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Picturesque Appenzell, Switzerland

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We recently stopped in Appenzell, Switzerland, on our way back from a visit to Germany’s Black Forest. Appenzell is a picturesque town in the German-speaking area of northeastern Switzerland in Canton Appenzell.

Appenzell is surrounded by Alpine meadows, rolling green hills, and the ever-present Alps. It is a setting straight out of Heidi, with crystalline rivers and crisp, fresh mountain air. Litter-free, clean, and Swiss-proper, Appenzell’s beautifully painted, fresco-decorated buildings in the town house restaurants, shops, boutiques, and a range of businesses.

If you are a macaroni-and-cheese aficionado, the Restaurant Traube sets the gold standard using, of course, Appenzeller cheese. Appenzell is also appreciated in Switzerland for the beer it brews. Five generations of the Locher family continue to craft a variety of Appenzeller Biers, made exceptional by the pure spring water from the region.

I think my favorite thing about Appenzell is the Landsgemeinde, the cantonal assembly held every last Sunday in April in the town square. This oldest form of direct democracy is held in only two cantons in Switzerland. Participation in the assembly is mandatory (a financial penalty applies) for eligible citizens over the age of twenty, and the non-secret voting is determined by majority rule.

The Landsgemeinde in Appenzell can be used to implement laws, decide government issues, and modify the canton’s constitution. A recent issue was whether or not to allow German hikers to trek the canton’s hiking trails in the nude. Voting is done by raising the right hand, though in earlier times the men voted by raising their swords. Women in Appenzell were awarded the right to participate in the yearly assembly beginning in 1991.

P.S. They also have a cow parade in town in the fall to celebrate moving the cows from the high pastures. The bovines are groomed, festooned with flowers and enormous (huge!) cowbells are strapped to their necks on embroidered leather straps.

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