Appenzell: Inner and Outer

Time is getting away from us, and ourIMG_1722 must-see list in Switzerland is longer than we have days. However, we are getting very, very close to our goal of visiting every one of the 26 cantons.

I’m sure we would have gone to Appenzell sooner than July, but when we had time, the weather was often rainy. The other issue is that Appenzell is divided into two cantons – Inner and Outer, the split coming about during the Reformation when it was divided between Reformed and Catholic.

All the tourist stuff is in Inner Appenzell (the town itself with all the cute cheese and traditional museums), but with the weather so nice, we chose to take probably the most popular hike in the area.

Appenzell is considered the country bumpkin region and the butt of jokes, maybe because women did not get to vote on local issues until the 1990s.

The fun begins with the cable car lift up to Ebenalp, the highest peak in Appenzellerland. As you near the top, you can see the cave that the hike goes through, and suddenly, you are at the top.

A steep, but not too difficult hike down leads to the cave in about 10 minutes. After walking through the cave, you emerge on the other side at a hut and the Wildkirchli (little wild church) where hermit monks lived from 1658 to 1853.

IMG_1705After 5 minutes of looking and picture-taking, round the corner to this view of the Berggasthaus Aescher. This 170-year-old guesthouse has primitive rooms to rent and traditional Swiss fare in the restaurant. As you can imagine on a perfect Saturday in July, there were few places available to sit, so we chose the last two seats inside. I had a view through the windows of the mountains. H had a view of the side of the mountain which doubled as the restaurant wall.

Refueled for the rest of the afternoon, we headed towards Seealpsee (Lake Alp-sea?) by heading down, down, down. The switchbacks proved challenging as they were extremely rocky and uneven and quite steep. Thankfully we were headed downhill and not up (we passed many hikers, though, sturdier than me) and we were mostly in the shade.

If you have small kids, you are advised to put them on a leash….


For the very first time this year, I used the hiking pole that I purchased especially for this year. I had not used it yet, partly because it seems that one must have TWO hiking poles in Switzerland. However, I was very glad to have my one pole with me for this tricky descent.


A common site in Switzerland.

A good 45-50 minutes of this, and we reached the paved road that led to the lake past many cows. On the side of the mountain, by the road, and even in the lake.

One can walk around the entire lake in about 45-minutes, listening to more cowbells, seeing little restaurants and places to buy cheese and milk, and seeing more beautiful scenery and people building fires for picnics.

The remainder of the hike, though paved, is a quite steep descent, and even downhill presented its challenges. By the time we reached the train station, we had come 7.4 km (about 4.6 miles) at a 2500 ft. elevation loss. My quads were sore for several days.

For specific details about the this hike, please see this post on Moms : Tots : Zürich which is a fabulous blog about places to go in Switzerland (good information for kids of all ages).

What about Outer Appenzell, I hear you asking. On the way home we got off the train in the main city of that canton, Herisau, knowing that the next train would be by in about 30 minutes. We stepped into the convenience store and bought Mövenpick ice cream bars, enjoying our moment in the canton.

Only Canton Uri remains!


Wandering the Doubs River in the Jura

IMG_1315Another weekend, another canton to visit. Rain forecast in the east of the country, so a trip to Appenzell was out. The rain chance in the Jura was slim, and an easy hike along a river with an adorable medieval town seemed a perfect jaunt. Add to that a special deal on an SBB Day Pass, and we were off, leaving a gray Zürich behind.

Jura, the newest Swiss canton (formed in 1979), contains some of the Jura mountain range which straddles Switzerland and France. It sits on the French-speaking side of the Röstigraben, and the term Jurassic comes from the Jura mountains.

We showed our train tickets to the controller in that canton, and he was quite confused since they were printed in English. He asked if we spoke English or German (I said both) and he wanted to know where we were from. I told him America, but he asked if we lived in Switzerland. Upon confirmation, I explained that the tickets were Tageskarten (Day Passes), and that seemed to clear up his confusion. H told me to stop being a problem for the nice people of the SBB…

Despite this, we managed to make it to St. Ursanne, a small medieval village on the Doubs River. After walking through the town, we found the stone bridge I’d seen in photos and proceeded to follow the Wanderweg along the river. My plan was to walk for a ways, maybe an hour or so, eat our picnic, then head back into town to catch a train.

Along this part of the river one can walk on a very level path for about 15 km to the town of Soubey, one leg of the Trans-Swiss Trail.

