I really feel that the cog wheel railway to Mt Pilatus from Apnachstad deserves a mention all of its own as it is a fascinating means of transport.
Cog wheel railways were adopted by the Swiss many many years ago when they saw how well they worked in the US. They are also known as rack railways and simply put, run on sharp teeth rather than smooth wheels. The Pilatus train climbs the mountain at a gradient of 48 degrees which believe me, is very steep indeed. I have a fear of heights normally and thought that I would have to close my eyes all the way to the top, but once the train moved off, I was so taken by the breathtaking scenery that was all around that I forgot about being scared and finally realised that I wasn't scared anyway.
I would recommend this form of transport to anyone not only when travelling up Mt Pilatus but anywhere else that you find one as well. It's a magnificent experience.
We arrived in Lucerne by Car, and straight away started looking for a car park. We found one, but it was only a 20min park, so that was not long enough.
BEWARE if you do use these parks, do not overstay your time, as we saw plenty of Parking Officer's and car's with ticket's in windscreens.
We found the Kesselturm Parking Station which is only a short walk to the main part of Lucerne and the Old Town.
It is open 24 hours a day and there are 350 parking spaces. You can pay with either swiss francs or Euro's.
There are security camera's located around the building and regular patrols.
We found this the best bet for parking in Lucerne
Rates in 2011 were.......
0.5 hrs CHF 1.50
1.0 hours CHF 3.0
2.0 hours CHF 4.5
3.0 hours CHF 6.0
4.0 hours CHF 7.5
5.0 hours CHF 9.0
6.0 hours CHF 10.0
7.0 hours CHF 12.0
The parking garage is Kesselturm 200 meters from the highway exit away, "Luzern-Zentrum".
The pedestrian area of Old Town is easily reached within 2 minutes walking distance.
As usual I took advantage of the short but informative tour on the little train/bus thingy that I am always talking about. This one is particularly appealing and it sports a wonderful audio system in several different languages. It leaves from in front of the Schweizerhof Hotel at very regular intervals. I would certainly not hesitate to recommend it as a great way to get an overview of Lucerne before you start exploring in depth.
From the train station it takes 8 minutes with the train (S3 or Voralpenexpress) Stop is called "Luzern Verkehrshaus"
Or 10 minutes by Bus Nr. 6, 8 or 24 til stop "Verkehrshaus"
Or 10 minutes by ship (only March - October)
Or on a nice day walk along the lake (approx. 30 minutes)
With one of the best train systems in the world, travelling by train around the country is a real pleasure as depending on your location you will get a chance to travel in a real variety of them as we did. Intercity fast speed trains, narrow gauge toy like trains etc., etc., We even got a chance to travel on a German ICE (Inter city express) train on one of trips. Travelling by train is reasonably cheap and lets you enjoy the scenery better than travelling by car, for example. The trains are very frequent. The information regarding any doubt that can arise can be solved at the travel offices at any station which in turn are extremely organized and the people are trained for making the traveler really comfortable and well attended, a great experience indeed.
At practically any railway station in ( for not mentioning at all, because I have not been to all of them ) I did see baggage lockers at one of the platforms. They are bright blue in color and clearly visible. The cost around 6 swiss francs and are very practical in case you are in transit and want to have a look around any town or for keeping your bags for a longer period of time. During our stop in Lucerne en route to Interlaken, we did use them and were able to visit the city free of any luggage, ideal of course.
From the very little bit that I have seen of Switzerland, the most fascinating views were on the route from Lucerne to Interlaken. From various tips that I had picked up from fellow VT´ers ( thanks guys ) I took the Golden Pass Panoramic train. This is a journey that lasted 2 hours which passed so very quickly as the views were simply fantastic. The windows of this train have more glass that allows better panoramic views. If you happen to travel first class part of the ceiling of the wagon are also of glass, however its just good in second class. Very comfortable and great service on board.
7 Day pass for 158.- includes 2 free ride days
15 day pass for 210.- includes 5 free ride days
on the additional trips you save 50% of the fare
So if you intend to use the boats, trains and arial tramways and so on a lot it might be a good deal.
On our last full day in Switzerland we first took the local train from our base in Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken and then caught the Golden Pass Express train to Lucerne. This peaceful 1 1/2 hour trip gave us a glimpse at the Swiss countryside as it moved slowly by us. It would be great sometime in the future to hop on a bike and just glide through all the small villages we passed through.
One of the interesting things I noticed at one of the last stops before we arrived in Lucerne was the true efficiency of the Swiss train system. If you take a look near the end of this TRAVEL VIDEO of our train trip from Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne we pull out of the town of Hergiswil just as the second hand on the clock sweeps past the 12.
The four photos I have here were from that trip. The top of the windows pulled down so that we were able to take some fairly decent photos and the aforementioned video.
To return to our hotel (Hirschen) in the town of Fluelen, we took the train from the main railway station in Lucerne. The train left at 8:21pm and got to the Fluelen stop at 9:17pm. There were other departure times that required train connections, but we opted for the direct route and thus, chose to leave at 8:21pm.
A ticket costs 19.00 CHF per person (a little expensive for a one-way ride to a not-so-far destination). Nevertheless, it was a great mode of transport to and from Fluelen that provided a comfortable and scenic ride.
Fluelen is a quiet and charming village on the southwest side of Lake Lucerne with not much activty going on, so you'd definitely want to take the train about. There's also a boat that runs from Fluelen to Old Town Lucerne, but the hotel desk clerk informed me that the boat ride takes approximately three hours to complete.