Around Appenzell
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Walking in the pretty countryside around Appenzell can be rewarding, with inns and guesthouses galore dotting the landscape – so many that you could walk for days in any direction from inn to inn without encountering a town, and without having to carry food. