So my parents and I set off in a rental car for a continental road trip. The car they requested was not available, so we ended up driving a flashy black BMW that looked like something Bruce Wayne would drive (we actually encountered some Japanese tourists taking pictures of the car while we were in Lucerne). Our first stop was Lucerne, Switzerland. At the border crossing into Switzerland I was disappointed to find that they do not stamp your passport, despite the fact that Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. We even asked at the customs station building: “Stempeln, bitter?” , but alack, we were left stampless. The reason that we went to Lucerne was to see the Lion of Lucerne, a monument carved by some ancestor of my dad and myself. The monument was created to honor the Swiss Guard soldiers who died defending the French Royal Family during the Revolution. The soldiers were known for their loyalty and they proved it when they kept their positions against the mob outside the Tuileries Palace even after the King had ordered them to stand down. The monument consists of a wounded lion carved into the side of a cliff, overlooking a serene pond and garden. The lion, who has been stabbed in the back, represents the Swiss soldiers. Shorty after we arrived we overheard an English-speaking tour guide tell an amusing anecdote about the construction of the monument. Apparently the city of Lucerne had promised to pay for the construction of the monument. When construction went on too long, they reneged on the deal and refused to cough up the funds. Dedicated to the project, Lukas Ahorn (my ancestor!) continued carving without pay, but, angered by the flakiness of the city officials, he made the outline of the cave that the lion rests in resemble a pig. This sly jab serves as a reminder as to who was really responsible for the execution of the project. Some alpenhorn players showed up, in their traditional garb. I had never heard or seen alpenhorn in real life before, and the effect of the sound echoing off the cliff was really cool. I got a Swiss Army knife (Victoria Knox- The Explorer) at one of the gift shops before we hit the road.
The Lion of Lucerne Mom looking at the monument
I’m related to him! Lion’s face. So sorrowful.
Alpenhorn players! Design on the horn
The Lion lies in his lair in the perpendicular face of a low cliff — for he is carved from the living rock of the cliff. His size is colossal, his attitude is noble. His head is bowed, the broken spear is sticking in his shoulder, his protecting paw rests upon the lilies of France. Vines hang down the cliff and wave in the wind, and a clear stream trickles from above and empties into a pond at the base, and in the smooth surface of the pond the lion is mirrored, among the water-lilies.
Around about are green trees and grass. The place is a sheltered, reposeful woodland nook, remote from noise and stir and confusion — and all this is fitting, for lions do die in such places, and not on granite pedestals in public squares fenced with fancy iron railings. The Lion of Lucerne would be impressive anywhere, but nowhere so impressive as where he is.”
— Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad, 1880