Of the many activities available to me in and around Lucerne, Switzerland, the one everyone insisted I should not miss was the Golden Round Trip to the top of Mount Pilatus. This appealed to me, not only because I wanted to do some mountain hiking, but also because of the many legends surrounding “The Dragon Mountain.” In the Middle Ages, the bleak crevices of the mountain were believed to be the abode of a well-meaning dragon and spirits. There is also a legend that says the body of Pontius Pilate was ultimately disposed of in a tiny remote lake on Oberalp on Mount Pilatus. Once a year, on Good Friday, Pilate allowed himself to be seen, a figure with flowing grey hair and wearing the purple regalia of a judge seated on a chair in the middle of the lake. People so feared this vision that local priests and government officials made it illegal to climb the mountain or use the lake. Finally, in 1585, Lucerne’s priest, accompanied by a band of townspeople, climbed Mount Pilatus to challenge the ghost. They threw stones into lake, churned up the water and waded in it but the ghost did not react, thus the the spell was believed to be broken.
My Golden Round Trip experience began on Lake Lucerne, where I boarded a nostalgic lake steamer for the trip from Lucerne to the town of Alpnachstad at the foot of Mount Pilatus. We pulled away from the pier into the crystalline lake waters, bound for the Alps to the south. Very soon we were sailing past towering headlands that rose straight out of the water and picturesque hamlets carved into the few lowlands that dotted the shores, each one prettier than the last.