Situated in North-Central Switzerland, Lucerne is one of the 26 cantons in Switzerland. The capital of the canton is Lucerne and the official language of the canton is German. The canton is divided into 5 districts, and covers an area of 1500 sq.km. Lucerne is actually considered a gateway to Central Switzerland. The city of Lucerne and the canton, of course, get their name from Lake Lucerne that is located in the canton. With scenic mountains in all directions, this is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the country. But, there is a lot of trivia about the canton that is not common knowledge. If you live in or are visiting Lucerne, you will find these fun facts really interesting.
The Artifacts of Lucerne
Stone artifacts that go back as far as 30,000 BC have been found in the caves of Mount Rigi. Animal bones that belonged to cave bears, mammoths, giant deer, and reindeers have also been found in the canton area. The Swiss plateau saw its last glaciers in 17,000 BC, and it is highly likely that the first humans colonized the regions sometime after that.
The city of Lucerne was a monastery?
Yup, that’s actually true. Lucerne has grown out of a Benedictine monastery. The first mention of Lucerne comes in the Charter of 840. In the charter, it has been called Luciaria. It is believed that the name was derived from the name of Saint Leodgar, who was the monastery’s patron saint. It was not until 1252 that the name Lucerrun appears in any of the documents. It was at this time that a small settlement the size of a village started growing around this monastery. There is evidence to prove that some kind of municipal laws were drawn to look after the daily affairs of the area.
Expansion of the Swiss Confederacy & the Battle of Sempach
Those who are familiar with the Swiss history know the meaning of the Swiss Confederacy. Different regions joined the Confederacy to create what is today known as Switzerland. Lucerne was a big part of the confederacy. The Swiss Confederacy expanded by all means, be it through formal negotiations, pacts, or force. It was during this time of expansion in 1383 that the interests of the Swiss Confederacy collided with those of the Austrians. The expansion did not stop, and Lucerne signed pacts with the Austrian towns of Sempach, Entlebuch, Meienberg, Willisau, and Reichensee that eventually led to the Battle of Sempach. Lucerne asked for enforcements, but the other towns were engaged in their own conflicts. Although outnumbered, the Swiss won, and there are many theories on how.
The most commonly narrated theory is that the Austrians were heavily armored. In the heat of July, the armor became a liability. On the other hand, the Confederate soldiers were less loaded. Some of them were wearing a wooden plank on their arm for defense. It was a bloody battle, but the Swiss managed to win.
Lucerne was the capital of the first unified Switzerland
In the late eighteenth century, the French invaded Switzerland, and started calling it Confoederatio Helvetica or Helvetic Confederation, in English. This was one of the first attempts to bring together all the individually-governed cantons under one rule. Until then, the cantons were loosely bound together by their military pacts. In fact, this is the first time in history that Switzerland was a whole country. And interestingly enough, the capital of Confederatio Helvetico was Lucerne. Though the Helvetic Confederation only lasted from 1798 to 1803, it has a profound impact on what Switzerland is today. Derived from Confederatio Helvetico, the notation “CH” is still used as a country code, domain extension, and on the car plates in Switzerland.
A Catholic Stronghold
Even during the heights of the Reformation movement, Lucerne remained strongly attached to Roman Catholicism. Indeed, even today, the canton of Lucerne is considered to be one of the strongest footholds of the Roman Catholic Church in the whole of Switzerland. The numbers tell the same story. Roughly 70% of the population in the canton follows the Roman Catholic Church. The Swiss Reformed Church is a distant second with less than 12% followers.
English Will Not Cut It
If you are planning to move to Lucerne, then it will pay to learn German. It is the predominant language spoken in the canton. More importantly, it is the only language spoken by most people. However, if you are a tourist, you obviously cannot learn a new language for just a few days of travel. However, you should remember a few basic words, and take a good old book of translations from English to German.
Föhn does its Magic
What is Föhn? Föhn is the very dry and warm winds that Lucerne experiences during its spring and autumn months. For this reason, Lucerne has a warmer climate than the rest of Switzerland. Föhn single-handedly changes the climate of an entire region.
Lucerne is a beautiful city, and what adds to its beauty is its amazing climate. July is the warmest month of the year, while the period from December to February records the lowest temperatures. All the other months are amazingly pleasant. This is also the reason why it has such a thriving tourism industry. People can visit Lucerne practically all year long. But, if you want a pro tip, avoid Lucerne during the months of July and August. Tourists flock Lucerne during these months and everything will be super expensive.
Tourism is A Big Employer
As you know, tourism is a big industry in Lucerne, and of course, everyone wants a share of the profit. In the city of Lucerne, every ninth job is either directly or indirectly related to tourism. Most of the area in the canton of Lucerne is dedicated to agriculture. Although agriculture does not create as many jobs as the service sector, it continues to be an integral part of the economy of Lucerne.
