actually did admire the view. When we could see it from the living room we sat there gaping, and when we had the slightest chance to sit outside we most certainly did. We could study meteorology, we could watch the sun shine on one mountain top and the rain fall on another, and in the night we could see thunderstorms and lightning as far away as France.


When the curtain was totally drawn however, there were times when we hardly saw our own railing, let alone the pine trees on the slopes below. Then we talked about the view. And we always heard the cowbells. The Swiss National Animal, the cow, lives in abundance on these hills. The Swiss mountains are not only for sightseeing, there still are quite a few working farms to be seen and also heard. The cowbells came thru the fog, loud and clear, no matter how hard and thick it was.

You cannot drive your car to Kaltbad, but the place is connected to the outside world by two railways and a cable car so communications are actually quite good. From Vitznau on the Lake Luzern to the south, the way our terrace faced, the first mountain cog railway in all of Europe was opened in 1871. Later there came a railway also up the northeastern side, from ES’ home town of Goldau. They both go the very top, to Rigi Kulm some 1800 meters above sea level some 400 meters above our village.

ES watching out for the local wildlife.

From Kaltbad there is even a cable car to the town of Weggis, also by the banks of Lake Luzern. Our friend who owns the flat has a garage there, a parking we had access to while we used her flat. The cable car was therefor the transport we used the most. The cable is very steep, the view is frightening and the car swings when it passes the masts under way. DHH is not a big fan of this particular form of transport, but he puts on a brave face. He very much tries to look like a veteran local traveller when the Chinese teenage tourists scream of joy and fear as the packed gondola jumps about like a dingy on the high seas.

We did get a few sunny days however, and we spent one of them on one of the old paddle steamers that travel the lake. In the summer heat this is the best way of slow travel anyone has ever invented. The ships take five hours from Luzern to the southeastern end at Fluelen and back, making about a dozen stops in the many small towns on the way. The legend of Wilhelm Tell was born in this area, and the ships loudspeaker tell us when we pass the spot where he apparently jumped off the boat of his evil capturers to escape. He was a good swimmer too, Ole Willy, he was much more than a good shot who famously put an arrow thru the apple on his son’s head.

We have travelled the world enough to know how very difficult it is to rate the beauty of lands and landscapes against each other, but if anything is better than the birds view of the Swiss lakes and alps we would very much like to see it. If you know of such a place, let us know. We promise to be along in a year or five to take a look.


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