Mount Rigi – Queen of the Mountains
This is my penultimate post from the fantastic June, 2022 trip to Switzerland with Adventures Abroad, led by our good friend Victor Romagnoli. It is listed as one of the company’s Top 10 favourite tours and it has lived up to that standard in every way. In the last post I made some suggestions for exploring the wonderful city of Lucerne. In this post we’ll hop on a boat and motor along this magical lake to Vitznau where we will board one of Europe’s oldest funicular railways for the journey up to the summit of Mount Rigi from where we will make our way back down at a leisurely pace. It promises to be another wonderful day in Switzerland and I hope you’ll come along to enjoy it.
Just after breakfast we walk the short distance to the boat departure area right beside the train station and board the MS Diamant to start our day’s journey. It’s pretty full, but we get seats on the outside where we have a good view of the shoreline as we head for Vitznau and the train to Mount Rigi.
Along the way we pass a number of interesting sites including the lido of Lake Lucerne which is not busy this early in the morning, but will be packed with swimmers and sun bathers on our return.
There are a number of interesting buildings including this small castle-like structure.
We are on the water for just under an hour before pulling into the dock at the tiny village of Vitznau where this building doubles as the boat and train station.
Mount Rigi Railway
The first funicular railway in the world was built in Lyon, France in 1862 and the rack and pinion system was quickly adopted in Europe and America. In 1869 the Mount Washington railway opened in New Hampshire taking tourists to the top of the highest peak in northeast United States. Swiss engineer Niklaus Riggenbach had patented his own version of the system for getting locomotives up seemingly impossible grades and in 1871 opened Europe’s first mountain railway up almost to the summit of Mount Rigi at 1,798 metres (5898 feet). While the first train was steam operated, the line has long been electrified and the journey to the top takes a leisurely 30 minutes travelling first past typical Swiss meadows.
The higher it goes the better the views of Lake Lucerne and the alpine scenery. These are not the type of high alpine views we have been seeing for much of the trip with glaciers and rugged peaks, but a gentler more bucolic countryside which is a pleasant contrast to the former.
After detraining there is a decision to be made and that is whether to climb the remaining distance to the summit of Mount Rigi before beginning our ascent or just start from here. This octopus man urges us to go for the summit and we concur.
But then there’s a choice. Do we take the fast route or the one for old fogeys?
Alison makes the choice for us.
The target is to get to the summit and the communications tower atop Mount Rigi.
From here there are great views in all directions. Although it’s not as brilliantly clear as it was on the day at the Matterhorn it’s still pretty darn nice. The temperature up here is quite warm with little to no wind.
Looking closer to the ground there are many wildflowers including these lovely orchis.
We now have a leisurely walk down to the cable car station that will take us down to the village of Weggis from where we will catch the boat back to Lucern. The path is essentially divided into three sections – the first is a wide conglomerate walkway down to the railway tracks which you then follow for a short distance before reaching a sidewalk that will take you right to the cable car station. It is a far gentler ascent than any of our previous walks and might be characterized as ‘a walk in the park’.
This is Alison headed down the first section. The conglomerate can be a bit slippery so a walking stick is a help.
The views continue to be exceptional and it’s impossible not to stop along the way to appreciate them. This is our last mountain walk on this tour and we want to savour every minute of it.
We also get a good view of the train from Vitznau as the walkway nears the tracks in various places.
There are a number of farms buildings along the route and this one has a mural of Swiss wrestlers or Schwingen which is a favourite sport in this part of the country.
As we near the end of the first section we come to the original little steam locomotive that first made this trip over 150 years ago. As a former railway man I cannot resist the urge to take control.
From here we follow beside the train tracks for a distance.
There are many varieties of wildflower on this section and many of them are identified by signs like this. Overall I think there were at least twenty different species identified which made this part of the walk much more interesting.
This section ended at a profusion of lupins.
This is the beginning of the final section which is essentially a sidewalk.
I next came upon this cat with a conundrum. It had been able to get out through a small opening in the window, but seemed to have difficulty making the jump up to get back in. No cat ladders such as we had seen in Zurich for this feline.
There were so many varieties of wildflowers on this last stretch that I left Alison to her favourite hobby, photographing them.
As I approached the small village where the cable car station from Weggis ended I came upon this interpretive board indicating that Queen Victoria had beaten me by over 150 years. She picked this area because her late husband Albert had visited Mount Rigi in 1837 and picked a rose there which he pressed for her and she apparently carried everywhere after his death. The visit also served to propel Lake Lucerne to the top of the Swiss travel charts for a long time.
Looking at her in this picture she seems a kind of pathetic little creature.
Finally we reached the cable car station where there were a number of shops and restaurants. Alison and I availed ourselves of the wares of a sausage vendor and enjoyed a well-deserved Rigi Gold beer and bratwurst.
It took about half an hour before everybody made it back to the cable car and we all descended to Weggis.
From the bottom of the station it was a further 10 minute walk to the boat terminal past some of the loveliest gardens I had seen in Switzerland and that’s saying a lot. How often do you associate Switzerland with palm trees?
The boat trip back to Lucerne was just as nice as that going out, but it was time to put the camera away and just enjoy the ride.
In the next and last post from Switzerland we’ll visit the capital city of Bern which is yet another World Heritage Site in this country of many wonders. I hope you’ll join us.