Switzerland: Appenzell

After rushing / struggling to get our luggages and two babies on and off a few interconnecting trains, we FINALLY (!!!!) made it to Appenzell.

Baby’s first train ride.

It really felt like we embarked on a marathon swim from Alcatraz and reached the Promised Land, with me feeling like a victorious Lance Armstrong before he was disgraced in the public eye. I was almost offended that the train officers weren’t waiting for us with a gold medal at the end.

Appenzell is a cutesy little countryside town surrounded by rolling green pastures. It’s also every smoker’s nightmare because it is drowning in fresh air.

This place — with its one main street and colorful hand-painted buildings — is as rural as Switzerland gets, and one almost expects to see a Dutch Lady milkmaid and the occasional gun-toting inbred hermit strutting / limping by.

But who cares; I’m ecstatic because my lungs get a second shot in life.

Our accommodation for 3 nights, The Hotel Hecht Appenzell, was a marvelous structure at the edge of town that’s staffed by amiable country ladies who’ve not had their minds corrupted by city scum.

The streets outside our hotel were also blissfully free of cars.

They presented us they keys to our suite and what a lovely suite it was — totally comparable to a luxury suite in an expensive, big name hotel — complete with moderns fixtures, a massive marble bathroom and two TVs (with English channels too, hallelujah!).

Our five-month-old gives his seal of approval!

Our living room. The Hotel Snob in me was very pleased!

Hotel Hecht also provided plenty of toys for children just in case the Weather God hates us. They could play with the toys in a dedicated play space outside or we could bring it back to our room. Cookie points to them!

At first, le hubby was like, “Okayy the children are happy here, but what are WE gonna do here besides cow-spotting and rolling around in hay?” but then immediately shut up when I waved the Appenzeller FerienKarte in his face.

Cue catchy advertisement tune.

Given to anyone who stays three nights or more, this awesome card has a ton of perks that would send tingles of excitement down any freeloader’s spine, including free entry to the one and only museum in town, Appenzell Museum, which happens to be situated right across the street from our hotel; and even a beer-tasting session in a brewery a short walk away.

That was naturally where we bolted for first, after a long, tiring day of commute. It was closed and, as tempting as it was to yell “Bastards!” and kick down the doors standing between us and a good time, we decided to head to the nearby riverside playground for a picnic instead.

Daddy almost knocked his teeth out on this thing.

The next day, we took a 15-minute PubliCar ride to the cheese factory in Stein because Appenzell is famous for its cheeses. Also, I am Louisa and I am a cheese addict.

If you insist on taking pictures with a giant cheese, it probably means you have a problem.

The Appenzeller Card entitles you to a free visit and a big tasting platter of different Appenzeller cheeses at the end. If you must know, Appenzeller cheese is goooood. It also has a distinct aroma of camel balls. Yum.

Not for the faint of heart.

The museum, on the other hand, is not much to look at (unless listening to a long, dull lecture in cheese-making on an audioguide is your thing), but there’s a lovely on-site restaurant which reeks of sweaty gonads because of all the fondue being served and an adorable dairy-themed children’s playground.

Next door was the Appenzell Folklore Museum (also free with the card), which offers a glimpse into the daily lives of Appenzellers, who are often the butt of jokes because city folks assume have sex with horses or whatever. But if the live cheese-making demo at the folklore museum is anything to go by, the entire town’s too busy making good ol’ stinky cheese rather than centaur children to work on their farms.

Makin’ cheese the old-fashioned way.

Anyway, i don’t think the Swiss should look down on them country folks as inferior because how can they be inferior when they have one of Switzerland’s most promising restaurants, GASS 17.

We went there for dinner TWICE and it was wayyyy better than any restaurant I tried in Zurich.

Not the best lighting but who cares. Those sauces are yum!

Chilli shrimps.

Barbecued lamb. Tastes far better than it looks.

It’s modern Swiss and the server will just roll her eyes at you if you request for raclette. So don’t.

Just don’t.

On the second day, the chirpy hotel staff was all like, “The weather is amazing today. It’s a great day to head out to the mountains!” and that’s precisely what we did only to find out that “amazing” weather in Swiss terms meant sizzling “Oh-my-Satan-would-be-happy-here” kind of hot.

Good day to have skin cancer.

And thus began our Indiana Jones-like hike on the Ebenalp with two babies (lift up / down is free with the card). The downhill hike from the lift station was steep enough to bust your knee, but the views of the surrounding region and paragliders leaping one by one like lemmings off the mountainside like made it all worthwhile.

Starting ’em young.

We eventually descended into a wet, slippery cave which was once inhabited by prehistoric bears and this is the part where I tried very hard not to slip and fall to my death while attempting to calm down a two-year-old who was getting increasingly agitated by the dark. And just as you emerge from the cave feeling like a champ and thinking that the perilous part of your journey is over…well it ain’t, hon.

Because the rest of the hike consists of walking a narrow path carved into the cliffside.

Burning butter.

Praying we don’t fall off at Wildkirchli, a 500-year-old cave church marking the hike’s halfway point.

Look anywhere but look down!

After camwhoring a bit, we made our way to the Berggasthaus Aescher together with what seemed like the whole of China, enjoying rosti and fine vistas from the guesthouse’s restaurant.

Apparently, somebody think it’s a good idea to start a guesthouse way up here.

Le hubby’s favorite part of the hike.

To call it a restaurant is a bit of a stretch since it’s more like a food shack, staffed by one tetchy young Swiss gentleman who looked annoyed as to why he’s stuck up there with the rest of China.

After all that, the hike back up was even worse. Le hubby and I made a pact there and then that next time, the kids aren’t coming with us.

Our final day was spent at the public swimming pool, which was like Sentosa’s Port of Lost Wonder. It’s just too bad my boys were too young; though they definitely enjoyed themselves in the wading stream for babies and toddlers.

Yes, this place is completely free if you’re wondering.

Like many parts of alpine Europe, Switzerland converts its ski runs into bobsled rides when the snow melts each year. The idea of zooming down a hill at 100miles/hour while jeering at cows is too great for me to resist so we did the Kronberg Luge Ride in nearby Jakobsbad (also free with the card).

Each sled could accommodate up to two skinny people but, being gung-ho and all, I had to go all by myself despite not really knowing how to work the stick shift. I ended up using the brake most of the time. Even the kids at the playground below were laughing at my sorry ass.

That said, Appenzell would eventually become one of my favorite places in Switzerland, thanks to its lovely people and variety of things to do for kids AND adults. But cruising down that hill at a breakneck speed of 10 miles/hour while the cows looked curiously on, I just didn’t know it yet.

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