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Swiss City Opens Prison to Tourists

January 21, 1998

LUCERNE, Switzerland (AP) _ The tourists who flock to this Alpine city by the hundreds of thousands each year soon will have an alternative to the pricey hotels _ prison.

City leaders announced plans Wednesday to convert the city’s more than century-old prison into a 63-room hotel, where students and other low-budget guests can afford to stay.

``The cells are very impressive, even beautiful,″ said Jean-Pierre Furler, one of the planners. ``And the bars at the windows don’t really spoil the view.″

The plans call for the hotel to open in April 1999, by which time the low-security inmates will have been moved elsewhere.

What is now an exercise yard will be converted into a ``leisure area,″ complete with restaurant and bar. The narrow cells, each equipped with two beds, will remain unchanged, tucked behind 3-foot-thick walls.

Nightly rates probably would range from $13 to $20, compared to an average of $100 for a double room in one of the city’s two-star hotels during the summer.

The hotel is part of the city’s answer to a growing demand for cheaper lodging in a country with a reputation of catering to the well-heeled.

Lucerne _ an ancient city famous for its wooden bridge, picturesque lake and stunning scenery _ attracted 395,000 foreign visitors in the first nine months of last year, many of them Americans.

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