Monday, 20 May 2013


To make the most of our final months in Switzerland, we try to cram in as much alpine scenery as we possibly can. Today we visit Appenzell. A sleepy town where clocks - even the cuckoo ones - seem to tick at a much slower pace than anywhere else.

With a clear blue sky and wall to wall sunshine, Appenzell is at its best. The painted houses, the displays of traditional dresses, the lace curtains in every window, the old fashioned hotels dominating the town square and even the extensive display of garden gnomes holding bunches of edelweis look tasteful on this radiant spring day. And I completely fall in love with an old house, boasting a handpainted scene on it's facade of four trees: one for every season.
After coffee with the unavoidable gipfli (croissants), we drive towards Wasserauen to take a gondola up to Ebenalp, 1650 meters above Appenzell. Walking towards the even higher peaks from where the gondola stops, still means negotiating loads of snow, as winter never fully disappears in the alps untill well into June. So, instead we opt to walk down, back to where we started.
My daughter, who always packs her rugsack for every eventuality when we go hiking  is in seventh heaven when we encounter real caves, only a mile or so into our walk. Triumphantly she gets out her torch and takes the lead, all the while gripping her fathers hand. She does not like the dark.
We amble through the dark, dripping, rocky rooms talking about prehistoric bears of whom bones are discovered in this very cave, at the start of the twentieth century. A little wooden hut situated near the exit of the caves displays a complete skeleton of such a bear. Examining it closely makes me very happy indeed that prehistoric bears have long since become extinct.
After taking in the views from a long narrow ledge, we start our descent. Allthough I am happy at first not to have to walk up where we go down, after half an hour or so I am not so sure anymore. walking down on uneven steps and loose gravel proofs to be not only treacherous, but rather relentless on the lower body as well. Luckily the children take my mind off my almost 45-year old knees by talking incessantly about Lamborghini's (my son) and edible herbs (my daughter).
Our perseverence gets rewarded though when after an hour and a half we reach the most beautiful alpine lake that I have ever seen. The greenish blue colour of the water surrounded by intensely green meadows bursting with flowers is almost unreal. When we decide to eat our sandwiches on a little rocky outcrop overlooking the lake it feels like we are having a picknick in a film decor.
Even a few mountain goats enter the stage. We hang around for a while to see if Heidi and Peter feel like coming down the snowcapped mountains to welcome us, but they must have taken a day off. Ah well, y
ou can not have it all.