A grand vessel slowly floats into view as we peer across the lake. An enormous Swiss flag billows proudly astern. Twin steam-powered water-wheels gracefully pulling the antique vessel towards us. We’re not just making a 3 hour journey across Lake Lucerne, but also a journey through time – on a 1928 paddle steamer.

Looking astern from our paddle steamer over Lake Lucerne
Looking astern from our paddle steamer. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art


Our adventure begins at the top of the lake at Flüelen, and ends in the marvelous medieval city of Lucerne. Sure, you could take the train in merely 30 minutes. The timetables run to the beat of Swiss watches: precise and on time. But unless you’re travelling for business, why would you? Switzerland’s lakes are world renowned, and few are as spectacular as Lake Lucerne. Rolling green hills siddle with craggy snow-capped peaks. Tiny time-forgotten villages perched on the lake edge, inviting ferry passengers to disembark and explore. The unforgettable ethereal green glow of the water, thanks to glacial melt from the adjacent Alps.

Our steamer on a busy day. Picture: http://www.lakelucerne.ch/en/

It’s an experience worth doing in luxury, too. Second and first class cabins are standard on Swiss transport, but on modern trains and ferries the difference in quality can be negligible. They lack what an immaculate vessel from 1928 can provide: sophistication, history and romanticism.

We benefitted from less passengers on the upper deck, and more space to freely sit where we pleased without rushing the best benches like squabbling seagulls. The first class dining and lounge area set the experience apart, too. Enormous curved glass windows, century old wood panelling, oyster lights, gold trimming, crisp white tablecloths. It’s a floating restaurant, not a ferry. We found a table at the bow by a large window, and toasted our Swiss beers with quiche lorraine, traditional sausages and sauerkraut.

The first class dining room. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art
The first class dining room. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art
The engine hard at work. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art
The engine hard at work. Picture: Nathan Dukes Art

With lunch finished we have plenty of time to explore our grand floating museum. Take a trip downstairs and you’ll find windows into the beautifully maintained and well oiled steam engine. Nearby the water-wheels, spraying the lake across the glass as they surge the ship forward. Equally impressive is the gentleman in a snappy suit who checks tickets individually. We watch as he masterfully keeps track of every passenger, identifying the newly embarked through the crowd – and the sneaky couple from downstairs who wish they’d bought a first class ticket too.

Or like most you can sit and relax; happy to watch the stunning Swiss scenery pass you by.

Posted by:Nathan Dukes

Nathan is an Australian journalist, photographer and graphic designer

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