Sketches from Luzern

Lake Luzern

Mark Eggleton

The piano recital had just passed the 90-minute mark and I’d run out of things to do.

More pertinently, I was wrestling with my internal monologue.

I screamed out an obscenity yet no one seemed to notice – I was safe for a few more seconds.

From my seat, I’d counted the audience members I could see (268) and worked out the exact angle my theatre seat would fold-up while I was still sitting in it.

Slumped in my teetering near-folded chair, I had also sketched an extraordinary likeness of the back of the Swiss gent’s head in front of me.

It was a large head with a good thatch of grey-flecked dark hair that had obviously been recently coiffed by a professional.

Below the convex-shaped hairline was a thick, clean-shaven, bullish neck sheathed at the base by a red and blue horizontally striped polo shirt.

Cascading down in front of my fine life drawing model was a mix of heads in the European summer uniform of shorts and short-sleeved shirts as well as a smattering of greying, pearl wearing local grandees out for an afternoon of culture.

Hunkered down in my chair in the second back row, I couldn’t actually see the stage but a selection of Chopin’s dirges rose up through the auditorium.

Yes … if you hadn’t already guessed I was in Lucerne or Luzern in Switzerland.

I was only in the city for just over 24-hours but my fine guide had decided a two-hour Chopin recital was in order on a wonderfully clear sunny day made for wandering aimlessly through this gorgeous city’s streets.

Wander the city streets … Luzern

Over 700 years of history in a city that pre-dates Switzerland’s coming of age as a financial centre or preferred supplier of mercenaries to the royal houses of Europe.

Our guide had pointed out many of the 225 fountains in the city (which you can sip from) and mentioned the 100 rivers running into Lake Luzern but only one that runs out.

For centuries, the volume of water running into the lake had been harnessed to power mills and nowadays – hydroelectric power.

It’s an enormously picturesque city fortified from invading hordes by a series of towers and a genuine pleasure to walk around and discover on foot.

Fearing another cultural visit, I slowly dropped off the back of my tour guide’s group and revisited some of the sites I’d uncovered the night before when I’d arrived by train from Zurich.

Free of a guide I wandered through the different market squares where in days of yore, each square had a specific offering whether it is beer, livestock, wine or grain.

I found myself a pleasant bar on the lakefront and planned a new afternoon itinerary with a large beer, fondue, bread and cold meat to fortify me.

In the Luzern guide I’d noticed a rather good Picasso Museum – the Museum Sammlung Rosengart.

Situated in a former bank building, the Rosengart Collection features 32 Picasso paintings as well as over 100 watercolours, drawings graphic and sculptural works together with a series of photos of Picasso at work and play taken by his close friend David Douglas Duncan.

Peer at Picasso … Museum Sammlung Rosengart

The paintings, sourced from Picasso’s later years, come from the Rosengart family who were close personal friends of the artist.

President of the Rosengart Foundation, which oversees the collection, Angela Rosengart was herself painted five times by Picasso and these hang in the collection.

Yet the collection goes beyond Picasso and also includes 125 works by Paul Klee and a further 21 artists including Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, Chagall, Dufy, Kandinsky, Laurens, Léger, Marini, Matisse, Miró, Modigliani, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Rouault, Seurat, Signac, Soutine, Utrillo and Vuillard.

It’s an extraordinary collection and worth a visit to Luzern all on its own.

Oddly, my guide earlier in the day had failed to mention it as a Luzern must-see.

She had mentioned the main arts centre and had rattled on about swimming in the lake and had dragged us to an Italian restaurant for a lunch of water and overcooked chicken.

Yet she had failed to mention this extraordinary gallery or let us stand and marvel at the beauty of Luzern and the ice-capped mountains rising from the lakeshore that encircle the city and lake like brown-green battlements.

I needed a few more days here but I was due to catch a boat to Weggis back along the lake.

As it chugged away from the wharf a mist borne on a warm current of wind, rose and floated down along the lake and Luzern slowly faded into a cool early evening haze.




Share this article