August 12, 2019
Today was a travel day, so after breakfast we checked out and walked across the Bahnhofplatz to the train station. Here we bought one-way tickets from Meiringen to Appenzell. Our itinerary would take us to Lucerne, then via the Voralpen-Express to Herisau, from where we would catch the local train to Appenzell.
The ticket agent told us that the long ride from Lucerne to Herisau would be very scenic, but today with the clouds really low down and the rain coming down periodically it wasn’t really scenic. We had 40 minutes to wait in Lucerne, so we bought some food in the train-station Migros for lunch. At one point Paul remarked that we hadn’t seen any storks yet, and within 15 minutes the train passed a group of four White Storks in a field beside the tracks.
We got into Appenzell at about 2:30 pm and walked the short distance to the Hotel Adler. We got a room on the third floor which had a small balcony, and also didn’t look over the busy street. We also got Appenzell Cards which gave us free cable-car rides, free local bus and train travel, and even a free bottle of beer from a local brewery!
In our room we unpacked a bit and then went for a walk around the town. Appenzell has beautifully-painted buildings, both historically and culturally. It also has a lot of bakeries; we should have counted them as we passed by them on our walk.
Just as we were finishing the walk we felt some raindrops so we retreated to the room. At 6:30 pm we went down to the hotel’s restaurant, which is called Little Italy. Rosemary had lasagna and Paul had a burger and fries, and we shared an éclair for dessert.
August 13, 2019
We woke up to dark and low clouds this morning; we were disappointed because sunny weather had been predicted. So we decided it would be a museum day and we would hope for hiking weather tomorrow.
The Appenzell Museum was free because of our Appenzell Cards, so we arrived there just after 10 am. We took the elevator to the fifth floor and started our tour. The museum is primarily devoted to the customs and costumes of the area. There were displays of lace-making, wood-working, old flags and banners, as well as reconstructed rooms. There was also a lot of space devoted to handkerchief-making, which had been a major industry in Appenzell until recently.
The museum was well laid out and very interesting. We found that it was very hard for us to understand German museum labels, but the attendant at the entrance had given us a book with English translations of the summary for each section.
It had indeed started to rain, but as it was lunch time we stopped at a bakery/café and ordered ham sandwiches and tea. The sandwiches were made with really tasty bread.
After lunch we continued working our way through the Appenzell Card. First we went to the Kunstmuseum (“Art Museum”), which was a shiny metal building up the hill near the station. It didn’t open until 2 pm but luckily the curator and his assistant were there to let us in. They had an exhibit of the works of Hans Arp, a sculptor who lived for a while in Switzerland. Neither of us were too impressed by the artwork, which consisted mostly of photographs and replicas of sculptures which were located elsewhere. But we dutifully toured all of the rooms.
From there it was a short walk up the hill to the Kunsthalle Ziegelhütte (“Brick Factory Art Hall”). It had been a brick factory for over 400 years but eventually it was made into an art gallery. We watched three short films, one of which told us about the Kunstmuseum. It was from that film that we learned that we had met the curator there. The art on display there was Art Deco record covers and sheet music covers, from the 1930’s and from all over Europe. The sheet music included tango and Stravinsky, and we’d never thought of Honegger’s “Pacific 231” as being Art Deco before.
It wasn’t raining now but we headed back to the room for an afternoon nap. Later we had dinner at one of the many restaurants on the Hauptgasse. Most of the day tourists had gone so the streets (and restaurants) were rather empty. Rosemary had a grilled chicken breast with a salad, and Paul had a sausage with macaroni and cheese. We had heard that Appenzell cheese was “stinky” and yes, it was. It didn’t taste quite as bad as it smelled, though.
After dinner we went for a walk around the town, because the weather was really quite nice. We wandered around and looked at some of the many churches. On the way back we saw a White-throated Dipper in the river, the first one we had seen on this trip.
August 14, 2019
This morning we woke up to sunshine! Yeah! So our plan today was to take the train to Wasserauen and then the cable car up to Ebenalp. (The cost of both rides was covered by our Appenzell Card.)
