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Title: Lucerne
Release Date: 2018-07-02
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 79
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Pictured and described byG. FLEMWELL
Author of “Alpine Flowers and Gardens”
“The Flower Fields of Alpine Switzerland”



Beautiful Switzerland
In this series have already appeared:
Painted and Described by
Other volumes in preparation



The Teufelsmünster from TellsplatteFrontispiece
Lucerne: Springtime on the Musegg8
The Rigi from the Musegg—Lucerne14
The Bürgenstock from Vitznau20
Ruins of Gessler’s Stronghold at Küssnacht26
Mount Pilatus from Stansstad32
The Bernese Alps from Mount Pilatus36
The Titlis from Engelberg—Winter42
The Engelberg at Engelberg—Spring46
The Uri-Rothstock seen from Brunnen56
The Axenberg from Brunnen—an Autumn Evening60



There is good warrant for turning directly to Lucerne and to the lakewhich lies in the midst of the four Forest Cantons when making, orrenewing, acquaintance with Switzerland; and there should be no questionof thereby slighting other famed districts of this favoured land. Almostinvariably it is best to go straight to the heart of things, and theVierwaldstätter-See, or Lake of the Four Forest Cantons—commonly knownto us as the Lake of Lucerne—is held to be, both geographically andhistorically, at the very heart of Switzerland. There is, too, theadditional assurance that no other district in the whole of the{6}twenty-two Cantons which go to the making of the Confederation canoffer a more admirable, a more ideal introduction to the fascinatingwonders and delights of Swiss scenery. In spite of our being in theheart of the country, we are, as it were, upon the frontier of aPromised Land, one flowing as literally as may be with milk andhoney—and glaciers; we are, that is to say, at the portal by which wemay as lief best enter the domain of the Swiss Alps. For if we exceptPilatus, that gaunt, tormented rock-mass standing in severe isolationupon the threshold of the city, Lucerne is relatively modest andrestrained as regards its immediate scenery; but away on the horizonwhich bounds the waters of the Lake is the long snowy array of majesticAlps, and we may soon reach by boat and rail the giants of Schwyz, Uri,Unterwalden and the Bernese Oberland. The steamboats alone willtransport us, through graduated scenic grandeur, to the great cliffs andsnow-covered crags of Uri, romantic birthplace of the Swiss Republic.

However, there is no occasion to become restive at the prospect; Lucerneitself is the most charming of preludes and points d’appui for allthat lies afield. Particularly is this so if opportunity allows us to behere in the spring of the year, with the fruit trees all a-flower andthe grey-towered Musegg ramparts deep set in a rosy-white haze; and withthe fields all a-wave with blue, white, and gold, and the lakeside{7}promenade laden with the myriad flower-spikes of the horse-chestnuttrees. Spring is earlier here—some ten days earlier in May—than awayat the very feet of the Alps. We may well be content, then, to remainawhile amid such vernal freshness, studying the life and history of thetown of the “wooden storks’ nests”, and revelling on the quay in theAlpine panorama framed by the soft blue sky and blue-green waters—apanorama which is never more delightful than at this season of the year,never even in autumn when October clears the atmosphere, robes the nearhills in fire, deepens the blue colouring of distant rock and forest,and spreads a new white drapery upon the higher peaks.

To those who knew this town, say, five-and-twenty years ago, and whohave not revisited it until to-day, how many are the changes which theywill meet, and with what mixed feelings will they meet these changes!The past twenty-five years have meant astonishing developments foralmost every quarter of Switzerland. Cities have burst their bounds andhave spread far along the countryside; villages have grown into towns,and from nothing, or perhaps from a single old-time chalet, great groupsof hotels and their dependencies have sprung up upon the mountains. AndLucerne certainly has been no laggard in this movement. Twenty-fiveyears ago the sign and symbol of the{8} city was a stolid, stunted towerset in water beside a long, roofed, wooden bridge running slantwiseacross a river, with tapering twin steeples beyond. But nowadays theplace would be unrecognizable without an airship floating above vastPalace hotels which all but obscure the twin steeples and cause the agedKapell-Brücke and its faithful companion, the Wasserturm, to look as twoquaint old country folk come into town to see the sights, and who remaincoyly by the See-Brücke on the outskirts, so to speak, of all thesplendid modern hustle—two dear, simple, reticent old things in theirold-world garb, despite the efforts of the authorities to bring themabreast of the times by festooning them about with many strings ofelectric lights. We have to be thankful that these and other intenselyindividual relics of the past weathered the rage for demolition thatappears to have reigned in the town during the middle of the nineteenthcentury. Something of what this rage was like can be gathered fromProfessor Weingartner’s pictures which line the walls of Muth’s BeerRestaurant in the Alpen-Strasse. Here, whilst sampling theSchweinswürstl, a speciality of the house, we can study thepresentment of at least a dozen old gates and towers which were pulleddown between the years 1832 and 1870. That the remaining nine Museggtowers, the two wooden bridges

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and the Water Tower escaped this onslaught would seem to have been amiracle of good luck. At any rate, the townspeople of to-day must surelylook upon it in some such light. For a new spirit now rules in thisdirection—a spirit of conservatism, even of rehabilitation—and what ofthe antique past remains is dear and safe, and what can be done toreinstate or reconstruct that which was lost, or in danger of beinglost, in the fresco and iron-work decorated house-fronts is rapidlybeing done. Art is in the ascendancy to-day in Lucerne, and HansHolbein’s heart would be rejoiced could he but return to the quarters hefrequented in 1516 before he journeyed, in 1526, to the Court ofEngland. I do not think that the townspeople would go so far as Rodin,the great French sculptor, and say, “Une seule chose est utile aumonde: l’Art!” (for there is the hotel business, and howeverartistically inclined the Lucerneois may be, they are eminentlypractical); but it is quite evident that to-day they would never acceptwithout amendment Plato’s scheme for a republic in which Art wasignored.

In some of its aspects Lucerne is reminiscent of both Nuremberg andVenice: of the former in its ancient towers, its beaten ironwork and itsfrescoed houses; and of the latter in its river and lakeside life andarchitecture, especially looking from the Schwei{10}zerhof Quay to thefinely domed railway station across the water, or again at night-timewhen many-tinted reflected lights dance upon the flood, and row-boats,with the oarsmen poised much as in Venetian gondolas, move stealthilyathwart the velvet shadows. All this, however, is merely reminiscent;Lucerne is substantially herself—“Lucerna, the Shining One”, quick withan individual beauty in which orderliness, dignity, and self-respect areprominent qualities. And because these traits in her character are somanifest, certain lapses in good taste and the fitness of things are aptto be the more keenly regretted. Go down along the right side of theReuss river, past the Kapell-Brücke with its 154 paintings of ancientlocal history and legend filling the beam-spaces beneath the roof, pastthe befrescoed Gasthaus zu Pfistern, past the Flower and Fruit Market inthe old Rathaus arcades, past the Hotel Balances and its history-tellingfaçade, across the Wine Market containing a fifteenth-century fountaindedicated to St. Maurice—who, with St. Leodegar, is co-patron of thetown—down to the Mühlen-Platz, and there you will find stark modernism,in the shape of ramshackle baths and uncompromising factory workshops,right beside one of the chief and most picturesque relics of OldLucerne—the fourteenth-century wooden Spreuer-Brücke, with its quaintshrine and paintings of the{11} Dance of Death, sung of by the poetLongfellow. But perhaps a more brazen example of this intrusiveness isto be seen by passing over the bridge and standing at the nearest cornerof the Zeughaus. From this point there is what is probably the mostperfect ensemble of varied mediaeval architecture to be found in thetown—the old bridge and its quaint, rosy-red shrine in the foreground,spanning the green and rapidly flowing Reuss, and backed by the Museggtowers and ramparts and the bulky monastic building whose deep roof ispierced by a triple line of windows. It is a nearly perfect glimpse ofthe past, and that it is not entirely perfect is due to a bald modernvilla set high against the rampart walls. This brazen-faced building iswellnigh as incongruous, perched up there beneath the unique andprecious Mannlithurm, whose warrior sentinel, hand upon sword, watchesover the town, as is the Alhambra Labyrinth, with its “interestingOriental groups and palm-groves”, in the Glacier Garden.

However, it will not do to be too critical. Rather should we give thanksfor the strong directing hand which in the main the town now holds uponProgress, that arch-egoist with no eyes but for itself. There are timeswhen it is no easy matter to reconcile the old with the new: to saywhere antiquity shall rule for art and sentiment’s sake, and where itshall{12} give way, tears or no tears, before the utilities of the present.Nor is it less difficult to give an unprejudiced and far-sightedjudgment upon the actual truth, and, therefore, upon the actual meritand value of beauty and ugliness. It is such a personal matter—personalso largely to the time being. We must not imagine that the chimney-pothat will be for all time cherished as respectable, though we may expectsome wailing and remonstrance when its call to go arrives. So, possibly,even probably, here in this town the old inhabitants of 400 years ago,when every house was of wood, were heard to carp and grumble—may evenhave risen in protest—when Jacob von Hertenstein built for himself thefirst stone dwelling and had it painted gaily with pictures by youngHans Holbein, thus setting a fashion which eventually not only oustedthe “storks’ nests”, but set up something for whose preservation we nowclamour, although at the same time we incline to rave against some ofits recent offspring, the Palace hotels. Thus, if we are not careful, dowe find ourselves caught in a tangle of inconsistencies. Apt to think,like the cicerone of Chichester Cathedral, that “nothing later than thefourteenth century is of much value”, we should be wary lest posterityhas cause to deride us. We are enthusiastic children where temporarycustom and passing bias are concerned,{13} and what to us is horribleto-day is often splendid to-morrow.

On the other hand, there is a strong tendency, perhaps a kind ofbravado, which aims at showing that we are no longer overawed by thepast as were our ancestors; that we live very much in the present, withone eye on the immediate future, and that we do not so much say “Let thedead bury their dead” as “Let us at once bury all that is moribund”. Inshort, an egotistical irreverence stalks abroad with regard to the past,as well as an exorbitant sentimentality, and our pressing necessity isto beware of both and to keep in the middle of the road. Now this isjust the happy and wise position which Lucerne seems to occupy atpresent. The merest feather will show which way the wind is blowing, andin the current edition

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