8. Reiden – Sursee – The discovery of the Swiss hours

The weather was wonderful, and the landscape surrounding us no less; for we were getting closer and closer to the most romantic part of Switzerland, the area around Lake Lucerne. Here in the valley, however, the little ones sang along. Here in the valley begin the small houses with mighty thatched roofs, while on the mountains you can see more and more alpine huts, which, if they are at a significant height, appear like a small rock at the edge of the forest or on the green meadows. We were told that Sursee, the nearest important town where we could stop, was only five small hours from Reiden, but it was real Swiss time, so that we soon felt a not inconsiderable degree of tiredness and, after a little thought, it was fine found staying there.

1868 – Sursee – Town Hall

                Sursee is an old fortified town whose gates are still adorned with the Habsburg double-headed eagle. The old town hall is remarkable. The red and white painted shutters of his windows made me feel nostalgic, especially since I had them in front of my eyes all day; because our inn, the “white swan”, was just opposite the building. After having lunch, we used the remaining time for a walk in the city and its surroundings. We didn’t fail to take our time to look at the cute little Swiss houses. They are usually one-story, covered with straw in the valley and with wooden panels or bark on the top, on which large stones are placed to protect against the wind. They all agree that they have wooden porches or galleries, some open and some enclosed by glass windows. The interior matches the exterior in beauty and practicality. Instead of the wallpaper one often sees panelled walls. The ceilings of the rooms are almost always made of wood. Interesting are the huge earthenware stoves, mostly blue with white surrounds. They are sometimes ten feet or more in length, and of proportionate height. The stables in the inns are almost always well furnished; one also finds good fodder. Only with the oats one can easily be cheated and must therefore be careful with it. The water is fresh and healthy everywhere.

                We had scarcely left the city gate on our walk and reached the high road when we had a magnificent view of the high Alps surrounding Lake Lucerne. On their peaks we saw large masses of snow, which at first, we took for clouds that had gathered around the peaks. After a little quarter of an hour, we reached the Sempacher See, which stretches over two hours in length and about three quarters of an hour in width.

                Near us were some wretched fishermen’s shacks. Boats, fish boxes and nets littered the shore. An old gray-headed fisherman was busy taking the nets from the drying poles. When he saw us, he halted his work, drew nearer, and, with great loquacity, began a yard-long speech. But I can no longer say with certainty what its content actually was; because the man spoke such a barbaric Swiss German that we could not possibly understand him. But when he stretched out his hand, and we turned our eyes in the direction indicated, we saw a glorious sight. The sun sank towards the horizon and sent its last rays on the snow-covered peaks of the mountains, which shone in a beautiful rose-red colour. This spectacle is called Alpenglühn, and as luck would have it, we got to the lake at just the right time; for from the city, which lay much lower, we could scarcely have seen it. As long as there was only a glow to be seen, we fixed our astonished eyes on those peaks. But when the sun completely disappeared, and with the onset of darkness a cold, biting wind rose from the lake, we started our way back to the city.                

We were sitting in the dining room when several shots, accompanied by noise and cheers, were heard near our inn. We now believed that here too we had come to a celebration similar to that of the previous evening’s “Schützenfest”. Then the door opened, a man entered in a busy hurry without greeting, took a pressed sheet of paper from his pocket and read with a triumphant expression and in a loud voice that the Great Council of Bern had decided the railway question with a majority, to route the planned railway not in the proposed direction, but via Sursee. This news brought great joy to the residents of Sursee; for the jubilation, the singing and the shooting did not end until morning.