6. Sursee – Lucerne – The battle for Switzerland

Today the bike ride goes along Lake Sempach. Hermann chose during his journey to take the direct route to Lucerne across the south side of the lake. I choose to cycle along the north side of the lake because something special happened on that side of the lake in 1386. Near the town of Sempach there was a battle that was not decisive, but it was determinative in the history of Switzerland.

On my way to the location in question I follow a narrow road that goes through meadows and forests and where there is no car traffic at all. Here I see the first cows at a petting distance with the cow bell that is recognizable to them. The sunlight and its reflection on the lake give the environment a special appearance, as if the landscape around me has been painted.

Lake Sempach

After an hour of cycling I see the sign “Slacht 1386” in the landscape. Higher up is a parking lot for both cars and cyclists. After I put my bike down, a couple arrives who, friendly as Swiss, greet me with “Grüezi”, a word I’ve never heard before here in Switzerland. They explain to me that they say that here, but that it can be different in another canton. The man says: “Take those people from Appenzell or Graubünden, for example, they are incomprehensible with their dialect”!

Meanwhile, the man looks surprised at my bicycle with all those bags and realizes that I don’t have an e-bike. I explain what I’m coming to do in Switzerland and show Hermann’s book. The book is viewed with fascination and they want to know how the story goes. I show the website and cheerfully point out to them that this conversation will probably return in the travelogue.

Chapel Battle of Sempach

They tell me a bit about the history of the battle of Sempach and the history of Switzerland and I am beginning to understand more and more why they are so proud of their country here. I suspect it has to do with the centuries-long struggle for freedom against oppressors, the direct democratic model in which the population can make decisions through a popular assembly in the market square and political neutrality. I decide to go and have a look in the chapel and we say goodbye to each other.

Fresco Battle of Sempach

On the ridge near the chapel, the battle between the Swiss cantons of the Old Confederation and the Archduchy of Austria took place in 1386. The death of the Archduke Leopold III of Austria in this battle opened up the opportunity for several major cities, including Lucerne, to expand their regional power and significantly reduce Austria’s sphere of influence. In the chapel, a fresco depicts how the battle must have taken place. The inner walls of the chapel are completely painted with the names and shields of the knights who fought.

Culinary Battle of Sempach

After the visit to the chapel I’m getting really hungry and I order a salad in the nearby restaurant “1386”. As usual, a placemat is laid out, but this version is very special because the restaurant owner depicts the battle of Sempach as a culinary affair, in which kitchen utensils are used as weaponry. Even the family crests in the flags have been replaced by pots and pans!

In the distance I see the agglomeration of Lucerne and the Pilatus mountain and jump on my bike again. There is a lot of walking and cycling in this area and it strikes me that there is always a source of water somewhere to refill the water bottle. On the north side of the Alps I have seen this in almost every village as well; not on the south side of the Alps!

After a good 2 hours of cycling I reach the center of Lucerne and look for the hotel “Alpha”. I have a sober white room with no frills but it is wonderfully cool; That’s all I need on this trip with a daily temperature around 30 degrees. I leave for the city center and cycle through the wide-ranging neighborhood with houses with beautiful balconies that hang full of plants and flowers.

Narrowing in the Reuss

It is very busy in the center. Together with a large crowd of tourists, especially Americans, I immerse myself in the sights of the city. Beautiful wooden bridges and fortress walls reflect the splendor and influence of Lucerne over the centuries. The river Reuss flows from Lake Lucerne through the city. A narrowing has been made in the watercourse, so that the water flows with a roar along the terraces and a good conversation is not easy. Even the waiter has difficulty taking the order. After the meal at a Greek restaurant I return to the hotel and decide to say goodbye to the day.