Luzern, also known as Lucerne, is probably the most picturesque city in Switzerland and, I found out, a real gem of a holiday location for disabled people. With its lakeside setting, its castellated city walls and medieval bridge, Luzern represents exactly what you think a Swiss city should look like.
A shaky beginning to the holiday
A near disaster presented itself upon arrival. I found out that the hotel I was recommended to go to turned out to be an absolute nightmare in terms of access. You know the sort of worst case scenario — lifts that won’t take wheelchairs, bathroom doors that were too narrow, no specialised equipment in the bathroom — in short, enough to make anybody scream. It was here that the drawbacks of the mighty Internet came home. You exchange messages on the assumption that the recipient is a person of moderate intelligence. Maybe it’s a warning that disabled people should not put their full faith in Internet booking.
All was not lost however. Following a hasty search we found a truly excellent location. Located in the street beside the railway station and boasting no less than six fully accessible bedrooms and adjoining bathrooms, the Hotel Continental Park proved ideal. Being beside the railway station, which in turn is virtually on the lakeshore where the boat cruise stations dock, this meant that all our transport requirements were taken care of at a single stroke. Access is guaranteed on all the major boat trips and excursions to the surrounding mountaintops.
The only query I remember was whether all the cable cars would accept disabled travellers, and they did! This put us within a travel radius of 40 km (effectively the length of the lake) and you could reach Ticino(on the other side of the Alps) by train within a few hours or even get as far as Milan if the fancy took you.
One of our first excursions was a boat ride down the length of Lake Luzern to Brunnnen. When we arrived we drank coffee in the same lakeside café as once did Richard Wagner and Hans Christian Andersen. Sailing back to Luzern through the mists and cloud which had enveloped the lake was a mystical, Wagnerian experience.
Out of town to Mount Pilatus
Another day took us to Mt. Pilatus, a massive table-top mountain overlooking Luzern and its environs. To get there we left the railway station for the boat to Alpnachstad and then by a cogged railway line – the steepest mountain railway in the world I was told, and yes, it felt like it! We arrived on the summit with its panoramic views of central Switzerland. Afterwards we came down via a series of three cable cars to arrive in Kriens (actually a suburb of Luzern) and simply hopped on the local bus (which was fully handicap-accessible, of course) to arrive back at the railway station — a round trip almost, and one to remember.
However, like most good things, there is a down side. Switzerland is a fairly expensive place and you would need to work out your budget carefully before going. Temperatures are — when I went in late September — much like home (the United Kingdom) really except the nights are a little sharper. The Swiss use their mountains as a huge, outdoor heritage park — everywhere is accessible. I will certainly be going back and I do recommend it to any disabled travellers.
The city of Luzern itself is worth visiting too. Take an initial tour on the fully accessible City Train (operating from the front of the grandly imposing Hotel Schweirhof on the southern shore front). This runs every hour most days and is great for an orientation. Also a must-see is the lowendenkmal — an image of a dying lion cut into a sheer rock face. It was carved in the early 19th century to commemorate the 700 Swiss Guards who died defending the French king Louis XVI at the Tuileries Palace, Paris during the French Revolution (like many absolute monarchs of his time Louis XVI had a personal bodyguard of foreign mercenaries to defend him from his own people — but when the revolution ousted the King his bodyguards were slaughtered). This history makes the monument a melancholic and strangely moving place to visit.
The best-known image of Luzern is the Kapellbrücke – a medieval covered bridge spanning the Reuss River and part of original city defences. The Swiss did not enjoy 500 years of peace and democracy but were constantly at war with each other, or with the Germans or Austrians. The bridge entrances are stepped but access is available by stair lift (operates with a Eurokey you can obtain from the tourist information centre in the railway station).
Luzern Tourism produces a leaflet on disability access in the city. This is in German only – which does not help those of us who do not speak the language. Maybe at some stage the tourist board might be persuaded to give a translation, for in many respects, Luzern is an excellent destination for the disabled traveller.
|BA Flights direct from Heathrow to Zurich;Easyjet from Luton to Zurich
Train from Zurich to Luzern (train station located below airport building)
WEB: www.rail.chCall Centre Handicap to arrange for rail and other travel: firstname.lastname@example.orgSwitzerland Tourismpublishes hotel guidewww.myswitzerland.com
Swiss Hotel Association
Mobility Internationalfor general info and links:www.mis-ch.ch
|Luzern Tourism Board,
Zentralstrasse 5, CH – 6002, Luzern
Telephone: +41 (0) 41 227 17 17
City Train Luzern
To Do:Vier Waldstattersee boat cruises: Excursions to Pilatus, Stanserhorn, Schilthorn and Titlis mountains (routes to each by either accessible boat, accessible train or accessible bus)
www.pilatus.ch , www.stanserhorn.ch