• Image about Switzerland

FINALLY LUCERNE, with its understated elegance, clinging to the shores of Lake Lucerne. From where we sit, Nico and I can see the distant mountains reflected in the lake’s impossibly blue waters as mothers walk along the promenade with babies in strollers. When I mention to Nico that my wife and daughters are at our hotel watching a fashion show featuring the current Miss Switzerland, Nico looks at me with a well-what-did-you-expect? expression.

“It’s Switzerland,” he says with a shrug. “There’s so much beauty here that you cannot help but bump into it at every turn. Of course, if you happen to get Miss Switzerland’s phone number, remember to tell her about your friend Nico, please.”

Nico says this more with merriment than any kind of real wolfish intent, and he transitions quickly from beauty-pageant contestants to the charms of his hometown. He wants to make sure that I have walked on the city’s historic 669-foot Chapel Bridge, which dates to 1333 and is a pathway to the octagonal Water Tower, a centuries-old fortification. I assure him that I have experienced both landmarks, as well as Lucerne’s Old Town area, where modern-day commerce peacefully coexists with medieval architecture and ambience.

“Have you visited St. Leodgar’s?” Nico asks, referring to the magnificent twinspired Renaissance church that sits on a hilltop a few hundred yards from us and watches over the city. When I tell him that I have and that I even lit a votive candle, he leans back in his chair. “Good,” he says, pronouncing it more like the German güt than the English version. “Good, good. This means you are more than just an American who likes beer and stays in hotels with Miss Switzerland.

“St. Leodgar’s is like Lucerne herself. Old, but in a classically beautiful way. Regal and quiet, commanding attention without any need to shout for it. Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi may provide Lucerne with her exclamation marks, and the lake may be what draws the most tourists. But St. Leodgar’s is the true beauty that outshines them all. At least that’s what an old man like me thinks.”

How could we not drink to that?

CHRIS WESSLING is the senior editor of American Way. He never did meet Miss Switzerland.