By the time we reached Switzerland, all vestiges of sadness had been replaced by youthful exuberance and eager anticipation. We couldn’t wait to get to Lucerne, home of renowned gemologist Professor Dr. Edward Gubelin. Dr. Gubelin was, and still is, an icon to gem enthusiasts throughout the world.
We landed at Zurich Airport and stepped off the plane into temperate spring weather that reminded us of December in California. The busy terminal had an exciting international flavor with crowds of people traveling to and from exotic places. We took a cab to our hotel and found ourselves in the smallest room you can imagine. It was overwhelmed by the twin-sized bed, which had been advertised as queen, and took up most of the floor space. We had to climb over the bed to get to the closet and tiny armoire with space for two hangers and lots of mothballs. It was instant claustrophobia for two taller-than-average people. We had never before felt so confined, but big hotel rooms carried big prices and we were on a fixed budget. The little room without a view would just have to do.
Our first day in Zurich was spent resting from our travels and preparing for our meeting with one of the most revered men in the gem industry. We got up early the following morning and took a taxi to the train station. The English-speaking hotel staff had given us directions to our next destination, beautiful Lucerne on the banks of Lake Lucerne.
Capital of Lucerne canton, the city is named for an eighth century Benedictine monastery. The first inhabitants may have been St. Leodegar Monastery serfs who owed their allegiance and their livelihoods to those higher up on the feudal ladder.
Lucerne is actually two cities separated by the Reuss River. Old town on the east, which is rooted in the 14th century, has narrow alleyways, covered bridges, an ancient town hall, watchtowers and landmark churches,among other historical structures. It is also home to Bertel Thorvaldsen’s world-famous “Lion of Lucerne,” a giant stone memorial to the Swiss Guards who died defending the French royal family at the Tuileries in 1792. New town on the west includes more modern buildings, ranging from the 14th to the 20th century. Lucerne has become one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions, offering visitors a number of special events including an annual International Festival of Music.