7. Lucerne – Bürglen – The Origin of Switzerland

Yesterday I had a rest day in Lucerne to give myself a rest after the nearly 300 miles so far. But every time thoughts about the sporting highlight of my trip return; the ascent of the St. Gotthard pass on the old route; a moment that is drawing ever closer and will require considerable effort from me.

Before that, however, I’m taking the route along and across Lake Lucerne, where the first cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden came together to forge a Confederation against the Habsburg/Austrian occupiers.

Ferry Beckenried – Gersau

In order to estimate the size of Lake Lucerne I decide to make the crossing between Beckenried and Gersau; across the lake. It is not crowded on the ferry; there are 3 cars, about 6 bicycles and a few people. The crossing still takes half an hour because the boat has to cross the lake at an angle. The two towns between which the boat sails are not special in size and seem like ordinary villages. But Gersau is nevertheless mentioned that for centuries it was the smallest republic in Europe and that it only had to give up that status around 1798. Furthermore, the village is sheltered from the surrounding mountains so that the cold mountain winds have little influence; there are even chestnut trees growing in the village! All this is historically great but my goal after arrival is to drink a delicious cappuccino first. I find that in an Italian restaurant. Although we are still on the north side of the Alps, the waiter finds it difficult to speak German and speaks Italian to me. We both understand the word “cappuccino” and the black gold is delicious!


I approach the area around Brunnen and am confronted with the legend of the famous Swiss freedom fighter “Wilhelm Tell”. However, there is no document confirming that he actually existed. It makes it a bit strange to me that there are various monuments about him and places have been named where, according to legend, he focused his exploits, while his right to exist is not 100% demonstrable. The legend also receives cultural attention when the German writer Friedrich Schiller writes a play about him in 1804. In honor of this, the rocky peak “Schillerstein” is later named after him.


On the road between Brunnen and Flüelen there is a bike path of barely 1.5 meters wide, where my bicycle bags stay just within the boundaries of the bike path, while the same bike path must also be used for oncoming cyclists and pedestrians. All this leads to dangerous situations due to the suction wind from passing trucks that try to get a grip on my bicycle bags, so that I am happy that I reach the “Tells chapel” in one piece.

The current chapel was built in 1880, but in 1388 there was already a chapel to commemorate Wilhelm’s exploits. The chapel is located at the foot of the lake and can only be reached on foot via a steep staircase. This ensures that it is not crowded at the chapel. This gives me the opportunity to photograph the chapel from all kinds of angles without people in my sights. On the inner walls of the chapel, the myth of Wilhelm Tell is explained in 4 murals. A special monument to Switzerland that is difficult to reach by land so that access over the water with small boats is used more.

Murals about Tell-myth
Altdorf and Bürglen – Wilhelm Tell and son

The next stop in my quest for Wilhelm Tell leads me to Altdorf. There, in the village square, where, according to legend, Wilhelm shot an arrow through the apple that lay on his son’s head, there is a large statue of them both. Today’s final stage is the higher mountain village of Bürglen, where Wilhelm is believed to have been born. Since my hotel for the night is also that way, I kill two birds with one stone; something I can’t do later that day. Along the way I stop at another statue of Wilhelm and his son but leave the Wilhelm Tell museum on the other side and cycle further up. I thought the hotel was lower on the mountain but the opposite is true. After a good hour of toil I arrive at the hotel and I can finally rest.

The hotel has a bar and a restaurant. I order a beer and immediately receive a nice red fly swatter to help cope with the plague of flies that plague this valley. It leads to bizarre scenes in which the guests present frequently whack around them during their conversations and eating the meal. The staff sees it all with sorrow and is also powerless against the flying invasion. Fortunately there are hardly any flies in my bedroom and I have a good night’s sleep.

Fly wacking a la carte