Secrets of a Hidden Town
The Most Beautiful Place You've Never Heard Of
The most beautiful place on Earth isn’t a golden beach in Bora Bora, or the colossal stretch of dusty, red Mars-scape of the Grand Canyon. It isn’t the glittering sun cast across the Mediterranean Sea or the serpentine curves of the Amazon River.
No, the most beautiful place on Earth is in fact located within a town that almost no one beyond a 50 mile radius has heard of. This small town holds a population of just upwards of 1,900 people. To put that into perspective, the capacity of London’s O2 Arena is 20,000 people. This is the town of Flüelen, Switzerland, which sits along the shore of Lake Lucerne, hidden in the gargantuan folds of the Alps.
Here, in the sweltering peak of July, I stayed in a bizarre hotel. A beautiful pine building with a somewhat dated interior and a large metal cage which appeared to serve as home to a stuffed parrot (we were too afraid to ask questions), the hotel had a certain quirky charm. On arrival I had to chase a small, confused bird from under the bed, although this was not entirely to satisfy my fear of birds but rather out of concern that he may have been otherwise doomed to the same fate as the parrot.
The room had a small balcony which immediately gave way to towering mountains, which surrounded on all sides the tiny town of Flüelen. There was something indescribably serene about the place, although the true beauty of the area was not revealed until we stumbled upon the local swimming pool.
At the bottom of an offensively steep hill there sat one small stoney beach with high sandy banks, hidden by a disorderly spattering of trees. On this beach, at the foot of a mountain, people lay sunbathing beneath the protection of the trees. Smoke rose from a barbecue and excited dogs shot between ankles before diving head first into the lake. In this small, hidden section of the shoreline, a string of cheery yellow buoys marked a swimming area for those few people who were lucky enough to stumble upon the place.
The feeling of ice cold water against your skin on a blistering hot day is one of the sweetest reliefs. As I turned in the water and inevitably took an accidental gulp, I waited for the salty pain that would follow. It never came. Perhaps growing up by the sea had instilled this suspicion of water in me, the expectation of coughing and spluttering. It took my brain some time to adjust to the knowledge that this was freshwater and was not about to assault my throat. Nor was it going to help me float — a piece of science I had actually forgotten until I began to sink.
A quick rescue later (and a swift look around to check no one had noticed my accidental partial drowning) and I decided standing was probably the best idea. I looked down and was surprised to see…well, to see. The water was crystal clear, revealing every smooth pebble and weathered rock that lay beneath my feet. Standing also produced the strange experience of freezing my legs but sacrificing my torso to the ferocious sun.
It didn’t seem possible to be standing in such heat while looking up around the snowcapped mountains that stood as sentinels around the lake. A train appeared from an invisible tunnel halfway around the mountain, and a postbox red cable car passed over several times, disappearing over the sheer cliffs. Everything here seemed secret, hidden and revealed only for a chosen few eyes. How lucky I am to have been one of those very few.