GLACIER GARDEN OF LUCERNE
Ice Age Geology for the Familiy in Old Swiss City Center
On a crisp November morning in 1872 Josef Wilhelm Amrein-Troller was supervising the digging of a wine cellar for his fine house in spreading suburb just outside the old medieval city walls of Lucerne, when his workmen uncovered some very strange rock formations. Impossibly smooth round boulders and deep pothole cavelets in the hillside. What he had discovered was the remnant record of the Ice Age in central Switzerland, once completely covered in glaciers which now only remain on the high mountains. The glacial polish of the stones and holes provide the evidence of the action of glaciers. A year later, the Swiss businessman opened his “Glacier Garden” (Gletschergarten) to the public as a tourist attraction. Over a century later, Amrein-Trollers house as well has perhaps become consumed by his rock garden, housing its Glacier Museum
The Glacier Garden attraction in Lucerne offers a variety of sights for the casual afternoon for the family or just the curious. A strolling path underneath a canvas canopy added in 1980 leads through the exposed pre-historic geologic formations of potholes created by the force of water unable to escape under the crushing weight of slow moving glaciers. The round granite boulders, one as heavy as five tons, which lie about the hillside like toys left scattered by a giant’s children, were carried by the moving ice from high in the mountains to where they rest. The house which stands next to the glacial garden is a beautiful example of a Swiss house of the 1800’s. It remains much as when the Amrein-Troller family had lived within its walls, antique Biedermeier furniture and Baroque bedroom designs. A portrait of the family stands opposite the rich wood main stairway, dominated by a painting of the Galcier Garden as it appeared in the 1800's. Much of the lower floors of the house are taken up by the Glacier Museum, with interactive exhibits explaining the formation and action of glaciers, relief detail models of the Engadine Bernina region (see Bernina Express Alps Scenic Rail) from where Lucerne’s glacial activity originated. One of the world’s oldest relief landscape scale maps of the Swiss Alps was created by pioneering Swiss cartographer Franz Ludwig Pfyffer von Wyher. In the GeoWorld Luzern exhibit, the evolution of ice age man and geologic history of Lucerne is presented with large scale oil paintings depicting Lucerne during the Ice Age. A cast recreation of a Baby Mammoth seems quite the attraction for kids to climb on to have a picture taken by mom and dad.
A path behind the house leads up to the old mountain chalet which the 1800’s headquarters of the Swiss Alpine Club and the observation tower with a view over Lucerne from the lake to Mt. Pilatus (see Mt Pilatus Lucerne). On the lower level below the house, the Hall of Mirrors of the Alhambra, (based on a Spanish-Moor version), which was created for the Swiss national exhibition in Geneva in 1899 confounds with mirrored corridors seeming infinite in an optical illusion, reflecting ornate gold gilt and sculptured peacocks. Outside the mirror hall are a series distortion funhouse mirrors.
The entrance to the Glacier Garden of Lucerne is next to the iconic famous Lion of Lucerne, the relief figure of a reclining feline carved into the sheer wall of sandstone left from the quarry where much of the stone which built the old city of Lucerne was cut. The lion represents the defeat of the Swiss Guard during the storming of the Tuileries Palace in Paris in 1792, but he seems more sad in the serene setting than defeated. He rest just across the pool of water among the trees, a popular backdrop for a tourist group photo. The Glacier Garden located on Denkmalstrasse, literally “monument street”, is also very near the Bourbaki Panorama exhibit for a twofer tour afternoon in Luzern (see Bourbaki Panorama). The Gletschergarten Luzern is open daily from 9 to 6 April 1 to October 31, and 10 to 5, November 1 to March 31. Entrance fee for adults is 12 chf, 7 for children. You can get a Lion Pass that includes the Glacier Garden and Bourbaki Panorama for 17 chf for adults and 9.50 for kids. If you’re traveling with a Swiss Rail Pass, museums are free. © Bargain Travel Europe
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