A Hub for Business
The main driving force of Lucerne’s thriving services industry is its low corporate tax rates. In fact, the corporate taxes in Lucerne are said to be the lowest among all the cantons in Switzerland. For people employed in jobs, the taxes are deducted directly from their salaries.
One Station to Take You Everywhere
The Lucerne Railway station in the city of Lucerne is one of the most important stations in the country and possibly, the whole of Europe. From this station, you can take a train to pretty much any major city in entire Europe. That says something about the importance of Lucerne.
In 1971, this railway station crumbled down due to a huge fire. Miraculously, not a single citizen was hurt. The 400 firemen who were tasked with taming the fire did suffer some injuries, most of which were limited to smoke poisoning. The well-known Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava was commissioned to work on rebuilding the railway station. The reconstruction started in 1984 and was completed only by 1991. These seven years were well-worth it because they gave Switzerland its biggest railway station.
This is one area where the performance of the canton is not particularly impressive. Primary education in Switzerland is mandatory. Students are allowed to take a call on whether or not they want to study further, once they complete their primary education. As it turns out, only 36.3% of the students go on to complete the upper secondary level of education. In that context, a healthy 12.1% are enrolled in universities and courses of higher learning.
A Dream for the Athletic Kind
The capital city of Lucerne has all the facilities a sports enthusiast or an athlete can ever dream of. There are ample facilities for sports like basketball, soccer, golf, skateboarding, swimming, finger skating, rugby, and more. They also offer excellent facilities for sports like ice-hockey and mountain climbing. Backed by such an amazing state support, it is not really a surprise that the city has its very own soccer team – FC Luzerne. They regularly play at the newly built stadium, Swissporarena.
The Lake Lucerne
The namesake lake of the canton of Lucerne is a beautiful and peaceful sight to behold. It has a long promenade that offers great views and is also a perfect site for you to sit down, take a break, and just take in the beauty of the mountains around. The lake guides you to all the sights and attractions that await you in the old city.
The Lion of Lucerne
This is one of the most recognized sites in the whole of Lucerne. Conceptualized by Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1819, the lion has been carved out of a sandstone quarry by Lucas Ahorn in 1820. The skills of its artists can be gauged by their attention to detail. You can see and feel the pain that the lion is experiencing. You can feel that emotion and only be awed by the beautiful piece that has been created out of the nothingness that is around it. The monument stands as the symbol of bravery in honor of the Swiss Guards, who laid down their lives in 1792 during the French Revolution.
The Joy of the Blue Balls Festival
First of all, the festival lasts nine days long. That’s right. The Blue Ball Festival that takes place in Lucerne in the month of July is a nine-day long celebration of music, art, and food, among other things. It hosts some of the biggest artists in the country, and outstanding concerts by them. The music played at the festival includes jazz, pop, funk, soul, blues, and what not.
Visit the festival to be awed by the exhibits of beautiful photographs, videos, and of course, street art. The festival also presents many talk shows, followed by fun-filled late night events. It is a treat for everyone. No matter what you like, you will find something enjoyable to do at the Blue Balls Festival.
The music scene in Lucerne is actually thriving. United Guugemusig Lucerne is the biggest carnival band in the Central part of Switzerland. As many as 90 bands from Lucerne and Greater Lucerne came together under one name to make this happen
The Lucerne Festival
If the name has not already given it away, this is the signature festival of the city of Lucerne, which is aptly held by Lake Lucerne. The event was conceptualized by Claudio Abbado, one of the finest conductors in the world. He died in 2014 at the age of 80. But, he has left a grand legacy behind him.
The festival celebrates music, one orchestra performance at a time. International celebrities, world-class orchestra, celebrated conductors, and soloists are in attendance at this event. There are more than 100 events that are held under the umbrella of the Lucerne Festival.
Enjoy the Panoramic View
Bourbaki Panorama is a well-known painting by the famous Edouard Castres. It is a circular painting depicting the dark side of the French-German war that took place from 1870 to 1871. The 10 meters high and 112 meters long piece of art details the sufferings of both the soldiers and the civilians at a terrible time like war. Castres was actually present in the hot zone as a volunteer with Red Cross when the war took place. Through his art, he has immortalized the pains and horrors of war in the most visually-stunning manner. If you want to lay your eyes on this masterpiece, you will have to travel to the city of Lucerne.
The Lucerne City Council has constantly encouraged the citizens, and businesses in the city to follow eco-friendly habits. Their constant efforts have paid off over the long run. Since 1999, the city has saved as much as 21 million units of electricity and have stopped almost 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.