02 May 2011

Bürgenstock Felsenweg

Maybe we expected something a little more difficult, but we certainly couldn't have hoped for anything more picturesque. On a bright, hot mayday - equipped with hiking shoes and backpacks - we took a beautiful stroll along the Bürgenstock Felsenweg. "Felsenweg" translates to "cliff trail." I think that's a pretty good name for it.
The trailhead is actually located in the parking lot of the Bürgenstock resort. For the first twenty minutes, hotels are about the only interesting things to see. This is a popular tourist area, high up above lake Lucerne, and the early going was crowded with people taking their Sunday walk. Gradually, the path began to empty and climb gently, and the views began to open up.
The felsenweg was made between 1900 and 1905, primarily for the benefit of the Bürgenstock Hotel guests. Much of the back side of it was blasted and chipped out of the rock face that soars up above Lucerne's waters. Here, the cliffs are close to 1,500 feet high, and the feeling of looking outwards is closer to that of flying than anything terrestrial.
Eventually, at the point where two trails converge, we came across a rather terrifying contraption. Built at the same time that the trail was, the Hammetschwand lift is the highest freestanding elevator in Europe, and services the very summit of Mount Bürgenstock. It costs ten francs per person, which is outrageous considering that the ride only lasts fifty seconds. But it's worth it. In less than a minute, the little glass box rises over four hundred and fifty feet, which is dizzying. My ears popped twice, actually.

At the top, without much ceremony, we were dumped out onto a high platform at the top of the rock. There's a pub-like place there- people were drinking beer and the overriding scent was of sausage cooking. We used the bathroom and then began our descent, on foot, down the back way.
If you plan on going, don't bother with hiking equipment. It's an easy walk and some women were even doing it in pumps (though, of course, they were struggling). The trail is well marked, but you'll hardly have to look at the signs. Most of the way, the felsenweg resembles a pleasant sidewalk, albeit with great views.

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