The Town Where Tradition Lives – Appenzell, Switzerland
The five of us have visited more than eighty countries in the world, and we are not stopping there. We are striving to teach our girls that every spot on Earth should be equally accessible for everyone. That every life is worth living no matter the person’s race, gender, nationality, religion or socio-economic status. We want to send them a true “Carpe diem” message with the emphasis on traveling, exploring and the fact that borders are just lines on the map.
However, we genuinely care about our roots, and we wouldn’t like them to forget where they came from. That is one of the main reasons why we have so much respect for tradition. Because of that, you should trust us when we say; there is no better place where you can learn about the importance of tradition than Appenzell, Switzerland.
What do you need to know about Appenzell?
At first glance, you might think this Alpine village, with not more than 5000 inhabitants, is too small to be worth a visit, but Appenzell is, in fact, the cultural and economic center of the smallest canton in Switzerland – Appenzell Innerrhoden.
This might be a bit tricky as both the village and the canton bear the same name, and if you start looking for information on Appenzell, you will probably end up confused, so let us explain. Once united, canton of Appenzell was divided for religious reasons, back in 1597. The outcome of this unfortunate division is two separate cantons that still exist today - Appenzell Innerhoden (German-speaking, with predominantly Catholic population) and Appenzell Ausserrhoden (mainly German-speaking, with Protestant population).
The Appenzell we visited is a beautiful, picturesque town, located in the Catholic region. We will single out a few things you need to check out when you come here. Let’s start.
Appenzell’s unique voting tradition
We already mentioned how Appenzell is famous for its respect of tradition, and this is one of many reasons why we chose to visit it. Probably the best example of their loyalty to the customs of their ancestors is Appenzell’s medieval voting procedure.
There is no purer democracy in this world than the one you will meet here. Every year, on the last Sunday in April, around 3,000 eligible voters gather together at the Landsgemeindeplatz, Appenzell’s historic village square, for the “Landsgemeinde.” This tradition is held and respected since the 14th century.
Open-air vote offers citizens a chance to express their stance on important local issues, elect their judges and cantonal representatives. If this isn’t fascinating enough, you should know that all men wear swords on the voting day! Unfortunately, the same centuries-old laws that regulate the voting rules forbade women from participating. This finally changed in 1991, when the federal court ordered the canton to grant women the right to vote.
However, you shouldn’t miss a chance to visit the place where all of the big decisions regarding Appenzell’s history, present and future are made. You can get there if you take a short walk from the train station. First, you will see the church and the town hall and then you will arrive at the famous town square.
What else to see in Appenzell?
What caught our eye as soon as we arrived in Appenzell were brightly colored buildings. Soon, we realized that those are not just some simple drawings but original frescoes. Our path through the village was made of cinnamon cookies and delicious, widely known Appenzeller cheese.
The colorful and car-free center of the village should probably be your first stop. Here, you will find many charming leather and blacksmith shops. If you are interested to find out more about Canton's history, knock on the door of their town hall. This beautiful building houses the Appenzell Museum where you can explore local beliefs, costumes, hand embroidery, folk art and furniture painting.
Another interesting site is the Parish Church of St. Mauritius. It is located in the northeast corner of the town next to the Sitter River and dates back to 1069.
Are you ready to take a hike?
If you are an adventurer who prefers to spend time in nature, this part will be particularly interesting to you. There is an international hype about Aescher Guesthouse, which is a restaurant in the Alpstein. This warm home for tired hikers has been hiding in Ebenalp Mountain for the past 27 years, and it was even named 'mountain guest house of the year' in 2012 by the UNESCO International Council on Monuments and Sites.
You can get here by taking a two-hour hike from Wasserauen or combine a cable car ride and a short 15 minutes hike across the Wildkirchli caves. Once you get to the high plateau, you will get a magnificent view of the Appenzell hill-landscape, Lake Constance, Sankt Gall and Thurgau. It is truly Appenzell’s hillside jewel.
Whenever you choose to visit in this beautiful town, just have their devotion to tradition in mind and respect that. Different cultures, lifestyles, and customs are what makes this world so precious and worth exploring.
If you want to get a short preview of Appenzell and its landscape, check out our YouTube video. Don’t forget to give us a big thumbs up, subscribe to our channel and follow us on Instagram. See you on our next adventure together!