Appenzell is a small region in eastern Switzerland, not far from the border with Austria and Liechtenstein. We visited there for only a day, but it was memorable enough to inspire me to write about it here.
Appenzell sits just on the northern edge of the Alps, where the land transitions from high, snow-bound peaks to rolling hills dotted with farmland. My observations may be tainted by having visited at the height of the Spring wildflower season, but this must be some of the most scenic and idyllic farmland you’ll find anywhere… and it’s tied together with the kind of ridiculously cute villages that North American ski resort developers salivate over (and then fail utterly at re-creating).
Anyway, Appenzell is beautiful…I’ll let the photo album make the rest of that point for me.
Being somewhat remote and, frankly, a pretty decent place to live, Appenzellers are a fairly traditional people. (Why change? Things seem pretty nice they way they are…) They’ve practiced Landsgemeinde, an interesting type of direct democracy, since long before Columbus came to America. Far more beneficial to the average traveler, they’ve also maintained a strong tradition of cheese making…which we got to see a demonstration of.
In the Käserei (cheese making building) above, they still make cheese, from local milk, in the same basic way it’s been made for centuries. It’s heated, curdled, stirred, strained, and then aged in a environment-controlled room, like below, for exactly 30 days.
The highlight, of course, was sampling a freshly-cut wheel straight out of the cellar. Appenzeller cheese is a bit softer and saltier than what we typically call “Swiss” cheese (which is actually Emmentaler cheese). It was delicious, though, and demonstrated an interesting point: of the hundreds of types of traditional cheese made in Switzerland, we in the States are pretty much only familiar with one of them. Our loss.
Be sure to check out the photos. And go to Appenzell if you get the chance.