We caught the 9:10 am train and then walked across the road to the cable car. It wasn’t very busy yet so it whisked us up to Ebenalp almost right away. The views down the valley were really pretty so it was great that we had such good weather. They say you can see six countries from there, but it was a bit hazy so we probably couldn’t. But their info computer said it wouldn’t rain until 8 pm!
We watched a couple of paragliders take off, after they shooed the cows away from where they wanted to take off from. Then we headed downhill towards the Wildkirchli Cave, which is one of the most famous locations in the area. It was known for centuries and in 1621 a chapel was built there, which is still active today. We had to pass through the cave in order to continue on to the Berggasthaus Äscher, a restaurant which has been doing business for over 200 years and was still busy.
From there we continued down towards our next destination, Seealpsee. They had told us that the trail could be risky, and there were a couple of areas with exposure, but no big deal. But the trail was paved with rocks which could be slippery so we went a bit slowly. We were glad when we got down to a more level trail.
That trail led into a wide hanging valley, which was Seealp. And in the valley was a large lake, Seealpsee, with its two mountain hotels. There was a trail around it so we decided to walk that trail. At the far end there were some farms, one selling cheese and the other fresh milk. We ended up at one of the restaurants, where we had lunch with a view over the lake. Both of us had barley soup, which was very tasty.
The weather was still quite good but we decided to leave after lunch, just in case the clouds brought rain. To get back down to Wasserauen we had to walk down a really steep road, which took us about 40 minutes. There were a lot of people walking up the road, walkers of all sorts. At the bottom the parking lot was almost full and there was a long line-up for the cable car.
We could have taken the train back to Appenzell but the weather was still good so we decided to walk. To start with the trail was an indistinct path through farm fields with cows. It even went through people’s front yards! And yes, it had the standard Swiss finger posts. But after a while it became a regular hard-surfaced path which led down the river to Appenzell town centre. The Dipper was there again today.
Tonight we decided to eat on the terrace at the Hotel Appenzell. Paul had deep-fried perch and a salad, and Rosemary had a delicious chicken breast with fresh vegetables and pommes frites. The food was so good that we decided to have dessert as well.
August 15, 2019
Today was the day we had planned to visit St Gallen and see the sites there, so it was just as well that rain showers were predicted. After breakfast we headed over to the train station, and it took about 30 minutes to get to St Gallen. When we arrived it was raining lightly.
We got a bit mixed up with our directions and so we walked the wrong way to start with, but after we looked at better maps we found the right way, back past the train station. Our first stop was the Textile Museum, which had a special display of circus costumes from the Knie family’s 100-year-old circus. The clothes are surprisingly specialized—they have to be fashion items, but then people are going to be doing very physical things while wearing them. There were numerous outfits from over the years worn by clowns, trapeze artists, horse trainers, and other performers.
Downstairs the museum had a display about the embroidery industry, which we had encountered in the Appenzell museum. It consumed much of eastern Switzerland for years and they had machines doing the work by about 1830. Interestingly the industry was one of the first to use punched paper tape to control machinery.
Outside it was still raining but within minutes the sun came out. We made our way over to the St Gallen cathedral, which was a typical Catholic cathedral with gold decorations throughout. The ceiling was elaborately decorated in the Baroque style, although the frescoes were quite dark.
Outside it was still sort of raining so we went next door, to Chocolaterie Kölbener, for lunch. Their hot chocolate was very good and we also had ham sandwiches.
Next on the list was the Abbey library, part of a UNESCO cultural site. The Abbey had been in St Gallen for over 1000 years but the library wasn’t as old as that. But it was stunning in appearance. The walls were floor-to-ceiling bookshelves all done in beautiful wood, and the books looked like they were in immaculate condition. Before entering, we were required to leave all our bags in a locker and to put slippers on over our shoes. Inside the library everybody was shuffling around because the slippers were so big!
We also visited the Abbey museum, which told us a lot about the early history of the abbey, back when the Romans were still in the picture. The abbey was finally dissolved in the 19th century and a lot of history must have happened in the several hundred years before that, but that would have required a much larger museum.
But now we were museumed out, so we grabbed some drinks from the Coop and headed back on the train to Appenzell. It was still showery there too. We decided to go back to the same place we went to last night, the Hotel Appenzell, but tonight we sat inside the hotel, of course. Their food was just as good tonight but we didn’t have dessert.