ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S E-BOOK:
The majority of tourists on their first trip to Switzerland visit one or more of its best-known tourist destinations, such as Geneva, Zürich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Bern, and Zermatt. All of these jewels are outstanding-well deserving their fame. However, we would like to introduce to you a selection of our favorite places, some of which you might never have heard of since they are a bit off the beaten path. This itinerary begins at your choice of either Lake Maggiore or Lake Lugano, both gorgeous lakes in the southern part of Switzerland, almost on the Italian border. It is stretching a bit to say these lakes are off the beaten path, but we introduce some very special villages around the lake that are not well known. From the Lake District, our route then cuts across a corner of Italy and continues north to the stunning hamlet of Soglio. Leaving Soglio, the road traces the Inn River to the upper reaches of the Engadine Valley, just before the Austrian border. Here you find mountain villages that seem forgotten in time, so beautiful you will never want to leave. The next suggested stop is in Appenzell, a moderate-sized town in an idyllic area enhanced by beautiful old farmhouses, lush meadows dotted with contented cows, and lovely villages. From Appenzell, the itinerary loops back to Zürich.
RECOMMENDED PACING: We recommend a minimum of nine nights for this itinerary. This does not include the nights you choose to stay at the end of your trip in Zürich.
THREE NIGHTS in the Southern Lake District: Three nights in the Lake District will give you two full days to explore this romantic part of Switzerland. You need sufficient time to take boat excursions on the gorgeous lakes, do a bit of sightseeing, and visit nearby quaint villages. Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano are very close to each other, so select one or the other lake as your hub. If you choose Lake Maggiore, we suggest Ascona as a place to stay. If you choose Lake Lugano, we recommend Lugano, Morcote, or Castagnola.
TWO NIGHTS in Soglio: Two nights in Soglio will give you one full day to relax in this beautiful village, do a bit of sightseeing, and enjoy leisurely walks in this incredibly stunning part of Switzerland.
THREE NIGHTS in the Engadine Valley: Three nights in the glorious Engadine Valley is the bare minimum to enjoy all the wonders this beautiful area has to offer.
ONE NIGHT in Appenzeller Land: you can get by with just one night in Appenzell since the town is so small and much of the sightseeing will be en route.
ITINERARY ENDS in Zürich.
NOTE: You will not have time to include all of the sightseeing we suggest. We have described what we consider to be the most interesting places along the way, please choose those that seem most enticing to you.
Ascona: In days gone by, Ascona was a sleepy fishing village, but today tourists are its main source of activity and it is no wonder-Ascona is a jewel. The town is so exceptionally pretty that it attracts many artists from around the world. The town sits directly onto Lake Maggiore whose waves lap gently at the dock where boats are moored next to the picturesque, pedestrian-only square called Piazza Motta. This square looks onto the lake which is traced by a promenade shaded by trees and enhanced by colorful gardens. Facing the square, and beyond to the lake, is a row of pastel-colored buildings with heavy tiled roofs-a scene much more Italian than Swiss. These charming buildings are now hotels, cafes, and shops. It is fun to sit at one of the terrace cafes and sip a cup of coffee or glass of wine and watch the boats glide in and out of the harbor, picking up and letting off happy passengers. Behind the front row of houses, cobbled lanes spider-web back into the medieval village where there are many shops and boutiques. From Ascona, steamers ply Lake Maggiore, one of Switzerland’s most romantic lakes. There is a good selection of boat excursions you can take. One of the most interesting is to Isole di Brissago, a tiny island where you can tour beautiful tropical gardens. There are frequent ferries that go to Locarno, which has a similar setting to Ascona but is a larger town and not as quaint. Visit the 15th-century Santi Pietro e Paolo church. Be sure to notice its stunning altar painted by Giovanni Serodine. Another church to visit is Santa Maria della Misericordia, which is famous for its 15th-century frescoes. For museum buffs, the Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna, housed in a 16th-century palace, features local artists.
Ascona, protected from the northern cold by massive mountains, enjoys the sun from the south and is well known for its temperate climate. When the weather is cold and dreary in the northern part of Italy, it is a tempting option to head to the Swiss-Italian Lake District where the sun shines most of the year and flowers bloom all winter.