We could hardly call this hiking as part of the path was paved, and we never gained any elevation, but we were happy to be along the beautiful river, seeing fields, woods, meadows, hills, cows, and occasional farm houses and some campgrounds.

After we returned home, I looked at the map again and realized that we did not go the way that I had planned, but had gone the exact opposite way along the river. We would never have reached Soubey that way, and we would have crossed over into France.

So, I get an A+ in planning a lovely walk and a lesser grade in map-reading. Or, lack of map-reading. But it didn’t really matter since we never got lost. Plus, we got to add Canton Jura to our list! Four cantons to go…

Wandering In the City Forest

Hiking in German is called wandern. IMG_1083Even if you are climbing up a mountain.

When I joined the American Women’s Club last fall, one of the activities listed was a hiking group, so I immediately signed up. Then I found out that the woman in charge of the hikes had quit, and no one had taken her place. I think I would have been happy to organize such a group if only I had any idea at all of where to go.

Now someone has come to lead us on such excursions, and we went on our first club Wanderung Thursday in perfect weather. One lovely thing about this city of Zürich is that you can take public transportation within city limits and be out in the woods in minutes.

Eight of us with two dogs went to the top of Zürichberg (the hill where we live) and headed straight into the woods, passing the Zoo, the FIFA practice fields, a restaurant (always a restaurant on the trail), an observation tower, a stone elephant statue, kids swimming in the stream, people grilling out and picnicking, and people riding horses.

We stopped at noon for our own picnics (minus the grilling part) and at the end for a coffee at a restaurant before heading our separate ways home on the trams. The woman with the fitbit said that we went 6.5 miles, but with so much socializing along the way, it felt about half that long.

Visiting in Zürich

IMG_5627Over a year ago we discussed plans to have our children visit us in Europe. We asked what the best time would be, and what country/countries they might like to see. We made plans, ordered plane tickets, and then waited. It seems hardly possible, but the time is finally here for oldest daughter and son-in-law to arrive in Switzerland!

First stop, Zürich, mostly to have a place to recover from jetlag, but also to show off the city that has become our second home. I love any excuse to wander the Old Town, the Niederdorf and to walk along the lake. As we were walking, I noticed details on buildings I had never before seen.

Umbrella Factory?

Umbrella Factory?

It’s also fun to see what people notice about life in Europe that we have grown accustomed to, and our kids are amazed at how we cross streets at zebra crossings, just walking out in front of cars and knowing that they will slow down (and stop) for pedestrians.

The beauty of the paper money has been noted. The fact that many doors open automatically is fun. The particular style of fixtures, keys, and toilets have been seen.

One must-do for many Zürich visitors is to take the Panorama Trail on Uetliberg. We haven’t been on that hike since the first week we were in Zürich, so it was time to return. With all the rain we’ve been having, it was very green. The views were a little cloudy, but did not dampen our spirits.

Up the Gornergrat to see the Matterhorn

It was dark when we left the Zürich HB on Saturday at 6:32 and dark when we returned at 19:something, but the rest of the day was as sunny as forecasted. Traveling to Zermatt takes two train transfers, and only the train can make it into the town. Cars must stop at Täsch, as there are (theoretically) no cars in Zermatt. The town lies at the end of this valley  and the train is the end of the line.


Looking north at Täsch and Randa, the two towns just before you come to Zermatt

It was a holiday (All Saints Day) in the Catholic cantons, so I wasn’t sure if things would be running, but apparently the trains run every day. The Gornergrat Bahn, located conveniently across the street from the train station runs every hour or so, and we had a little time to spare to go to the Coop (open!) and buy some provisions, since I forgot our lunch back home. The ride to the top takes about a half hour, covering almost 5,000 feet of altitude. Those Swiss. We love that they have made it so easy to gain altitude nearly everywhere you want to go. IMG_6189 Somehow, without knowing it, we made it to the top during the best light. Before noon. At the top of the Gornergrat is an observatory along with various places to spend your money. Also some tremendous views. IMG_6088 IMG_6093 Although the Matterhorn is the main attraction, I was even more impressed and amazed at the multitude of glaciers. Opposite of the Matterhorn is actually the highest peak in Switzerland, Monte Rosa which tops out at 15,203 feet. The blue, blue skies and the snow made for some spectacular views. We took our time at the lookout point taking photos and just marveling at the beauty.


