Schwyz and Uri: The Swiss Heartland

Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons, roughly equivalent to U.S. states but much smaller. (The biggest is only slightly larger than Delaware.) The village on Lake Lucerne where we’re housesitting this summer is located just barely (by about a mile) in the canton of Schwyz. It’s also within an hour by train from at least six other cantons, and we’ve been visiting many of them on our outings. To help anyone who might be planning a trip to Switzerland, we’re presenting photos and descriptions of our outings by canton.

Lake Lucerne, which has almost as many arms as an octopus, is bordered by four cantons. This part of central Switzerland is known as the historic birthplace of the country (a bit like Boston or Philadelphia in the United States). Around 1300, three of the lakeside cantons, Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden, formed a confederation—an alliance for mutual defense and free trade. Over the next 50 years, Lucerne and other cities joined them, forming the nucleus for the eventual nation of Switzerland.

The nation takes its name and flag (a white cross on a red field) from the canton of Schwyz. So you could argue that we’re living in the most quintessentially Swiss part of Switzerland.

Are we there yet?

Our most memorable outings here have taken place around the southernmost arm of Lake Lucerne, called Lake Uri. On a warm sunny day we hiked the ridge top between two chairlift stations (Klingenstock and Fronalpstock). The trail was only 3 miles long but with much more up and down than we’d anticipated (almost 2,600 feet). That and the lack of shade made it our hardest hike in Switzerland. But even when we doubted whether we would make it up the final rise, the views of the surrounding mountains and the stunning blue waters of Lake Uri were worth the climb.

At the base of the chairlift, the village of Stoos was celebrating the upcoming Swiss National Day (August 1) with accordion bands playing in all of the restaurants and hotels, so we got a serenade with our lunch. On another warm day we rode a 100-year-old passenger boat around Lake Uri, marveling at the little lakeside villages and the steep mountains we’d been on top of the week before.

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