Appenzellerland: Discover secluded valleys, hidden lakes and Hoher Kasten
Welcome to a part of Switzerland that you can really experience - you breath it, taste it and let your senses explore this abundant bastion of Swiss culture. If hordes of tourists alighting buses is not your cup of tea, then you will love Hoher Kasten. Tranquillity, natural beauty and tradition reign supreme and unchallenged in this hidden part of Appenzellerland. And, the best beer in Switzerland is brewed in this wonderful Canton.
Gorgeous views of Appenzellerland with Hoher Kasten peak and restaurant on the left © Hoher Kasten/ Armando Branchi
This is Switzerland’s best kept secret
In fact, if I may be a little presumptuous, I’d say that ‘You haven’t been to Switzerland unless you’ve been to Appenzellerland'. The fact that it is so under-commercialised makes it extremely appealing. The local population have strived relentlessly to preserve their colourful heritage and cultural integrity and it’s evident everywhere.
One word of warning - no matter how hard you have worked on your Schweizerdeutsch, there are local farmers here with dialects and accents that will leave you uttering, ‘okay – I didn’t understand a single word!’ - and that quote came from a Swiss friend of mine. Let’s agree, it just reflects part of the authentic gem of an adventure that you are about to embark upon.
Brülisau and up to Hoher Kasten
Quietly hiding in a small valley is a picturesque village called Brülisau. From here you begin a journey that is truly unforgettable. This is the starting point for Hoher Kasten, a destination known mostly to Swiss people. Hoher Kasten means ‘high cupboard’ and it sits overlooking the Alpstein massif.
In just eight minutes a cableway will gently glide you to the mountaintop where an incredible panoramic view of six countries (Switzerland, Germany, France, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy) will dazzle and impress even the most experienced travellers. Here day-trippers stand silently in awe of the immense view instead of rushing to take selfies. It really is that special.
To give you some idea of the exceptional scenery, here’s some amazing helicopter footage.
Amazing panoramic views of six countries © Hoher Kasten
The Hoher Kasten Revolving Restaurant
On Hoher Kasten, after you have taken in one of the best views in the country a hike back down is a superb option. But before you do that, you may wish to indulge in some local cuisine in the only revolving restaurant in eastern Switzerland. Here you can sit admiring the view and enjoy a breakfast buffet or the restaurant’s à la carte service which offers both seasonal and regional dishes.
Breakfast buffet at the Hoher Kasten revolving restaurant © Hoher Kasten
The aptly named ‘Full-moon dinner’ takes place monthly from April to February and may even include a group of Trachten-clad musicians playing melodies on a dulcimer. This famous revolving restaurant offers an array of excellent local dishes and specialities including a braised roast beef speciality which they marinate in Appenzell beer for three days.
Below the revolving restaurant is the ‘Panorama Restaurant and Café, which offers a more simplified buffet-style menu. If you do potter in that direction for a coffee, don’t miss their Apfelecken, which is delightful, but more so the Mandelstange which is exceptional, and all reasonably priced at just CHF3. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I had both. But it’s okay to double-up on cakes if you intend walking down – isn’t it
Hike or trottibike
From the short and impressive barrier - free Europa Circular Trail to the challenging Geological Trail, there are lots and lots of paths to amble along. Some are a little more challenging than others, but in general they are all well marked and sign-posted. Hiking boots are always a good idea, but some sturdy trainers will get you down the mountain with ease. It is almost impossible to get lost and the descent can take as little as an hour and a half, if you are of average fitness and cheat just a little bit (I got a trottibike).
Why walk down when you can trottibike? © Hoher Kasten
The view of the small lake called Sämtisersee is the icing on the cake and add that to the fabulous display of colourful wildflowers and you have to be impressed. There’s Butterworts, Alpen Masslieb – the ‘Daisies of the Alps’ and if you keep a good look out you might even see some light-lavender shaded Spotted Orchids which are extremely pretty.
Depending on your route down, you might, after an hour or so, reach the Berggasthaus Ruhesitz. Here you can pop inside to the bar, fill out a slip with your name, address and phone number and then grab your scooter or trottibike. From here you can zoom down the wonderfully windy road to Brülisau. You are never too old to do this! It is so much fun. The current cost at the time of writing was just CHF15 which is a bargain.
Back in Brülisau, you may stumble upon some people preparing to walk up the mountain. These people are Swiss-raised, local Appenzalians and they have leg muscles that I will never have. They were born in this hiker’s paradise and when I met them they were about to embark on (and I quote) the “easy three lakes hike”, which just takes 7 to 8 hours! (I think it would take me a week!) I know… overcome your envy and head to Appenzell for some cheese tasting.
Stay longer and discover so much more…
The town of Appenzell has numerous accommodation options with a wide range of prices. If you stay for three consecutive nights or longer with the same accommodation provider in Appenzell or the surrounding area, ask your host for an Appenzell Holiday Card. There’s over 20 benefits including 2 free trips on the cableway to Hoher Kasten. Considering all the complimentary museum tickets, additional cable car rides, the 15-zone travel ticket, free pool admission and additional gifts that come with this card, it has to be the best add-on deal available in Switzerland.
One last little tip for the history buffs: whilst in Appenzell, pop into the local Catholic church. The first Parish Church of St. Mauritius was initially constructed in 1069. What you can see today is the more modern Gothic structure from the early 1500’s. The Canton’s patron saint was a Roman Commander who lived during the 3rd Century. He died in AD 287 in Agaunum in Switzerland. Today, you may know it as St. Moritz.
Wherever you go within this beautiful region, you will be surrounded by intriguing history, stunning scenery, idyllic buildings and the best local culture and food that the country has to offer. Whether you are travelling alone, a couple on a romantic break or looking for a family adventure, Appenzellerland will surpass your expectations.Take me there now
About the author:
This article was written by Bruce Anderson, a talented writer and stand up comedian. He personally visited all the places mentioned in the article - and promised to come back for more.
For more inspiration on exciting places to discover in Switzerland, have a look here.