Lake Maggiore is beautiful. However, Lake Lugano is equally lovely. If you prefer to stay in Lake Lugano, follow signs east from Ascona to Locarno. Although the distance is short, there is usually lots of traffic so it might take longer than expected. Passing Locarno, continue toward Bellinzona. Before you arrive in Bellinzona, at the first opportunity, take the A4 south to Lugano. Stay on the A4 expressway until you come to the Lugano Sud exit and follow signs to the center of town. Choose a place to stay in one of the towns listed below. Each has its own personality and will make a good hub. They all are connected by the ferry system, although Lugano (being the more major city) has more frequent service.
Lugano: Lugano is an appealing medieval town hugging the northern shore of Lake Lugano. Its ambiance is more Italian than Swiss-not surprising since you are almost on the Italian border. The old section of town with its maze of narrow streets is a delight-what fun to browse through its boutiques and little shops. The splendid promenade that stretches along the lakefront is a superb place to stroll. Almost all of the sightseeing within the town is best done by foot, since many of the streets are closed to cars.
The Lugano Tourist Office offers free walking tours, which give a richer insight into the places you visit than if you were to walk alone. There are three different tours, each on a different day. The tours are offered from March 21 until October 17. Sometimes schedules change so be sure to check at the tourist office when you arrive in Lugano to double check the times and days of departures. The tours are listed below.
Classic Walking Tour: This free guided tour highlights the cultural aspects of Lugano, wandering through the pedestrian streets of its historic center and visiting its architectural monuments. (Mondays, 9:30 am departure from Chiesa degli Angioli in Piazza Luini, return 11:45 am.)
History Walking Tour: This free guided tour brings to life Lugano’s history and personality through its buildings, churches, statues, and colorful squares. (Wednesdays, 9:30 am departure from the Tourist Office, Palazzo Civico, return 11:45 am.)
Lugano’s Parks and Gardens Walking Tour: This free guided tour visits Lugano’s parks and gardens. Due to the temperate climate, many kinds of plants, trees, and flowers thrive here. The first stop is the Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli. Then the tour proceeds to the Belvedere Garden, and ends up the Ciani Park. (Fridays, 9:30 am departure from the Tourist Office, Palazzo Civico, return 11:45 am.)
Cathedral of Saint Lawrence (Cattedrale San Lorenzo): Be sure to visit Lugano’s grandest church, the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence. Its handsome renaissance façade and Baroque interior are well worth a visit.
Saint Mary of the Angels Church (Santa Maria degli Angioli): The 15th-century Santa Maria degli Angioli, whose façade is much less ornate than that of the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, was originally built as a Franciscan monastery. However, its interior has a treasure: two 16th-century frescos by Bernardo Luini depicting the Crucifixion of Christ and the Last Supper. Their detail and rich colors are stunning.
Boat Excursions: For a special treat, hop aboard one of the ferries that are constantly gliding in and out of the pier that is located in the center of town. There is a posted schedule at the ferry ticket office that shows the destinations of the boats and their departure times. Some of the boats are for tours of the lake and make a round trip from Lugano. It is fun to study the schedule and plan a day of sightseeing on the lake, stopping at one of the colorful towns along the way for lunch. You can easily stretch your boat ride out to an all-day excursion or squeeze it into a couple of hours. A few towns accessible by boat that are especially pretty are described below.
Castagnola: Castagnola is a lakeside hamlet near Lugano that is made up of a strip of houses, restaurants, and hotels that stretch along a trail that runs along the lakefront. There is no road-the only approach is by boat or by foot along a pretty path. The isolation is part of the fun. There are a few hotels and restaurants. There is an especially pleasant walk from Castagnola to Gandria (see below).
Gandria: Gandria is a small medieval fishing village that clings to the hillside above the lake. The tiny town is just a little beyond Castagnola, with a path linking the two villages.
Morcote: If you only have time to include one village on your ferry excursion, choose Morcote-a picture-perfect village that clings to a hill that seems to rise straight up from Lake Lugano. The town is a jumble of painted houses with arcaded walkways. Leading off behind the front row of buildings is a maze of narrow alleyways. Although its setting is remarkably quaint, it is not easy to navigate Morcote by car, so it might be preferable to come by a ferry from Lugano instead of driving. If you aren’t spending the night here, allow sufficient time to have lunch on the terrace of one of the open-air restaurants that hang out over the water. If you feel in tiptop shape, climb up the steep back alleys which will bring you to the Church of Santa Maria del Sasso, which contains some outstanding 16th-century frescos. Also in Morcote there is a beautiful private park where you will find plants artistically displayed in gardens overlooking the lake.
