Saturday, 12 November 2016

Lucerne: Gletschergarten

Near the lion, I notice a flight of stairs leading to a small hut, and somewhat intrigued, I wander up. This is the Gletschergarten.

On a whim, I go inside. It turns out to be small and rather nice, and surprisingly interesting in that low-key way that peculiar museums often are. The site is a set of geologically-interesting relics of the ice age discovered during the building of a wine cellar. There are rocks with marks left by the glaciers, and peculiar potholes caused by the swirling action of sand-laden meltwaters.

Nearby there's also an exhibition about glaciers. A hall of mirrors was transferred here from an exhibition that closed elsewhere. And there's a lookout tower.

It's the first time I've been in a hall of mirrors, to the best of my recollection. It was genuinely pretty fun, and also disconcerting. More disconcerting was the period after leaving, when it took my brain a surprisingly long while to readjust to the idea that what I was seeing was probably actually there.

I never actually walked into anything, but they'd been kept in good nick and very clean, so it was pretty convincing.

The entrance to the hall of mirrors

Cool peacock bro

I can't even remember what was going on with this

At last, an accurate mirror

I have wasted away due to illness

There's some exhibits about the alpine area in general too.


Leaving the mirrors, I went for a quick wander around the rock-strewn area. There's a little path up a cliff with various sample rocks, but honestly neither the tree-obstructed views, the concrete path nor the grey lumps of rock were very photogenic, so just imagine that bit.

This is a rough mock-up of a crude alpine hut, as far as I can tell? I'm not sure what it's for. Maybe an example of what old huts used to be like?

Inside the hut. Not very comfy! I can't imagine people living here? Maybe this style were used for hunting expeditions, or something? Or just as summer camps if you weren't worried about the cold?

The leaf-strewn roof of the glacial stone exhibit

Part of a chalet that's part of the Gletschergarten. This section is preserved in a traditional style.

There was a model of a battle here. Someone called Pfyffer von Wyher (German link) was associated with the building - maybe he used to live here? But either way, he made a whole load of these kinds of dioramas. There were some further exhibits downstairs, which seemed to be about local geography and some more Pfyffer models, but I was a bit tired by this point so I just looked at this one.

Further up the path was another chalet, this one carefully mocked up to give the the view over an alpine glacier.

It's really pretty good, I think! Especially in cold weather like this.

It must be even better when it's actually snowing.

Climbing to the top of the cliff, I trudged up the observation tower to look out over the town. I suppose that's two of these I've done now, though thankfully this one was easier than the church tower. With the sun actually present today, it was rather more cheerful than Zurich. I must confess though that it's quite rare for a sizeable town to look genuinely pretty even from above. Lucerne does pretty well. Still a lot of concretey bits around though...

So honestly, the Gletschergarten was a very solid pick. If you're in Lucerne I would definitely recommend visiting - it's not something you'll find anywhere else, it's got a variety of things that are modestly interesting if you're the kind of person who likes quiet little corners of knowledge, and it's not too expensive. If the weather's good you can take a picnic, and you can get some lovely views too.

Rather to my dismay, it turns out that there is no cafe at the Gletschergarten. None at all! There's a small area where you can eat a picnic, but that's all. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more... having seen my fill of rocks, it's time to leave. After all my walking, I'm keen to sit down for a warm drink and a rest. I start strolling back through the city centre in a zig-zag pattern, seeking somewhere I might find one.

It is perhaps worth noting that I never made it to the actual Alpenium. There was a building labelled that which just looked like a restaurant? I couldn't tell that it was still functioning as anything other than a restaurant, but maybe I missed out through hesitancy.

A fine ivy-clad building

Rather impressive doors embedded in a long solid wall. Intriguing!

Oh hey, it's that guy! You can find more amenable information about him here.

Near the town centre, several buildings are highly decorated and rather pleasing.

It's well worth taking a stroll through these squares and streets just to look around at the buildings. The ground floors are mostly generic shops, though.

You can rarely go wrong with a shot of something towerish by a lake with the sun behind it...

I don't know quite what I'm doing wrong, because I am completely unable to identify any cafes.

There are a few restaurants dotted around, although not as many as I expected in a town centre. But I can't find anywhere that looks like a place to get a drink and maybe a light snack. Google Maps can't find any either. I see a couple of places which physically sell drinks, but have nowhere to sit down.

I head back through the station. I realise now that much the same thing prevails here, as indeed it did at the Zurich station. I thought absence of seats was a distinctly Japanese phenomenon, but although Switzerland has better public seating provision (which is to say, it has some), there is a mysterious tendency for places to sell drinks without letting you sit down.

