Our friend Katie came to visit about a month ago, and one of the highlights of her visit (besides her glorious presence, of course), was a weekend car trip to Lucerne, Liechtenstein, and Neuschwanstein (aka Cinderella’s Castle).
This is Part 1, which includes Lucerne and Liechtenstein, and Part 2 includes Neuschwanstein. I didn’t want you to go cross-eyed with the longest blog post in the world (and I’m just taking a page out of the film industry – series leave you wanting more, right?!)
As an aside for anyone who is curious, it’s actually quite inexpensive and convenient to rent a car here. Our weekend rental from Europcar was only about 80€ for the whole weekend, and while this doesn’t include petrol, it does include 900 km of driving (but if you go over this limit, it starts to get very costly). Really the only downside was that we ended up with a Renault, which goes from 0-60 mph in 2.5 days. Besides that, though, it’s great to travel around by car because there are no luggage weight or size limits, you can travel on your own timeline, and it’s just more comfortable than flying or taking the train. A forewarning though – it’s stupid easy to get a speeding ticket in Germany. Just ask Brian (and his dad, come to think of it). =)
Anyway, the trip was awesome and we were able to experience three different countries in just one weekend!
We left Freiburg early on a Friday morning and got to Lucerne just 3 hours later. It was a fairly easy drive, and we managed to somehow avoid the toll to get into Switzerland. This probably has something to do with the fact that when we drove through the German/Swiss border, the border patrol barely glanced at us long enough to see my U.S. passport and just waved us through. Not sure what or if we missed something, but we saved about 13€!
Lucerne is a gorgeous city, best known for its covered bridges and massive lake. We figured this was a good city to just walk around and take in the architecture and waterfront, and, of course, we bought some beer and found a glorious bench to park ourselves on right on the lake’s shore.
In Switzerland, everything is expensive. Seriously. We decided we didn’t want to spend 20€ per person to eat dinner that evening (which probably would have gotten us a sandwich, bag of chips, and a soda), so we went to the supermarket and bought 3 bags of Ramen-like noodles, a bag of frozen vegetables, and three beers. The whole meal STILL cost us nearly 13€. For Ramen.
The next morning we really wanted to take a cable car to the top of Mount Pilatus, but unfortunately, it was so cloudy that the views wouldn’t come close to justifying the costs. (Again, this would’ve been 25€ per person to go halfway up the mountain – all the way to the top and then a return trip would come close to a 60€ expense. Gah!)
We only spent one night in Lucerne, but we met a lovely Australian couple who had just spent the last four months hiking around South America. It’s reasons like this that traveling is just so cool. You meet folks from all walks of life!
I know, Liechtenstein is a country and not a city, but since the whole country houses about 30,000 people, which is 20,000 people less than my undergraduate university, I figured I could just label this section with the name of the country.
The drive from Lucerne to Vaduz (the capital of Liechtenstein), was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. You drive straight through the Swiss Alps, most with snowcapped tips, and past gorgeous, still lakes that look like glass. It truly was unbelievable, and pictures just truly don’t do it justice (at least not with my iPhone, anyway – if Uncle John and his Eiffel Tower-sized camera were with me, he could’ve gotten some good shots!)
Vaduz has a whopping 5,000 residents, and the excitement level in the city was comparable. The city, while surrounded by the Alps and a pretty cool, still-functioning-as-a-residence castle, was just kind of underwhelming. We were here on Saturday, but it could have been a bank holiday for all we knew, with no more than 20 people seen the entire time we were here.
We took a short hike to the top of the castle, took some pretty photos, bought a magnet, and were on our way. Well, we actually decided we wanted to stop at a restaurant called Panorama that the aforementioned Australians had told us about, but our efforts were thwarted when we finally found the place and it was closed. Plus, there were lots of heavily armed military men no more than 50 feet from the restaurant (at what we presume was a military base, or so we hope), so we decided we were just going to be on our way.
If anyone were to ask for my 2 cents, I’d summarize by saying I highly recommend Lucerne, and if you just had all the time in the world, then Liechtenstein would be pretty cool (especially if you’re a skier – there’s supposed to be some amazing slopes here!) But if you have just a weekend, you could probably skip Liechtenstein and be OK. We even forgot to go to the tourist office to get our passports stamped, which is a bummer, too. (You can pay 3€ to get the stamp – Liechtenstein is comparable to Switzerland in its ability to steal all of your money.)