Our visit to Zürich was short and sweet, but after a good night's sleep it was off to Appenzell. One of the things that really reduced the stress of travel on this trip was the how easy it was to use the Swiss Rail system to crisscross the country. The trains ran frequently and they were always on time. The Swiss Rail Pass also allowed the flexibility to change plans on a moment's notice if we wanted to see something that was not on the original itinerary.
Swiss Tour: Appenzell
Appenzell at a Glance:
- Population: 5,800
- Language: German
- Sleep: Romantik Hotel Säntis
- Eat: Gasthof Hotel Hof
- Known For: Appenzeller cheese
- Don’t Miss: Gondola to Ebenalp
- Best Photo Op: Aescher Wildkirchli
After hopping on the train in Appenzell for a short ride to Wasserauen, we took our first cable car ride in Switzerland up to Ebenalp (1,640 m) which is the northernmost summit of the Appenzell Alps. From the high plateau of the cable car station we had a panoramic view of the rolling hills of Appenzell until we reached the higher levels and the fog enveloped us. A large network of trails start at the station and lead to a number of mountain huts including the famous Gasthaus Aescher Wildkirchli, whose trail winds along the cliffside.
A short walk up through the fog brought us to the Berggasthaus Ebenalp and to a lunch of sausage, potatoes and beer -- a perfect Swiss meal which would be repeated on a number of occasions. The large patio had a grand vista of the mountains, at least when we could peer through the fog which would roll in and out on a whim.
The famous Gasthaus Aescher Wildkirchli is reached by a 15 minute descending hike from the gondola station. It's certainly a place to stop for a bite to eat or a drink, especially if the sky is clear, but recent renovations now make it possible again to stay the night. Along the way to the Gasthaus, the trail passes the Wildkirchli caves, a complex of three connected caves containing a small chapel and a museum with excavated bones and archeological items. The guesthouse in its present form has existed since 1860 and is one of the oldest mountain guesthouses in Switzerland. Stories are told about small wild people which apparently used to live in in the Wildkirchcaves and helped the alpine dairy men.
The gondola ride back to Wasserauen transported us back out of the clouds into an idyllic Swiss scene with cows grazing in the meadow. A quick train trip back to Appenzell gave us time to wander through the streets and enjoy the brightly colored storefronts and houses.
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to walk the streets in the early morning before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. This is when you can get a real sense of a place and great photo opportunities in the early morning light.
The Romantik Hotel Säntis is a wonderful place with all the things you need in a hotel: great service, a central location and a nice breakfast to get the day started.
Click here to see images of Switzerland for sale on this site.