THE LAKE DISTRICT TO SOGLIO
If Lake Maggiore was your base of operations while in the Lake District, when it’s time to travel on, take the road from Ascona to Lugano, and then continue as described.
From Lugano, go east along the north shore of Lake Lugano in the direction of Menággio. In just 6 kilometers you pass the border into Italy. The road becomes very narrow and you need to squeeze your car through some of the tiny medieval villages. Our favorite stop along this part of the lake is Valsolda San Marmete, a tiny, picturesque village with one of our favorite hotels, the Stella d’Italia. If the timing is right, you might want to stop for refreshment on its romantic lakefront terrace. In a short while you arrive in Portezza, the town at the eastern tip of Lake Lugano. The road continues on to Menággio where you turn north on SS340, going through many tunnels along the way as the road follows the shoreline of Lake Como. In about 27 kilometers you come to the small town of Sórico. Just beyond the town, you cross a bridge and come to the junction of SS37 where you head north in the direction of Chiavenna and Saint Moritz. When you reach Chiavenna, the road begins to climb up into the mountains. At the town of Castasegna, you leave Italy and are once again in Switzerland. At this point, the highway number changes to 3. Very soon after crossing the border you come to a road on your left signposted to Soglio. Take this narrow road, which climbs the steep hill to Soglio.
Soglio: If you have accommodations at the Hotel Palazzo Salis, you can drive briefly into Soglio to drop off your luggage; however the one-way streets were never designed for cars and you need to hold your breath for fear of scraping your car on the buildings or encountering another car. It you are dauntless, brave the excursion into the village. Otherwise, leave your car in the parking lot just before the church and walk into town (hopefully your luggage is on wheels).
Soglio is one of the most stunning small towns in Switzerland-truly spectacular. Perched high on a sunny ledge above the splendid Bregaglia Valley, Soglio looks across to spectacular jagged mountain peaks. The village is tiny-no more than a few narrow alley-like streets lined with charming buildings, many of them rustic wooden farmhouses. As you enter the lower part of the village, one of the first buildings you come to is the 14th-century San Lorenzo Church, a real beauty with a tall spire stretching into the sky, creating a striking silhouette of the town that can be seen from afar. Peek inside-the church is lovely. Then open the gate and wander into the adjacent cemetery and look out over the belvedere that encloses the rear garden.
The views from Soglio are breathtaking and constantly changing. As you look across the valley the moods are affected dramatically by the time of the day. Early-morning light leaves a sliver of gold on the snowy escarpment enhanced by shifting clouds caressing the mountain peaks. Soglio is not only a picturesque stopover but, in addition, a superb base for hiking along tranquil paths. Chestnut trees line some of these beautiful trails and cows munch lazily in the meadows. And, even though you are high above the valley, the walking is pleasantly undemanding.
SOGLIO TO THE ENGADINE VALLEY
From Soglio twist back down the narrow road to the highway and continue north in the direction of Saint Moritz. This is a beautiful drive following the Maira River as it cuts a path through the mountains.
Stampa: Very soon after descending from Soglio, you come to the quaint rustic village of Stampa, the birthplace of the three famous artists-all members of the talented Giacometti family-Giovanni, Augusto, and Alberto. Ciäsa Granda, a museum in what used to be their family home, has a collection of some of their paintings and sculptures. The museum is open from 2 pm to 5 pm.
Cassaccia: Approximately 15 kilometers beyond Stampa, you come to the village of Cassaccia, which was in the medieval times an important town due to its strategic location at the foot of the Maloja Pass. Traders on horseback stopped here before going over the mountain. Ruins of a small church stand above the village. The church was dedicated to San Guadenzio, the patron saint of Bregaglia, who (according to legend) came here in the 4th century to convert the region to Christianity and was beheaded for his efforts
Leaving Cassaccia, the road goes over the Maloja Pass and drops down into the Engadine Valley which follows the Inn River (also called the En River, hence the name of the valley) north and loops into Austria. The southern part of the valley is called the Upper Engadine (Ober Engadin) and the more northern part of the valley near the Austrian border is called the Lower Engadine (Unter Engadin). Because this itinerary is highlighting places that are “off the beaten path,” we suggest you continue north to the less well-known part of the valley, the Lower Engadine, and make this your base of operations.
