Pilatus | Jaini’s Swisscapes

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my incredible trip to Switzerland, so let’s explore Pilatus today…

Gorgeous panoramic views. Check. Cool historical background. Check. A bar and restaurant with hot food. Check. Mount Pilatus has it all!

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Photo | Hitesh Shah

It has been proclaimed that the Pilatus got its name through many legends. One old Roman myth says that Pontius Pilate was buried there. While he served under Roman Emperor Tiberius, he is best known for being involved in the trial of Jesus, and later, his crucifixions. He wanted Jesus to be spared from execution but later changed this mind when the crowds refused to spare Jesus. The legend, according to locals, goes that people feared that the restless ghost of Pilate, who was supposedly buried in the area.

Pilatus, however, gains its majestic status mainly through the countless dragon legends that are believed to have originated in medieval times. These stories feature dragons with powerful healing powers, which are claimed to have lived in the crannies of this magnificent mountain. Dragons have been seen flying between Pilatus to other mountain peaks. During one such flight, the dragon flew so close to a farmer that the farmer fainted. On waking, he found a peculiar stone, apparently dropped by the dragon. This “Dragonstone” had mystical healing powers.

The most interesting story involves a young farmer and shows how benevolent the ancient dragons were. This young man fell into a deep crevice and was knocked unconscious. On waking, he realized he was trapped. When two dragons approached, they merely sniffed at him and allowed him to stay in their nest over winter. They kept him warm and fed him. When spring came, the dragons left their cave, and one of them allowed the young man to hold onto its tail and together they flew out of the deep cave. Since then dragons have been seen as benevolent creatures with magical healing powers.

Many also say that the mountain’s name is derived from the Latin word for cloud-topped: “Pileatus” as the peaks of this mountain is frequently covered by clouds.

A short drive of 20 minutes from Lucerne, Pilatus was our first stop after driving down to Lucerne from Interlaken. The summit of the 2128-meter-tall mountain can be accessed in two ways. The top can be reached with the Pilatus Railway, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, from Alpnachstad (a village near Lucerne) or via cable car from Kriens.

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Photo | Hitesh Shah

Since we had a car, we drove to Kriens from our hotel just outside Lucerne (more on that soon), where we took a panorama gondola up to Fräkmüntegg passing Krienseregg, and then an aerial cableway to Pilatus Kulm, top of Pilatus. The Krienseregg is a family-friendly recreational area with marked trails and large picnic areas with a playground. We got out at Fräkmüntegg, which houses the largest rope park in central Switzerland, Tree Tents to camp in, a toboggan area and several hiking trails, complete with grilling spots, encouraging locals and travellers to spend time on the mountainside.

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Photo | Hitesh Shah

Processed with VSCO with 4 presetIt was drizzling when we took the gondola and the wind picked up slightly. I was a little scared as the gondola swayed ever so slightly. Of course, if you ask Diva, she’ll exaggerate and say I was screaming my head off or whatever her wild imagination will make up. (EDITOR DIVA’S NOTE: Jaini was INDEED yelling!)

Processed with VSCO with c8 presetAt both Kriens and Fräkmüntegg, the staff were helpful and would even pull my gondola to the side so that I could easily get in and get off without obstructing other visitors.

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Photo | Hitesh Shah

At Fräkmüntegg, we waited for the aerial cableway that departs every 15 minutes, in a waiting hall that had these gorgeous views of Lucerne.

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Photo | Hitesh Shah

When the aerial cableway called “Dragon Ride” arrived, we stepped into a cockpit-like cabin. Huge and spacey, it had seats on one end, and large windows extending to the floor, giving the sensation of flying over Lucerne with sweeping views of Pilatus Kulm.

Processed with VSCO with c6 presetWith a beautiful mountain panorama gallery, some restaurants, and a summer terrace at 2132 meters above sea level, there is plenty to do at Pilatus Kulm. We took a lift up from the panorama gallery to the summer terrace where we enjoyed the spectacular views of the city of Lucerne, Lake Lucerne and the surrounding Swiss Alps. To be completely honest with you, Pilatus didn’t quite wow me, as it made me reminisce about my visit to Cape Town’s Table Mountains several years ago.

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Photo | Hitesh Shah

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset50E88C28-A360-4475-B103-71F4EBCABC97At one point, Dad, Mom, and Diva decided to check the lookout points, accessed by stairs, where they literally saw a cloud pass by. I hung around on the terrace, looking at the views from both sides and even marvelled at the sun terrace. Unfortunately, the drizzle would periodically start and stop so no one was seating outside as the furniture was all wet.img_0599_dvd

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Photo | Hitesh Shah

Processed with VSCO with 4 presetThere are also two hotels: Hotel Pilatus Kulm at the mountaintop and Hotel Bellevue below at Fräkmüntegg, where you can literally live on the mountain of the dragons.

After a quick stop for hot chocolate at the self-service restaurant to warm up, we headed back down to the panoramic gallery to the Dragon Shop to pick up a souvenir. If you guessed that we got a fridge magnet, you’re right!Processed with VSCO with 4 presetThere are other activities also offered on the mountain such as paragliding, scavenger hunts, ibex safaris, hiking and exploring the flower trail and dragon trail. Satisfied, we headed back to Fräkmüntegg in the aerial cableway, before heading to Kreins in the aerial gondolas.

Visiting the mountain of the dragons for the views is worth it. Plus, you’ll be in good company with those who have reached the summit such as Theodore Roosevelt and Queen Victoria. However, don’t expect to arrive to snow-covered peaks at the top during summer, like I did!

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Snippets of Pilatus when it was first opened to the public. Photo | Hitesh Shah

Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah

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