From Geneva, I was back on the train for the final leg of my European adventure: meeting up with my German friend Melli for some hiking near Lucerne! Melli and I first met when we were randomly flatmates while both living in Prague back in 2009. We’ve been good friends ever since – she even came to our wedding all the way from Germany! She lives back home in Stuttgart now with her husband, and even started a blog (in English!) all about living in Stuttgart and sightseeing nearby/around Germany. Check it out!
It was SO good to see her again! But first – the train ride from Geneva to Lucerne was insane. If you have the chance to take this trip, do it! Check out these views from the train window:
Melli and I were reunited at the train station (thankfully – we almost missed each other, and without working phones, that could have been a problem!) and hopped in her car to head out to our hostel, which was about 45 minutes outside Lucerne. The hotels in Lucerne are insanely expensive so to save money (and to be closer to beautiful hiking) we decided to venture out into the wilderness a bit, and to do a hostel vs a hotel! The drive took us along some gorgeous roads that hugged the cliffs above the lake.
We were also treated to this amazing sunset along the way:
It was take your breath away beautiful.
We had a little bit of trouble finding the hostel – Melli’s GPS took us to an abandoned shack on the side of the cliff (we were like ummmmm??!?! lol), but once we found it (about another mile down the road) we were pleasantly surprised!
We stayed at Hostel Rotschuo, which ended up being a cute little place nestled in the hillside right on the lake.
Even though it was a hostel, it was actually almost all European families on hiking vacations vs. young rowdy people, so that was nice. I was the only American staying there, which was also fun. If you’re looking to go hiking near Lucerne and don’t want to pay a million dollars to stay in the city, check out this hostel! You have to share a hall bathroom, but it was no big deal. Staff were also super friendly and breakfast was included! Another win was that they had kayaks and canoes for rental – and paddleboards, too. We went kayaking one of the mornings.
Hostel view from the water:
Anyway! On our first morning at the hostel, Melli and I set off to get in some hiking. We hopped on a bus to the nearby town, Vitznau (which was adorable and would also be a fun place to stay), where we were going to start our adventure of the day: hiking up Rigi, known as the "Queen of the Mountains." We had heard that at the top of the mountain (Rigi Kulm, at 1,797 meters) there was a nice pool where you could swim, as well as an incline/railway car that would take us back down the mountain, so we decided to head up another area of the mountain and hike our way across, ending at Rigi Kulm to take a dip and then hop on the train down.
A nice lady in the tourist office told us our best bet was to take a little gondola up, which would drop us off in an area that would give us a nice 4 hour hike up and over to Rigi Kulm, with gorgeous views along the way. (Apparently actually hiking up the whole way would have been insane/taken forever.) After walking up a small road, we found the gondola – it was tiny and deserted, with a sign that said: “If no one is here, get in lift, pick up phone, and ask to come up.” Ummm, hilarious. Okay?
We picked up the phone and Melli (in German) was like “Umm… hi? Can we come up?” Lol! It worked – the lift starting moving!
We went up, and up, and up…
And up… omg this is actually REALLY high and mildly terrifying/awesome at the same time…
Until we eventually reached the top!
When we arrived, there was a little old weather-beaten Swiss woman waiting for us. In this part of Switzerland, the locals speak a variation of German, so Melli was able to talk to her and learn that this gondola/lift is actually owned by a cooperative of the farmers that live at the top. They all run it together and share the profits. Isn’t that cool? We were happy to support them! And also happy to be back on solid ground.
Off we went towards Rigi Kulm! We made friends with this friendly black cat on the way.
From the very start, this hike was one of the most amazing I’ve ever done. The views were absolutely insane! Even better was that we basically had it all to ourselves – the only sound was cowbells.
After an hour or so, we stopped for snacks – first up, apples with a view:
Followed by this fun snack that Melli brought with her from Germany! The tomato paste was actually surprisingly good – it was a mix of spices, pureed sundried tomato, and sunflower seeds, I think!
For my snack contribution, I introduced Melli to the amazingness that is Trader Joe’s Just Mango Slices. So good!
The views continued to get more and more epic as the morning went on.
Around 2p.m. we stumbled upon an adorable farm home in the middle of nowhere that doubled as a café, and decided to stop for a more proper lunch/second snack.
Espressos to go around!
Plus a yummy potato/veggie/ham soup for me.
Back on the trail! The higher we got, the more beautiful. It seriously almost looked fake.
By mid afternoon, we made it to Rigi Kulm!
The small touristy area at the top of the mountain wasn’t much to write home about, but the pool we’d heard about? It actually turned out to be a full Mineral Bath and Spa, complete with all sorts of amazing heated pools, both indoor and outdoor.
Spending a couple hours lying around in hot tubs/salt baths after hiking up a super steep mountain all day? Hell to the yes. Best idea ever!
And when we were done, we simply hopped on the tram back down the mountain to Vitznau. Easy!
Cheers to an awesome day!
We shared the arugula tomato mozzarella basil salad to start, which was delish:
And I enjoyed some pan seared fish basically straight out of the lake with some rice and sautéed spinach. Highly recommend this place if you’re in the area! So good, and super friendly waiter, too.
Rosé to go with our meals.
The sun began to set as we finished our dinner:
And moved on to dessert – we shared an apple crisp. Yummm! All that hiking made us hungry!
Vitznau was about a mile and a half from our hostel and the road has a lovely walking path along the cliffs, so we decided to stroll home. Beautiful evening, and wonderful end to a great day with a good friend.
I’ll be back tomorrow with my final Europe recap post – sharing details from checking out the city of Lucerne, our second (rainy but awesome) hike of the trip, and a brief solo overnight in Zurich before flying home! Stay tuned.