If you have the luxury of time, stop for a few days on your way to the Lower Engadine Valley in one of the many enticing towns (described in the following pages).
Another option for extending your holiday (or as a side excursion on your way to the Lower Engadin) is a trip over the Bernina Pass to the medieval town of Poschiavo (described below).
At the bottom of the Maloja Pass you come to a beautiful lake, the Silser See and immediately afterward, to a second lake, the Silvaplaner See. These two lakes are divided by a thread of land that acts as a natural bridge between them. On this bit of land there are two “sister” towns, Sils-Baselgia and Sils-Maria. Although they have separate names, the streets of one town actually continue on into the other. The towns merge in a pedestrian zone, so if you are driving, each town must be accessed by a separate road. This is a very popular resort and in summer horse drawn carriages are waiting in the heart of the village to take you for a ride.
Sils-Baselgia & Sils-Maria: the Sils area is a paradise for cross-country skiing in the winter and for hiking, boating, biking, fishing, sail surfing, and swimming in the summer. The scenery is stunning and the variety of marvelous walks is staggering. You can take one of the many trails up into the mountains or enjoy gentle walks along the paths that circle the lakes. A favorite outing is a boat ride on the Silser See to the lovely hamlet of Isola where you can enjoy lunch before returning on a footpath along the lake to Sils.
If you are interested in the life of the 19th-century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, his summer home in Sils-Maria is open as a museum, which contains memorabilia of his life. The museum, Nietzsche House, is open daily except Monday from 3 pm to 6 pm.
The two lakes, the Silser See and the Silvaplaner See, form a figure 8 in a sunny meadow that is wrapped by mountains. What a beautiful sight!
Saint Moritz: Approximately 15 kilometers after leaving Sils-Baselgia and Sils-Maria, you arrive in Saint Moritz. Known to the jet-set elite throughout the world as the place to be seen in the ski season, Saint Moritz is also popular as a summer resort. The town backs right up to the mountain so it is just a short walk to the funicular to go skiing. From its terraced position on the side of the hill, Saint Moritz looks down to a pretty tree-rimmed lake. In winter, horse races cross the frozen expanse and, in summer, a path skirts its edge. In town, the streets are lined with chic designer boutiques selling exquisite merchandise. Saint Moritz has not grown with the same purity of architecture as some other ski areas such as Gstaad and Zermatt, but it is much less “concrete high-rise” than its sister ski area, Davos.
Celerina: Located about 5 kilometers north of Saint Moritz, Celerina is famous for its jazz festival. This is a particularly picturesque Engadin village with many wonderful old houses that nestle in a meadow. The Inn River flows through the center of town, further enhancing its charm. Though so very close to Saint Moritz, Celerina has the charming ambiance of a small country village rather than a sophisticated ski resort.
Optional Side Trip-Postchiavo: Taking the main road 27 north from Saint Moritz, in 7 kilometers you come to a junction. Turn right here on road 29 going south toward Poschiavo and Tirano. In a few minutes you pass through the upscale resort of Pontresina (famous as a skiing and climbing center) where there are many large hotels on the hillside with fine views of the surrounding mountains. Leaving Pontresina, you travel through the Val Bernina and then the road climbs the mountains to the Bernina Pass. At first the scenery is quite barren with views of the massive Morteratsch Glacier. From the summit, the road descends through pristine fir forests, then around some more hairpin turns, and drops down into the Poschiavo Valley. The road continues on into Italy to the town of Tirano, which is just across the border. However, your target is the charming village of Poschiavo, nestled in a pocket surrounded by wooded mountains. This off-the-beaten-path jewel looks and feel much more Italian than Swiss.
Poschiavo is quite small, only 3,300 people live here. However, it has always been a town of great importance since it is on one of the main trade routes between Italy and Switzerland. The climate here is particularly favorable since the town is protected by high mountains from the harsh weather from the north and exposed to the Mediterranean influence of warmer weather from the south. Surprisingly, palm and cypress trees thrive in the mild climate.
