The end in Lucerne


As I had planned, I went to Lucerne today to celebrate finishing the draft of In Search of Lost Girls. I also wanted to check a few points I was unsure about. Three places in Lucerne were the main real-life settings for the end of the book: the Chapel Bridge, the restaurant called The Old Swiss House which is at the Lowenplatz and the nearby St. Leodegar’s church (shown in the photo above).


It was an extremely hot day, so crossing the river by the Chapel Bridge was a welcome moment in the shade. In this season, with a prolonged bout of extremely sunny weather, the bridge was packed with tourists taking pictures of each other in silly poses against the backdrop of the town and river. What struck me most about the bridge was not so much its length – it is very long and low above the water – but rather the roughness of the boards that make up its floor. In my imagination, when writing the story, that floor had no texture. Yet it was just that unexpected unevenness that gave the bridge its depth and brought it alive.


I was lucky. Today at lunch there was a short organ concert in St. Leodegar’s church. We were seated in a semicircle around the organist on the balcony above the main entrance. At our backs were the smaller pipes and rising above in front of us were the regal silver pipes some of which reached to the roof. The most surprising thing about being so close to the organ console, but above all the pipes, was the almost human breath of air as it is squeezed into the pipes. You cannot hear that from below in the nave. It’s like being close to a majestic beast. You might even mistake the sound of the organist’s feet on the pedals for the heart beat. That and the music brought tears of relief and pleasure to my eyes as I recalled how the book ends. I just had to add a paragraph to the final chapter to include the organ in the story, so, later, I found a place in a shady garden near the famous statue of a lion carved in the rock and, ignoring the tourists, I wrote the additional paragraph.


At the end of the concert, we were given a guided tour of the space between the ceiling and the roof of the church where some of the special effects of the organ are created. One of the noteworthy sounds the organ can produce is that of falling rain. In the photo above, the organist explains the history of the organ and how some of the pipes work. I could well imagine such a playful figure taking Andrew, our young pianist and organist, to lunch with his family, while Peter was busy elsewhere.


One of my concerns about the church was that of access. I needed a secret access from the back of the church that would allow people to enter the sacristy, unseen by those seated in the nave. I was pleased to discover a tiny, locked door three quarters of the way round the church that gave access to the sacristy, or rather a concealed room behind one of the altars from which it was possible to enter the sacristy. It fit my story perfectly.


I also needed a way to reach that back entrance without walking up the main steps that lead up to the church from the square below. From the aerial map I was unsure if there was such an access, but, as you can see from the photo above, there was a perfect little pathway that spanned the road below along which  guests seeking to be incognito could slip unseen into the church.

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