Paris, Florence – these are obvious cities that spring to mind when one thinks of European art history. But Luzern? (or, Lucerne if we’re spelling it the French way – this city is bilingual French and German, with plenty of English spoken too!) When I first saw this Swiss city on the European Art & Architecture itinerary, I’ll admit I was a little baffled. What could this picturesque town in the Alps have to do with art history?
Stepping off our tour bus to stretch my legs after a few hours’ travel, the fresh mountain air goes straight to my head, a welcome respite from the smog of Paris. Suddenly it occurs to me: Lucerne is our refresher, our tonic, our palette cleanser. Nestled in our itinerary between the art overload in the busy, bustling cities of Paris and Venice, Lucerne is a literal breath of fresh air. On our free afternoon, I can go up one of the Alpine mountains, Pilatus, on the world’s steepest cog railway for some gorgeous views, but since the sun is shining and it’s a hot day I think I’ll take a swim in the lake – only CHF6 gets me access to a pier with changing cabins, or there’s a free beach farther away from the town centre, about a half hour walk. Last year, my students celebrated Fourth of July by renting a boat!
It wouldn’t be a stop on our itinerary without a visit to an art gallery, however. The Rosengart Collection is a gem hidden in plain sight: it seems a lot of passersby don’t realize this unassuming building that looks like a bank actually houses works of art by Picasso, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall and many more. We have the museum all to ourselves. These modern masterpieces are miles away from the classical antiquities and Renaissance masters we saw in the Louvre mere days ago – both literally and figuratively.
An art-filled morning, an afternoon in the Alps and an evening strolling along the lake – summer doesn’t get any better than this!
This post was contributed by Meg McClure, an AIFS Study Abroad staff member accompanying students on our summer European Art and Architecture traveling program.