Because the center of town is pedestrian only, you need to leave your car on the outskirts in a parking lot (you can drive into town temporarily to leave your luggage if you are staying overnight here). The heart of Poschiavo is a maze of medieval streets. The main square (the Piazza Communale) is particularly picturesque. Within a few blocks there are two churches (including the especially lovely 16th-century Church of San Vittore), handsome palaces in the Italianate style, the Casa Torre (a Romanesque tower), and many handsome, pastel-colored houses.
Just 10 kilometers south of Poschiavo you come to Lake Poschiavo, a popular resort area. The town at the north end of the lake is called Le Prese, which used to be a spa town until its sulphur springs dried up. Now Le Prese is popular as a center for hiking, fishing, and water sports.
Continue south along Lake Poschiavo and when you come to its southern tip, take a turnoff on the left to Miralago, a cute hamlet snuggled on a slope that rises from the water’s edge. It has a splendid view out over the lake to the towering mountains beyond. Although the town is so tiny, it has a 17th-century Baroque church, consecrated to Saint Gottardo.
After your visit to Poschiavo, retrace your way over the Bernina Pass, through Pontresina and on to Samedan where you rejoin the itinerary continuing north on highway 27 along the Engadin Valley.
You will pass through Zuoz, a small medieval village, and then on to Zernez where you turn east on 28. The road travels through the heavily forested Swiss National Park, over the Ofenpass, and then down into the unspoiled rural beauty of the Müstair Valley.
Müstair Valley: Stretched along the sweep of the Müstair Valley are several unspoiled hamlets. As you descend over the Ofenpass, you come to Santa Maria (a tiny town with Grisons-style buildings and a very attractive church) and then Müstair (the last town before the Italian border). Müstair is a pretty little village of thick-walled houses dating back to the 13th century whose character seems more Italian than Swiss-it’s as if the border line has slipped back in favor of Italy. Very few people speak English here. The ambiance is one of an authentic old European town, untouched by commercialism. The dialect is decidedly Italian and the locals’ salutation is arrevoir.
When it is time to leave Müstair, drive east for one kilometer to where the Müstair Valley flows into Italy. After crossing the Italian border the route heads through the Monastero Valley for 6 kilometers to where you take a turnoff that joins a road heading north to Résia and Nauders. Just beyond Résia Pass, you cross into Austria. Four kilometers after entering Austria (just before the town of Nauders) turn west on 185 which drops you once again into Switzerland and the Engadin Valley. This route might seem a bit confusing, but when you study your Swiss map, the puzzle will fall into place.
LOWER ENGADINE VALLEY (UNTER ENGADIN)
The northern part of the Engadine Valley is one of our favorite places in Switzerland. The scenery here is positively dazzling. This narrow glacial valley, which follows the Inn River, is enclosed by stunning mountain peaks. This valley is not a destination filled with museums and formal sightseeing, but rather offers the sheer joy of nature at its finest. As you wander through the valley you discover spa towns tucked along the riverbank, villages perched on high mountain shelves, and incredibly beautiful hamlets nestled in lush mountain meadows. Another bonus is hiking in the Swiss National Park, a nature preserve in the mountains that frames the valley to the south.
Choose one of the towns below, and make it your hub from which to go out each day exploring. All of the described towns have wonderful places to stay.
Guarda: You definitely must visit the adorable town of Guarda-probably the most picturesque village in the valley and one that is well worth a detour to visit. This tiny town has a breathtaking site-perched high on a mountain ledge overlooking the Engadine Valley and beyond to incredibly beautiful mountains peaks. Its setting is similar to that of Soglio which you visited earlier on the itinerary. The town consists of just a few steep narrow cobbled streets enhanced by fountains and faced by some beautiful 17th-century houses that display fine examples of the style of architecture found in this part of the Engadine Valley. These houses are painted in various pastel colors and enhanced by an art form called sgraffiti (from which our word “graffiti” probably originates). This style of artwork involves a technique in which the top layer of plaster on a building is scraped away, revealing intricate patterns that have been worked into the plaster below. Some of the artwork is geometric designs, but frequently they are wonderfully whimsical pictures. Just a short distance east from Guarda (perched on the same mountain shelf), you come Ardez, another Engadine town rich in sgraffiti. It is worth the short detour to see its artwork-don’t miss the house with the intricate design depicting Adam and Eve under the apple tree.
