February half term. In Switzerland known as ‘Ski Week’. Hmmm, slight problem as we don’t ski, and slightly bigger problem of not having spare cash enough to embark on this crazy pastime. So the eleven days of the children’s break needs to filled by other activities. The novelty of Grandma and Grandad arriving lasts one day, sledging takes up another…
Time for a trip, on a budget. Hmmm (we are in Switzerland and I’m not sure if the word ‘budget’ has the same meaning here). Tilly suggests the zoo but then Joshua pipes up with the Glass Factory at Hergiswil am See which he visited with his class on a school trip. He enjoyed it so much last time that, as the rest of us haven’t visited, and it’s within half an hour drive (just south of Luzern), and it’s free for under 10s, and only 7chf for adults (yes, you read that right 7chf!), we decided to go for it. The website reassured us that there were all the facilities we could possibly want to make use of: cafe, museum, shop, restaurant, play area, science experiments and car park. What could possibly go wrong, and what more could we want from a trip out?
Car parking was free(!) when we arrived, I guess that mid February is not the peak period for the village of Hergiswil am See, and so the trip got off to a very pleasant start. The museum managed to combine old world charm with new age technology taking us from the Egyptians and the creation of glass all the way through to present day and more specifically the Glasi Hergiswil through the use of automated screens, projectors and lights with life-size dioramas of various parts of the factory illustrating the glass making techniques sitting comfortably with the human story of its previous owners and workers. Pleasingly the business of today was founded in 1975 by a Neapolitan, Roberto Niederer and it is his son who is now at the helm. My Grandmother was a Neapolitan and as my Mum was with us for the excursion it seemed rather fitting. Even Tilly, who seemed a little unsure when we first walked through the entrance of the Egyptian Pyramid (it was rather dark and then a voice booms out before a single light comes on), with hand firmly held, soon settled and enjoyed looking at the dioramas leading us on.
We emerged from the museum into the glass factory itself. The warmth of the furnaces providing welcome relief from the snow and ice that we have been ensconced in over the past couple of weeks. We were stood on a mezzanine with a bird’s eye view of the master glass makers who were at work. It was amazing to see the molten glass being rapidly moulded into plates, bowls and jars before the temperature dropped and imperfections in the glass appeared. To be honest we could have stood there for hours observing the craftsmen and enjoying the warmth, but Joshua was keen to move on and have a go at glass blowing himself. Yes, you read that right, there is the chance (at a cost of 20chf) for visitors to have a go at glass blowing themselves and take home their own glass bauble. Unfortunately Tilly and Joshua weren’t allowed to make one together, I guess that if they swapped around during the glass blowing it would probably create too many imperfections and cause stresses within the glass that would result in shattering. However as Tilly wasn’t convinced that she wanted to participate this didn’t cause any problems. So up Joshua stepped, chose his design and blew on command. We now have a delightful memento of our trip to Glasi Hergiswil.
Having completed our tour of the factory we walked over to the visitor centre where we found a host of glass based activities. A glass orchestra, rainbow spectrums, crazy mirrors and even Harry Potter and his magic wand made a (dis)appearance. Outside there is a play area with a huge contraption in the middle of it which looks like the cage from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when the Child Catcher attempts to capture Jemima and Jeremy Potts but here it is actually a ginormous marble run – the marbles having been made at Glasi Hergiswil. Whilst the children were playing Grandma and Grandad explored the shop and I lost my soul to the fabulous views that surround the factory. Situated on the banks of Lake Lucerne, Mount Pilatus dominates the skyline whilst the lake itself gently caresses the surrounding shores. Peace, tranquillity, beauty.
Then back to reality and the sound of squabbling. Having realised that it was lunchtime we set off for the cafe only to find it was closed. Never mind apparently there was a restaurant next to the seconds shop which is located across the road. It was closed. Never mind we could head off to the village and there would be bound to be a coffee shop or bakery there. There was! Oh, wait a minute, it was closed. Yep, Hergiswil am See is not the best place to visit in the middle of February if you fancy a coffee!
However, Glasi Hergiswil is definitely a good place to visit.
Disclaimer all opinions given are my own and I received no money in exchange for this review. Prices are correct as at February 2015.