Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The swans on Lake Lucerne

from an imaginary visit to Lucerne, 2010. 

Everybody says that Lucerne is an easy city to walk around. That depends on how far you have to go on any particular journey. I didn’t have to go far, for example, to see my first dead swan. 

I had just eaten fondue in a restaurant, during a crowded lunch hour in which diners were being ‘entertained’ by a man dressed in lederhosen and a trilby hat with a green feather sticking out the top who was yodeling, not quite in tune, at the top of his voice. I tried to eat the fondue as fast as I could, but the hot cheese kept scalding my mouth. I was determined to finish it, however, because it was a fairly expensive menu item. So I endured the yodeling and tried to county how many times he sang flat notes, how many times sharp. He was more flat than sharp, I think. 

Anyway, as soon as I had finished my meal and paid, I left the restaurant and headed towards Lake Lucerne. Because everything is so close at hand in the centre, I reached the water’s edge in just a few minutes. I sat down on a wrought-iron seat overlooking a weir, and taking out my bottle of sparkling local mineral water, I once again found myself admiring the view of the mountains that surround the lake. It was then that I noticed the swan, swimming in a slow circle in the weir. It was making a plaintive honking sound, lifting its head back on its long neck and delivering the noise into the moist air, then lowering its beak back towards the water. It kept on circling around the same spot, as if bothered by something. I couldn’t see what it was at first, but then I saw a dark shape floating in the water. 

When I stood up to get a better look, I saw that it was another swan—presumably the first swan’s mate—drifting in the current of the weir, it’s neck twisted to one side, apparently broken.

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