John’s Birthday 2018
When: October 2018
Hotel: Seehotel Waldstätterhof Swiss Quality
Why Lucerne: I was trying to figure out something fun to do for John’s birthday, and and was doing my best to follow up the previous years trip to the Harry Potter Studio tour (nothing is going to top that, but I had to try). I was searching fun activities in Europe, and came across a description to assemble your own Swiss Army Knife, and I figured that would be just right!
The Trip: The Victorinox store where the knives are assembled is in the small Swiss town of Brunnen, that sits right on Lake Lucerne and is about a 30-minute drive from the town of Lucerne. I couldn’t decide where to stay at first, but when I called to make the appointment for John and me to make the knives, the only availability was Sunday morning. As this was supposed to be a fun, but relaxing weekend, I opted for us to stay in the quaint town of Brunnen. It’s apparently more of a summer destination, and was quite quiet and closed down by the end of October.
I picked the grand hotel, Seehotel Waldstätterhof Swiss Quality, a gorgeous lakefront hotel which was absolutely perfect for a couple of nights. When the fog finally lifted, we had views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Not to mention, it had a spa in the hotel, so I booked John a massage as well. The thing about Switzerland is that it is so naturally beautiful, the towns themselves tend to be a bit bland. So while Brunnen wasn’t the prettiest, the hotel and views more then made up for it.
We had all day Saturday, so we enjoyed a lazy morning walking around the town, before John got a massage. That night, we celebrated his birthday in the town of Lucerne – somewhere I had earmarked as a town I wanted to go back to and look around more.
That Sunday, we had our appointments to make our knives. The Victorinox center is actually smaller than expected as the actual factory where the knives are made are just outside of the town. There are three parts to the factory – a Victorinox Museum, a shop and the Swiss Knife Valley visitor center. The knife workshop, where you assembly the knife, is in the Museum area. There is only one stand, and appointments fill up – especially during tourist season, so make sure to call ahead before going or you may be out of luck.
We had an awesome guide (a male from Canada…more on that later), who gave us a history on the knives, some little fun facts about the knives and then takes you step-by-step through the assembly process. Once the knife is assembled, you can even get it engraved…all for only 30 CHF. I had never owned a Swiss Army Knife before, so to have put together my first was actually a very cool experience.
Final Impressions: It was SO MUCH FUN! Lucerne is only 3 hours away, and is a perfect weekend getaway, especially when it involves making your own Swiss Army Knife. The whole weekend was a hit!
MLK Jr Weekend 2020
When: January 2020
Hotel: Altstadt Hotel Magic Luzern
Why Lucerne: We initially didn’t plan on doing much for the long MLK Jr. weekend, as it was only a short time after a very busy holiday weekend that involved a too-short Christmas in the States, and New Year’s in Edinburgh. Both John and I got terribly sick after Edinburgh, so getting John to travel again was going to be tough (if only we’d known about COVID then, we may have made a different plan). However, our friend Jake was at Ramstein and this was possibly our last weekend to hang out with him…so, a quick trip back to Lucerne and the Swiss Knife Valley visitor center was hatched.
The Trip: We were only going to be there for the night, and knowing that Brunnen was tiny and that Lucerne seemed like a cool place to explore, I opted for a hotel right in the center of town. Because it was Jake’s first trip to Switzerland, I wanted a place with a view. Here’s what I have found when booking a hotel – during the reservation process, when there is the box for special requests, definitely use it! Nine times out of 10, the hotel comes through with the request. In this case, I put that it was our friend’s first trip to Switzerland and we would really like a room with a view. We got a honeymoon suite (which was decked out in leopard print in the main bedroom), but the key was the balcony overlooking the Chapel Bridge.
Lucerne is a great base for the winter and summer sports enthusiasts, and while I mentioned above that Swiss towns aren’t always super impressive, Lucerne holds it’s own as a cute town to at least walk around for an afternoon. It’s not large and can be done by foot. The Chapel Bridge is, of course, the highlight as the oldest covered bridge in Europe (reconstructed after a discarded cigarette set the wood bridge ablaze), but because the town is cut in half by a river flowing to the lake, there are actually several bridges to see. Remnants of the old town walls are still standing, complete with eight tall watch towers (make sure to pick the right side of the wall to view the town from above), and it leads to the Lion’s Monument, which is in remembrance of the Swiss Guard soldiers that were killed in the French Revolution.
We didn’t realize that the night we picked, it was the last night of the Lucerne Light Festival, which was slightly underwhelming in parts, but still made for a fun walk around the town.
The next day, it was time for Jake and John to make their knives, so we made the 30-minute drive to Brunnen. There was no fog, so we got to enjoy clear views all around the lake before our actually appointment. The only downside (for John and me) was that it was a different guide, and the one we had was not nearly as good as the one we had the first time. She was all business and not nearly as personable…so if you go and you make an appointment, make sure to ask if you can schedule a time with the Canadian guide.
Final Impressions: Switzerland is crazy expensive, but being so close to Germany, is definitely worth a stop. And skip right on over boring Zurich and head to Lucerne if you want the best of Switzerland with lakes, mountains and a decent town. And don’t forget to make a reservation to make your knife!