I don't understand this at all. Surely the whole point of cafes is that you can sit down, while supping a beverage. The drink element is frequently incidental, in my experience. There's a whole genre of cafes that exist in the UK to serve those in need of a seat, from tired parents of toddlers to elderly people with limited walking range. But here, as in Japan, the assumption seems to be that for the most part people have tireless mechanical limbs.

Of course, I'm noticing this particularly because I'm ill, so really really do need to sit down and rest. Inside, out of the cold. But when (inexplicably, to a Brit) you can't get a cuppa at the museum nor at any of the open-to-the-public churches, and not even at the station, what's a man to do?

I grimly continue back towards my hotel, passing some nonexistent coffee shops that Google Maps insists are on the way. Eventually, I strike a tiny, welcome nugget of precious metal in terms of the Crazy Cupcake Cafe, not far from my hotel. I collapse here and wearily consume a hot cup of black tea, eventually recovering enough to also read some manga.

It's cheerful, fairly full (it's small, in fairness), seems to have a regular clientele, a good array of cakes and drinks, and also serves food. I am not in a state to consume anything other than tea, though.

After about 45 minutes, it's nearly closing time and I feel strong enough to get back to the hotel.

I reach the hotel, drop my bags, and crash like a plummeting rocket, sprawling exhausted on the spare bed. The inexplicable shouting from down the street barely stirs me. I don't sleep, but I do lie in a motionless heap for about an hour while a degree of strength drains back into my body, and the leaden cobwebs that had embraced my eyes and the hindparts of my brain gradually dissipate.

When I'm functional again, I get up. It's about half six. I reluctantly activate the data on my phone, and get a message from M-san confirming our arrangements for tomorrow. Fingers crossed that I'll be able to get up in time to meet for 9.30... not a sentence I would write in my normal state of health!

I end up heading into town with my laptop. Primarily that's because I need something to eat, and the hotel doesn't offer it. I only want something fairly light, and there are no restaurants or cafes near the hotel. So I plan to just pick up something at a conbini and then continue on to Starbucks. I'd be delighted to go to an authentic Swiss cafe, but so far it's proven very difficult to find any at all, and the Crazy Cupcake shut at 5pm. I need hot caffeinated beverages, thanks.

My expectations are confounded when both of the conbinis I'd pinpointed turn out to be shut. It's 7pm on a Saturday. Unable to reconcile these facts, I march glumly back to the station, where I find one that's actually open. Despite some embarrassment at not having weighed my apples prior to reaching the till (a cultural quirk that had not occurred to me) I manage to buy bread, apples, yoghurt and - somewhat out of desperation - a pot of edamame beans so I'd get at least some protein. Luckily, there's one seat free at the station seating, so I slump there for a few minutes and stuff myself.

The bread I picked up on a whim - I was going to get rolls, but I noticed some Fladenbrot.


I haven't had this stuff since I was visiting a friend in Vienna shortly after graduation, and he took me to the Turkish market, where we bought a bagful of fresh, soft Fladenbrot. It was aromatic and warm, and we ripped it into tender handfuls and devoured about three entire loaves with a bowl of noodle soup. I dossed down in his room on a borrowed matress, while a perpetual column of ants marched silently across the ceiling above, wondering for a long time whether one might lose its sure footing and plummet onto my sleeping face. Perhaps one did.

I remember walking the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace; a crow perched atop a statue in perfect posed mimicry of the figure below; gigantic Viennese fingers; Hundertwasserhaus; standing on the balcony watching a performance of Romeo und Julia, grasping only a fraction of the words. A time before... well, before a lot of life happened. It feels so distant.

This is the first time I've seen this bread in nearly ten years.

It's... not as good. Unsurprising. I mean, it's bagged stuff from a convenience store probably made last week, as opposed to unpackaged stuff fresh from the oven at a Turkish bakery stall. Still, it does the job. My memories remain rich and fragrant, untained by the years.

Man, names are confusing.

I've only ever known this stuff as Fladenbrot. The Wikipedia link is a generic "flatbreads" page, obviously useless. Looking for Turkish flatbread via that site found me two options, the more promising being Pide, which brings us to the English "pitta" page. Pitta bread as I've always seen it used in the UK in no way resembles Fladenbrot as I've experienced it, but thankfully I was able to narrow it down to the Ramazan Pide variant. Phew!

I stroll to Starbucks, and am relieved to find I can actually get a seat. And I begin writing this blogpost.

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