Saturday, September 17, 2011


Since we haven't gotten out much lately - between work and rain - I am going back to two weeks ago as we were coming "home" to Bern from Germany - and took a detour to Appenzellerland in northeastern Switzerland.

According to our travel books, Appenzellerland is viewed as a "backwards" part of Switzerland.  Named for monks who colonized the area in the 10th century, Abtszell (Abbey's Cell), this region is the least populated of all the Swiss cantons.  It has maintained a quaint, traditional air - which brings in tourists - and the local mountains, the Alpstein, bring in lots of day hikers.

You can see the women in traditional dress here, but the boys in the back left of this photo were the most impressive.  They sport a gold earring over their right ear.  I didn't get closer because they are young guys and I didn't want to embarrass them (or me) by sticking my camera in their faces...

Folks in Appenzell, the main town in the region.
This region is famous for its embroidery and other handcrafts, and we saw some impressive examples of sewing prowess and wood carving in their town museum.  They also get complete television coverage once each year when they hold their Landsgemeinden - an open-air democratic assembly where all citizens over 20 appear personally to cast their votes with raised hands.  Women only got the vote here in 1991, which might be part of why other Swiss see them as a little behind the times...

They do have beautifully painted houses and shops.

Pharmacy with painting of herbs
And they had ornate signs on many of the buildings.  This was my favorite.

Can a sign be more charming?
After touring town briefly, we got on our fifth train of the day (how to get to the hinterlands!), and then took a tram up to Ebenalp in the Alpstein mountains.  We walked up a little farther to get a view and then took the track down to a system of three caves known as Wildkirchli Caves.  They are known for traces of paleolithic Neanderthal bones dating to 30-50 ka, as well as earlier remains of cave bears from around 90 ka.  Some hermits lived in the caves during the 15th to 17th centuries and there is a church alter and seating at one of the cave openings. 

Darrell in front of one of the cave openings
The building on the left in the picture above was a simple wood framed building that had information on the caves and a display with some cave bear bones.  The trail continues along a steep edge and then, surprisingly, you come to a restaurant perched on a ledge of the cliff.  Of course we had to stop for beer!

I think the building leans into the cliff for extra support!
The trail continued downhill, then to a lake and then back down to where the cable car originated.  This charming sign was on the side of a house on the route.

Like a Swiss version of Mayberry RFD
All in all it was a lovely day!  I will leave you with one last view of the area.

There is a path we didn't take, but they call it the barefoot path, because it is so soft and lush.  You can imagine that looking at the green meadow in this image!

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