Switzerland's many Alpine lakes and rivers hosted a number of great hamlets to escape civilization. I would find that Zug (tsook) in central Switzerland was one such place. Zug was the largest town on the Zugersee, located about a half-hour drive south of Zurich and twenty minutes northeast of Lucerne, but containing little of either city's overwhelming dose of tourism. I also really enjoyed how well Zug maintained her old town and much of her city defenses in their original state. It was once of the best-preserved historic locations I encountered.
The first photograph shows the city from a distance. The city wrapped around the northeast corner of the Zugersee, with the main city dock (the Schiffstation Bahnhof, center of the photo) situated in between the new city (Neustadt) on the north side and the old city (Altstadt) to its east. Boats ran regularly among the towns on the Zugersee and the fare was quite reasonable. I took a walk along the shore of the Zugersee and found it peaceful and relaxing. The lake had barely a ripple through the afternoon. The well-groomed trees, colorful flowers, and Zug's fountain enhanced the setting. I passed a deer park on the way, and a number of beautiful deer greeted me as I turned around the corner and headed toward the strand.
On the strand near the harbor was the Landesgemeindeplatz, shown in the second photograph. This large cobblestone plaza had the bulk of the cafés on the strand and a marina with paddle boats available. Shown at the right side of the photo was a tropical bird sanctuary that I assumed was seasonal. I took several pictures of bright scarlet ibises perched there. It was also quick a draw for the kids who were drawn to the parrots.
I moved on to the Altstadt further down the strand. I loved the way the city used info plaques around the Altstadt to describe how the city was built and how it expanded over its history. It turned out that it was built in a series of rings as the town expanded from its 12th century origins to its heyday in the 16th century. At the beginning there were two parallel streets, the Unteraltstadt and Oberaltstadt, with the latter forming the original city wall. The picturesque old Zytturm (shown in the third photograph) was the original gateway. Its entrance walkway led me through the Fischmarkt that contained the Town Hall and one of Zug's most famous guesthouses, the Gasthaus Ratskeller, with its fabulous outdoor mural of a glorious battle scene from the city's history.
I learned that the second city wall was built over a two-block perimeter from the inner Altstadt, and four towers of it still stood. The Pulverturm (which appeared to have been completely rebuilt) was the most accessible, perched on the major roadway leading past the grand Kirche St. Michael. The other three were mixed in with residential buildings and required a little more hunting (only one, the Huwilerturm, still had a chunk of the defensive wall connected to it).
This second Altstadt had numerous landmarks. Among them were St. Oswald's Church, the Hotel Ochsen, and the Kunsthaus (Art Museum). But among them, Zug's City Museum was the one I enjoyed the most. It was housed in the old city castle, a corner of which was shown in the fourth photo. For a very small entrance fee (waived on Sundays), visitors were given a broad and detailed history of the town and its culture. With six floors, it had a lot of room for quality exhibits, which included artifacts from the town's old churches, medieval weaponry, replicas of residential areas, and a full city model that explained (in French, German, and English) how the town was constructed.
Zug was nestled below some spectacular mountains, and there were cable car rides available to take people to the top of the nearby Zugerberg which was the tallest in the region, using Bus 11 to Schönegg. I didn't have time to take the ride, unfortunately. But that was ok, as I didn't have to risk acrophobia to enjoy the alpine atmosphere. I returned to the Landesgemeindeplatz to enjoy a leisurely lunch of local Swiss cuisine when I started hearing Alpine horns. Just around the corner from me was a horn band playing (shown in the fifth photograph) that was decked out in full costume. I came to learn that such music was played fairly regularly in the town. The occasion this time was Muttertag (Mother's Day, as it turned out.
Among the smaller Swiss towns, I considered Zug to be my favorite. It was charming, full of character and history, and beautifully scenic with the Zugersee. Having the Alpine horn band as my closing experience didn't hurt, either. It was the crowning touch on a terrific, enjoyable, and educational visit.
Trip Taken 12 May 2002 -- Last Updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin