We Almost Made it to Lichtenstein! – Appenzell
Saturday! Weekends aren’t very special when you’re on holiday, but now Suzanne’s boyfriend didn’t have to work and he joined us on our planned excursion to the northeast corner of the country. We planned on visiting Apenzell as well as riding a cable car and look over the border into Lichtenstein. The train left Lenzburg, changed in Zurich and then we were heading east into the mountains where the countryside was green and lush. The mixture of smooth fields and patches of trees led to a look of a badly shaven head. We passed through small villages, the tracks snaking between buildings and fields of flowers. Houses dotted the hillsides, the architecture distinctly different than anything I was used to in the States. In particular was the house/barn combination I had heard about since childhood. For some reason, I always pictured these structures as stuck to the side of a hill, the barn underneath the house and the entire thing coated with window boxes full of geraniums. The buildings I saw were nothing like what was in my head. Instead, I saw a large Swiss house attached to the side of a massive un-barnlike structure. Now mind you, when I say “un-barnlike”, I’m referring to the barns I grew up around: deep red walls, tall graceful white roofs, twin silos, all standing proud and alone in a cornfield. No, the Swiss barns were just extensions of the house itself, usually with just a ridge line change in the roof to acknowledge the different living quarters. Regardless, I found them fascinating and wanted desperately to see the inside of one of them.
Dan watches two motorcycles zip by
Awwww – motorcycles are more fun than trains!
Scenery from the train
Somewhere west of St Gallen
We were approaching our stop and stood by the doors. The train stopped, but the doors didn’t open. I never did understand why not, as we pushed the button, and pushed the doors themselves. But as we stood trapped on the nearly-empty train, we saw the village slip away. We found success at Schwende, the next stop, and managed to get off the train safely. Peter walked up to the front of the train and asked the engineer for suggestions, seeing as our plans had been changed with the missed stop. It was a good thing, too, as the cable car we were planning on taking was not in operation. The engineer made another suggestion and we enjoyed a brief walk up to the next village, Wasserauen, to catch a different cable car, to a different mountain.
Peter talks to the conductor in Schwende
Walking to Wasserauen
Looking back at Schwende
The path followed a nice, lively creek
Another cable car heading up
The walk was pleasant and easy. The path was paved, following a bubbling brook that meandered down the middle of a valley. Snowy-peaked mountains peered down at us, and on either side were Swiss farmhouses and various livestock, happily grazing in the flowering fields. We reached the Ebenalp cable car building, so named for the peak that the car would eventually drop us off on. We paid for the ride (half price due to our Swiss Pass!) and within 10 minutes we were on our way up.
The views were expansive, albeit a tad hazy. We could almost see Bodensee that divided Switzerland from Germany, and in the other direction, even more snow-capped mountains. We also saw one of the many trails that led down from the top of Ebenalp, with a few hardy trekkers making their way up. We also saw a couple of paragliders gently sailing on invisible wind currents. It looked like a great way to enjoy the scenery.
Swiss cows make Swiss chocolate!
A climber at the base of the alp
Ebenalp cable car
Leaving the parking lot behind
View on the way up
Note the structures set into the mountain
Still on the way up (you can see the overhang structure we come to later)
At the top of Ebenalp
Parasailer gets ready to go
And this one takes the plunge
At the top of the mountain we left the car and hiked around for a bit. We didn’t have any plans and ended up on a snow-covered trail that led us still further up, although for no great visual gain, it appeared. After running into deep snow, we gave up on this trail and headed back to the main landing area to watch a couple of paragliders take off, and then visited the restaurant for a quick snack to enjoy on the hike down. We had decided it was too pleasant to take the cable car back down the mountain and instead saunter our way back to the train station in Schwende.
Trails in Switzerland are well-marked with consistent yellow signs. Some signs will give you estimated hiking times to the locations listed, but these particular signs didn’t include that information. We consulted a map that showed the various ways of reaching the meadow at the bottom of the alp and decided upon a course. We immediately went the wrong way. I don’t know where the turn was missed, but I’m glad it was. Instead of taking what looked to be a more leisurely “back way”, we were now going to walk down the steeper trail we had seen on the way up, including visiting the small chapel tucked into a crevice in the rock and the built-out trail that hovered over nothingness as it rounded a rock face. But hey, it was downhill at least!
Another cable-car accessible peak in the distance
Dan checks out the view
Colleen and the view towards Germany
Hiking around the top
Views further up the valley
Attempting to hike up further
Too much snow – we decide to head back down
Signage on the way down
The trail passes through the mountain
Dan enters the cave-trail
A family making their way up
Approaching a shelter and a built-out trail
Nicely kept chapel
Seating tucked into the mountainside
The trail is built out around sheer rock
Another restaurant on the way down
Trail and a view
Dan heads down as a cable car heads up
The trail becomes a road for a bit
Dan, Intrepid Hiker and Bumblebee
It was a pleasant hike, with beautiful vistas the entire way. We passed a small cluster of buildings advertising Swiss cheese for sale. It was temping to buy it so close to ‘the source’. In less than a month, the cows would be led up the mountain for summer grazing. The trail eventually entered a forested area and then came out into someone’s cow pasture, right near the cable car base. From there, it was just a matter of crossing the road to catch a train back to our next destination: Appenzell.
One year old Swiss cheese – turn right
And buy it direct from the producer
Enjoying the wonderful scenery
Dan and I
No more road – now its really just a cowpath
Eventually we reach the trees
Claudine spoke highly of this traditional old town, resplendent with perfectly maintained buildings that are hundreds of years old and narrow streets. By the time our train pulled into the Appenzell station the weather was taking a turn for the worse. We split up to explore on our own, leaving Claudine, Suzanne and Peter to meander on their own while we struck out to see what we could find. As it was, it was a very small town and it didn’t take us long to see pretty much all there was. Dan bought some “local” beer, Appenzeller (which turned out to be the same beer he got throughout the rest of the country) and as we regrouped, it started to rain. This would be the typical weather pattern for the rest of our trip.
Streets of Appenzell
Appenzell driving school
The Swiss don’t hold back on building things to last
The train home
Bern – The City of Bears
Moriken ** Baden ** Appenzell ** Bern ** Lausanne ** Zermatt ** Lugano ** Luzern ** Zurich ** Lenzburg
Bern. I had heard great things about this city, with a river that wraps itself around 3 sides of the walled town and many old buildings still preserved. Suzanne and Peter joined us again, it being Sunday and everyone having the day off. We hopped on to the train (I’m still amazed at how easy it is to get around the country without a car) and less than a couple of hours later we were in the Bern train station. We headed immediately for the Altstadt where we were greeted by narrow cobble streets, alleyways full of interesting stores and cheerful flags fluttering from the buildings. The flags were of the 13 cantons (states) of Switzerland and each had their own design and color fields. It lent a festive and cheerful air to an already interesting place.
Waiting for the bus
Nope, that’s not it
I found this woman charming
Bern is a big place, but we managed to cover most of the Altstadt. We wandered through a couple of outdoor markets, one selling local treasures (I picked up a couple of hand-carved wooden cows) and the other sold local fruits and vegetables. “Local” being questionable, however, as the not-very-tasty strawberries I bought were from Italy.
Many locals use the public fountains
Bucket rails in use! (prior to this is was only a theory)
Bern Parliament Building
Very large chessboard
Cat ladder – there were a surprising number of them
Public garden space
Strolling down toward the river
Wisteria in full bloom
Digital bus signs – you’ll always know how long you have to wait
Back at the market
Fund-raising dance near the market
Pure, Swiss chocolate. Yes, please!
Bern clock tower – one of the first city gates
Streets of Bern
Munster St. Vinzenz in Bern is the tallest church in Switzerland
I didn’t get the entire height of the church – too tall (and also under construction)
Detail over the front doors
“Find the mistake!”
Nichole met us in Bern and the five of us wandered down some twisting walkways toward the Aare River, hitching a ride on an outdoor elevator for the last bit of the trip. Now we were level with the river and walked some more. Across the river we could see a large enclosure – it was where the Bern bears lived. A crush of people was gaping at the bears from below their home, but we had a great view from across the river. We could see the male bear on one side of the fence and the mother with two cubs on the other side. The animals looked content enough, with the cubs climbing trees and tumbling over fallen logs. It sure beat the old concrete pit where the bears used to live, which was still on display at the top of the hill.
Now that we were at the bottom of the hill, it was time to go back up. Many steps later, up an ancient staircase attached to the bridge across the Aare, we were once again at the top of the town. We crossed the bridge, looked at the bears again and went back down, this time on the other side of the Aare. The weather was perfect for our stroll and I enjoyed seeing so many different facets of living in such an old city.
Looking across the Aare River
Buildings of Bern
Down along the waterfront – note the open channel of running water
Bern bears – mom, dad and two cubs
Visitors check out the bears
More red tile roof tops (a little faded)
Sitting along the Aare River
Of course we were now at river level again and had to get back up to the train station, so it was up a long hill instead of stairs this time. The area was full of tourists and people out enjoying the spring day. By the time we reached the top we were ready for a break and took one at an outdoor café. More interesting sights wandered by as we sat there, enjoying our beverages.
Interesting sights in Bern