Welcome to Appenzell – Heads Up !
With family visiting us from France for a few days, we wanted to pick a destination that was as Swiss as we could find. During our past year in Zürich, talking to locals and travelers and reading about the different regions in Switzerland, all signs pointed to Appenzell. Narrow, picturesque streets, delicious Swiss delicacies, mountains in the background and a traditional way of life.
Just south of St Gallen, near our Brunch on the Farm for the National Day, we found ourselves looking up at pure green, rolling hills, undulating into the distance with grazing cows, farm stands, barns and only tractors on the roads. The tiny town of Appenzell was set against this scenery, just as beautiful with its painted houses, decorative facades and abundance of colorful Swiss flags seemingly filling the streets.
As you walk the streets in the center of town, you’ll be tempted to pop your head into each door. Cafés, pastry shops, butchers and stores selling Swiss objects like cow bells, tin milk jugs and wooden souvenirs. You definitely should do that. But then you should walk these same streets again – and just look UP. Admire the intricate artwork on each house, look at the shapes and details on the windows, the flower beds and the patchwork of colorful paintings on each panel. The signs at each address are an attraction in themselves, with a tool or other symbol showing you what the specialty is.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite with all this photogenic scenery, it’s time to savor Appenzell’s other attractions – its gastronomy! I loved the packaging and labels on the beer bottles and spirits, as you’ll see below. But best of all… the cheese, of course! And stinky cheese at that – after all, its logo is “the spiciest cheese from Switzerland.” You’ll be able to taste the different varieties of Appenzeller, as there are several. The three most popular are Classic, Surchoix and Extra (in order of increasing degree of maturity), with different colored labels to differentiate them. The longer the cheese ages, the stronger it gets. Whichever you choose, be sure to have it vacuum-sealed, or you’ll regret it in the car/train ride home!
We also tasted an Appenzeller with 1/4 the amount of fat, which was surprisingly good. This was actually my French mother-in-law’s favorite of the bunch- a woman who considers using only half a gallon of cream and only half a package of butter in a dish as “light”! That’s to say that this cheese is by all means, not a selection for purely dietetic reasons!! It had a pleasantly dry texture and a salty component to it. Excellent with another specialty of Appenzell, Birnebrot (pear bread). This is a dense and very moist bread, filled with pears, figs, walnuts and fruit brandy. The spices were reminiscent of Christmas, snacking on gingerbread and sipping mulled wine. I loved it, and enjoyed many slices even without cheese. My mother-in-law joined me, but slathered butter on hers! Not a bad recommendation in fact! For those of you in Zürich, you can find excellent Birnebrot at Globus and Vollenweider, and probably at Migros and Coop too.
I highly recommend a visit to the town of Appenzell and the surrounding area. Perfect for hikes, picnics and just a stroll around the town – with your head up, of course. If you go this weekend, you’ll be there for the traditional folk music festival, Ländlerfest, which starts today. If not, I’ll meet you there next year for Ländlerfest 2010 !
All the varieties of cheese, local food products and other souvenirs.
Cafe-Konditorei-Confiserie W. Fässler
Homemade chocolates and cakes.
Another great address for cheese, beer, spirits and chocolate too!
All the Swiss souvenirs you could ask for.
A MUST for its outrageous menu of ice cream sundaes and for the meringues shaped like different animals in the window. Like the Swiss cow below: