Lucerne: unfinished business

Lucerne: walk on the lakeside
Lucerne: walk on the lakeside

Having soaked in an extended culture bath in Bern for most of the morning we finally set off just before lunchtime in bright sunshine.

The clouds have lifted and you can actually see the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau very clearly in the distance.

Our destination for today is Feldkirch, our first Austrian stopover, just on the other side of the border from Liechtenstein. It’s only 270km away but we want to stop in Lucerne, which Dr K says has “some good art collections”.  

Trubschachen: the Gasthof we could have had lunch at
Trubschachen: the Gasthof we could have had lunch at

So we press on, foregoing a visit to the Paul Klee museum just outside Bern, built by Renzo Piano in 2005, whose undulating shapes we merely admire from the road in passing.

Quickly we find ourselves on picturesque A-roads winding through rolling hills of the kind you see in travel magazines.

We drive through picture-perfect villages, past stout farms with brightly painted shutters and balconies overflowing with cheerful geraniums.

Then, of course, it’s time for lunch. We’re too far from Lucerne still and too ravenous to wait, so we turn on the ‘attractive-Gasthof’ compass. And there is it, in a small place called Trubschachen, in the Emmental valley: the perfect Gasthof.

Even better, there are seats outside. Plenty of them. Too many to be true, in fact. Tuesday, it turns out, is their day off. Dreams of cured meats and Swiss cheeses evaporate. Godfather P is about to faint with hunger; I suggest geraniums as an acceptable option; Dr K suggests we move on.

It’s nearly half past one and the chances of finding anywhere open that still serves food are slim.

Then we remember: when we left Godfather P’s cottage we brought half the larder with us, unwilling to throw away food – although equally not sure whether we would eat it at all. But ‘waste not, want not’ is one of his favourite mottos, so we packed tomatoes, fruit, biscuits, chocolate, salami and bread with us in the car.

Swiss knives out (oh yes), we settle on benches outside an old farmhouse, which turns out to be part of the local Heimat museum, under the uncanny gaze of a field of scarecrows.

Heimat, sweet Heimat: one of the farms making up the traditions museum
Heimat, sweet Heimat: one of the farms making up the traditions museum

‘The scarecrow people’ is an installation which is part of a wider art project by artist Martin Ziegelmueller, we find out from the nearby bright pink container that is being used as the project’s office.

Das Volk der Vogelscheuchen – if you want to know how to say ‘scarecrow’ in German – is quite fun, in a quirky low-cost fashion.

There’s nobody there other than us, about 30 scarecrows and, a bit later on, an elderly couple who comes to feed the goats.

Scarecrow nation: installation in Trubschachen
Scarecrow nation: installation in Trubschachen

All we need now is a coffee and a biscuit, which we could almost have. Just outside Trubschachen is Kambly’s factory, one of Switzerland’s largest confectioners.

The smell of biscuits being baked wafts into the car through the open windows but we drive on. More prettiness; it’s rural and clipped at the same time, with fresh green fields and wooded hills.

We reach Lucerne about an hour later. Mindful that we still have a fair bit to drive to Feldkirch, we make difficult choices about what we’re going to do and not do.

We’ve parked near the recently redesigned area on the north-western tip of the lake, near the railway station and the new cultural centre built by Jean Nouvel, which includes the city’s art collection.

Jean Nouvel's cultural centre
Jean Nouvel’s cultural centre

Realistically, this means we won’t have time to go into the very picturesque old town on the other side of the lake, or visit the Rosengart collection, which apparently has some fantastic Picassos and Klees.

And we also have no time to go to the, erm, Swiss Transport Museum, flagged only by Dr K as “if of interest” but which is “the largest of its kind in the world”. (Actually, having just finished Diccon Bewes’ fascinating and very entertaining Slow Train to Switzerland, I suspect the museum could be a lot more interesting that it sounds).

Anyhow, we decide against it and instead take a walk along the lake before heading up to the cultural centre, whose top two floors house the Kunst Museum.

It’s not bad, but it’s perhaps not as impressive as we expected. Only a few rooms and works of varying quality. Again I fall for Robert Zund’s agricultural and woodland scenes (House under the walnut trees or Eichwald forest), and there were some nice impressionist landscapes including those by Alexandre Calame (View of the Urirostock from Brunnen, for instance).

My favourite is a painting of a winter funeral scene, with black-clad farmers walking down the mountain back to the village. It’s full of mournfulness and resilience (I can’t remember the painter). The museum has put a sample of the permanent collection online.

Under the canopy: Nouvel's building is striking but overbearing too
Under the canopy: Nouvel’s building is striking but overbearing too

But what is most disappointing is the building itself. Inside, it feels soulless and airport-like, while outside, its dark canopy, which projects far over the lakeside, is overbearing and just a little oppressive.

It’s hot and we’re slightly tired but we don’t fancy lingering on any further. We leave Lucerne as unfinished business and get back on the road to Feldkirch.

<< Day Four: Bern  ||  VIENNA ROAD TRIP  || Day Five: Feldkirch

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