Monte Rosa. The highest peak is the right-hand one. The Gorner Glacier is on the left side.

I decided to put up a separate photo album of the mountains because I don’t think that WordPress lets me put up larger photos in my blog. You can see it here. Unsure of what the Tagesteller in our SBB deal would be, we went to see what it would be and were pleasantly surprised. Pork schnitzel (not in the Austrian sense) with noodles and broccoli. I would call it stroganoff, and when you eat it at a cute little table with a clear view of the Matterhorn (photo not taken since there were people sitting in the window), well, it just doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. IMG_6126 After lunch and some more viewing, we hiked downhill from one bahn stop to another to get different views of the mountains and glaciers. (Side note: One year a Tuolumne Ranger in Yosemite taught us a song to the tune of Where is Thumbkin. It goes like this. Here in Tuolumne, you can hike, all the trails are downhill, ha ha ha. – My Swiss song might be: Here in Switzerland, you can hike, all the trails are downhill, if you like.”) Many people were out along the side of the mountain, enjoying the day along with us. IMG_6145 IMG_6162 IMG_6170 IMG_6188 We thought about taking the next trail down, called the Mark Twain Trail, but I knew that that extra trip would tax me too much because of the early morning start we’d had, so we grabbed the bahn the rest of the way back to Zermatt. Tomorrow…wandering Zermatt.

Weesen to Quinten: Saturday Hike

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.04.23 AM

Another beautiful Saturday, another chance to get out into the country like good glampers. With the thousands of hiking trails in Switzerland, you would think it would be easy to just pick one and go, but all the choices make the choosing quite difficult. The area immediately surrounding Zürich is hilly, but just south of the lake the mountains start popping up. We finally chose the easy, almost 7-mile hike from Weesen to the tiny wine town of Quinten along Walensee (Lake Walen). It takes just under an hour to get from Zürich to Weesen, and, once again, we boarded a full train with people lugging rucksacks and hiking poles.

You can read someone else’s version of the hike here, although they started a little farther in than we did. This may not be an OMG I’m in the Alps kind of trail, but we enjoyed the variety of sights and the views of the lake and mountains, even though it was hazy. We gained over 800 feet in elevation, but we took the easier direction. The downhill at the end was incredibly steep and rocky and would have been much harder to ascend.

Here are just a few of my 100 photos.


Looking back towards Weesen


The easy, flat part of the trail


A Roman watch tower from 100 BC


Little church


Supposedly the highest waterfall in Switzerland. If you count the two sections as one. It was pretty dry.


Always carry change when you hike. You never know when you want to buy fresh apple juice or jam.


More beauty


Chalet with backdrop


The bench where we ate lunch. The sign says, “Rest here on our bench and enjoy the wonderful World.” We complied.


Looking up the steep hill on our way down.


Vineyards in Quinten.

The microclimate in Quinten is Mediterranean-like. We saw fig trees, a banana tree and plenty of vineyards.


Vineyards overlooking the lake


It must be autumn!


Looking back at Quinten from the boat dock. The only way to reach this town is by foot or boat.


Our view back to the land from the ferry.


Our ten-minute boat ride (very chilly and windy) took us to Mülenhorn in the Canton of Glarus where we caught the train.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.09.37 AM

No hike complete without seeing all kinds of animals.



On day five in Zürich, we walked to the top of the Zürichberg (the name of the big hill we live on) and saw the cemetery and wandered through the woods down the other side of the mountain (to see what we could see….). What I was really hoping to find was a farm vending machine that I had read about on the English Forum. We were unsuccessful that day.

This Sunday we tried again. First of all, I noticed that in 6 weeks I am in much better condition than I was when we arrived and could hike the up (and down) much faster. Without stopping at the cemetery (closed on Sundays, it appeared) or the Zoo (which was doing a great business), we sought out the farm with produce for sale. Just when we didn’t think we’d find it (and the post we had read was four years old, so we were not sure if it was still there), our perseverance paid off. You rather have to know that you are looking for it, or you might never venture over to the farm off of the road.


As advertised, we found apples (4-5 kinds), potatoes and eggs. We bought a kilo of apples, a kilo of potatoes and 6 eggs for the great price of $9.45.


It is a two-hour round trip, so I don’t think this will be a weekly habit, but I was so happy to find this place!

The apple trees are under nets.


The farm had some cute goats, and, of course, we saw some more cows.

IMG_5495 IMG_5491