|Flüelen and around|
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FLÜELEN is the farthest point of the lake from Luzern, a picturesque little place with the train station right beside the landing stage. This is the southern terminus of the Axenstrasse, the narrow road which clings below the cliffs of the eastern shore of the Urnersee south from Brunnen. The road was only completed in 1865, and enabled travellers to approach the Gotthard for the first time by land, instead of forcing them to take a ship from Luzern or Brunnen. Some 3km north of Flüelen – and accessible only by car, boat or walking (no buses use the Axenstrasse) – is the Tellsplatte, a flat rock onto which William Tell is purported to have leapt to escape the clutches of Gessler. Beside it is a restaurant and, beautifully framed amidst the trees, the Tellskapelle, a tiny monument built in 1880 with arched loggia featuring vivid frescoes depicting the story of Tell. Boats serving this point from Brunnen also pass the Schillerstein, a 25m high natural obelisk near the Rütli which was inscribed in 1859: “To Friedrich Schiller, the Chronicler of Tell”.
Buses from Flüelen station run into central ALTDORF, some 3km south (Altdorf’s own train station is inconveniently located 1km west of the centre). The heart of Altdorf is the Rathausplatz, dominated by the impressive Telldenkmal (Tell Monument) – a much-photographed icon erected in 1895 and depicting a sturdy, bearded Tell raising his eyes fearlessly to the horizon, while his son, embodiment of the Swiss people themselves, accepts his father’s protecting arm and gazes trustingly upwards at him. This square is reputedly the scene of the apple-shooting event commemorated in the legend. Alleys around and about have retained plenty of character, but if the Tell bug has bitten you, grab a bus bound for BÜRGLEN, a village 2km northeast on the Klausen road, which is celebrated as Tell’s birthplace. The chapel which sits beside the village church on the site of Tell’s house was dedicated as early as 1582, with interior frescoes depicting the legend dating from the 1750s. Around the corner from the 1786 Tell fountain out front is the Tell Museum (daily: July & Aug 9.30am–5.30pm; May, June, Sept & Oct 10–11.30am & 1.30–5pm; Fr.4; SMP), a worthwhile little place crammed with Tell curiosities; ask them to set up the informative and watchable twenty-minute slide-show (in English) on the history of the legend.
What’s remarkable about the Altdorf area is the understatedness of its Tellmania – you get the feeling that Tell, although something of a caricature to non-Swiss, is far too important to the locals to start a whole tourist circus. Tellsplatte, Altdorf and Bürglen are all out-of-the-way places, little visited by foreigners, and you may well find that the only tourists who you come across are Swiss families, spending a weekend in the area to give the kids a glimpse of their heritage.
For accommodation in Flüelen, aim for the Tell & Post hotel, Axenstrasse 12 (041/874 11 30, fax 874 11 35), with serviceable rooms, en suite and not; or the more elegant Weisses Kreuz, opposite the landing stage at Axenstrasse 2 (041/870 17 17, fax 870 17 75). Trains from Flüelen serve both Luzern and Zürich (with alternate services requiring a change at Arth-Goldau), as well as heading south through the Gotthard to Ticino. Buses depart from Flüelen train station forecourt for Altdorf-Post or Altdorf-Telldenkmal and, in summer, due east over the Klausen Pass (1948m) into Canton Glarus.
The best-value hotel in Altdorf is the Schwarzen Löwen, Tellsgasse 8 (041/874 80 80, fax 874 80 70), which has renovated rooms, all clean and pleasant (choose one off the street) – one room has retained the original furniture from when Goethe stopped by in the 1770s. Rathausplatz has plenty of terrace cafés and restaurants, as do the surrounding streets. Buses to Bürglen depart from the square, or from Altdorf-Post, 100m south on Bahnhofstrasse.
The most characterful accommodation choice of the lot, though, is the Gasthaus Adler in the centre of Bürglen (041/870 11 33, fax 870 71 55), a fine old sixteenth-century roadhouse inn, with wooden eaves bedecked in ivy and a handful of alluringly creaky guest rooms above a gutbürgerliche restaurant.
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