Tarasp: Along with Guarda, Tarasp is one of the highlights of the Lower Engadine Valley. It must not be missed. Of all the sites in this guide, none is more beautiful. From Vulpera, a small road leads up into a wide, lush meadow enclosed by mountain peaks. A tranquil little lake nestles next to the lower part of the town. The oldest part of Tarasp sits on a gentle knoll where a few, centuries-old, charming farmhouses cluster around a fountain. As if all this were not enough, a stunning, 12th-century castle is perched on a spur of rock, overlooking the town. Well-marked trails spider web in all directions from Tarasp, leading up into the mountains. The urge to pick up your walking stick and stride off across the meadows with the other happy hikers is almost irresistible.
Scuol: Scuol (sometimes spelled Schuls) is an old spa town that rises from the banks of the rushing Inn River. A covered bridge at the foot of the village crosses the river. Due to its thermal waters, Scuol grew in popularity in the late 19th century as a spa. Some of the buildings in town are modern, but, happily, at its core Scuol remains a charming medieval village with colorfully painted houses, cobbled squares, many flowers, statues, fountains, and a picturesque white church topped by a tall steeple.
S-Charl: From Scuol a small, single-lane, somewhat intimidating, road (part of which is unpaved) twists up into the mountains, dead-ending in S-Charl, a hamlet that lies in a splendid meadow adjacent to the Swiss National Park, a totally protected, natural paradise. There are but a cluster of buildings here, including a few restaurants and a hotel. Most people come to enjoy the pristine majesty of the mountains and to hike in the beautiful park.
Vulpera: Vulpera is located to the south side of the Inn River and climbs up a gentle hill toward the mountains. Like Scuol, Vulpera grew in popularity in the 19th century as a spa and as a result, grand Victorian-style hotels were built here. This old-fashioned glamour still lingers a bit although nowadays many of the hotels and buildings are modern.
ENGADINE VALLEY TO APPENZELL
Leaving the Engadine Valley, drive west on 27 to Susch where you take the 28 toward Davos. The road runs through the Susasca Valley for a short distance and then climbs over the Flüla Pass whose summit displays a barren, stark beauty. After a number of hairpin turns the road drops down and flattens out as you approach Davos. Unless you are a skier there is no reason to stop since the town isn’t very special. At Davos, turn north and in about 10 kilometers you come to Klosters.
Klosters: Klosters backs up to the same mountains as Davos and the two ski areas interconnect like a giant spider web. Like Davos, much of Klosters is newly constructed but (in contrast to Davos) it has grown with a gracious style encompassing the Swiss chalet motif. There are many lovely boutiques and restaurants. The town is very well situated for hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. The train station is the terminus for a cable lift that rises high above the village to the marvelous ski runs. Also popular in winter are tobogganing, cross-country skiing, curling, and ice skating. However, my favorite time for Klosters is the summer when the fields are vibrant with wildflowers, with the majestic mountains standing guard.
From Klosters it is an exceptionally lovely drive following the Landquart River to Landquart, at which point, you join the A13 going north.
Maienfeld: If as a child you were enchanted by Johanna Spyri’s book, Heidi, stop in Maienfeld to visit the re-creation of what was supposedly Heidi’s village, located in the scenic mountain area that inspired the story. If you choose to squeeze in this side excursion, exit the A13 at Maienfeld/Bad Ragas and follow signs to Maienfeld. The closest place to park is the Heidihof Hotel, which (with its contemporary architecture) doesn’t blend in at all with what you would expect as part of Heidi’s world. From the hotel, a five-minute walk brings you up to the house that has been designated as “Heidi’s.” It is open as a museum from April to November from 10 am to 5 pm. Oberrofels is the tiny hamlet above Maienfeld that has been renamed “Heididorf” (Heidi’s town). The area is very beautiful and you can follow a scenic path from Heididorf up into the high mountain pastures leading to places featured in the book. All is a bit contrived, but fun.
If visiting Heidi’s village isn’t high on your priority list, don’t exit at Bad Ragas, but instead stay on the A13 to Buchs where you exit and travel west on 16. You soon come to Gams where the road begins a gentle climb. The scenery is extraordinarily beautiful with majestic mountains framing the view to your left, and to your right, lush farmland. The road continues through woodland and over a mild pass, dropping down into another valley. Just after Nesslau, turn right at the village of Neu Saint Johann and continue in the direction of Rietbad and Saint Gallen. You go by the very old, very quaint village of Ennetbühl and continue on to Urnäsch.
Urnäsch: When you come to the main square of Urnäsch, park your car and walk to the Appenzell Folk Art Museum, a four-story house with shutters and window boxes, located on the left side of the square as you drive into town. The museum is closed until 1:30 pm, but if you are in Urnäsch in the afternoon, this is a dandy little museum. Its purpose is to show the customs, traditions, and life in the Appenzell region in olden days. It is fun to visit the rustic, reconstructed farmhouse interiors where the rooms are furnished as they were long ago and to see the collection of hats and costumes. Children will like the collection of toys and dollhouses. When finished sightseeing, follow signs from Urnäsch to Appenzell, about an 11-kilometer drive.
Appenzell: Appenzell is a picture-book village, popular with tourists who flock to see the fanciful paintings on the façades of the buildings, a colorful variety of artwork-landscapes, folk art, flowers, abstract designs, animals, and people. Appenzell is also well known for exquisite embroidery and delicious cheeses. Politically, it is famous for its demonstration of real democracy: on the last Sunday in April, the citizens, usually wearing their colorful traditional costumes, gather in the village square to elect representatives to their local canton with a show of hands. Another appealing aspect of Appenzell is the tranquil countryside that surrounds it. This area of Switzerland (often called Appenzeller Land) is lush with rolling, gentle green fields dotted with plump cows lazily munching grass to the rhythm of their cow bells. Snuggled in these lovely pastures are large farmhouses adorned with masses of flowers. The family home is attached to the barn so that the animals are easily accessible during winter snows.
APPENZELL TO ZÜRICH
From Appenzell drive to Hundwil (about 10 kilometers from Appenzell) and then turn to Stein (not to be confused with Stein-am-Rhein described in the earlier itinerary, Geneva to Zürich via Medieval Jewels).
Stein: It’s fun to stop in Stein to visit its Folklore Museum (Appenzeller-Volkskunde Museum) which, like the museum mentioned earlier in Urnäsch, shares the life-style and customs of the people in this lovely part of Switzerland. Featured are some of the local crafts such as carpentry, weaving, and belt making. One exceptionally interesting exhibit shows 19th-century handiwork by the local farmers who painted furniture in their homes, as well as decorating their day-to-day utensils such as milk pails and farm instruments. One part of the museum is devoted to paintings by local farmers who depicted scenes from their everyday life on pieces of wood. As you have been traveling through the area around Appenzell you have undoubtedly seen many examples of this wonderfully engaging, almost child-like style of art. Johannes Müller, a clockmaker who was born in and lived in Stein until he died at the age of 91, was the most famous of these painters. You can quickly recognize his work because the picture is always similar-a line of cows, accompanied by their shepherds and children dressed in colorful traditional costume, zigzagging up lush green meadows on their way to the high alp.
From Stein, follow signs to Saint Gallen, a city between Appenzeller Land and Lake Constance, which is located just a short distance to the north.
Saint Gallen: The name of Saint Gallen harks back to the 7th century when an Irish monk named Gallas arrived here and laid the foundation (supposedly with the help of a bear) to what was to become a famous Benedictine Monastery. As the years progressed, a prosperous town (famous for textiles and embroidery) grew up around the abbey.
As you approach the city, its modern outskirts seem quite a contrast to the tranquil, pastoral beauty of Appenzeller Land. But, continue on to its historic center which is well worth a visit-if for no other reason than to visit its stunning cathedral and adjacent Abbey Library. The lavishly embellished library is the star attraction. It houses a staggering collection of 2,000 ancient manuscripts and 100,000 books. To protect the library’s precious inlaid wood floor, felt slippers are loaned to visitors to slip over their shoes.
Leaving Saint Gallen, follow signs to the expressway and take the A1 west. It bypasses Winterthur and continues on to the center of Zürich.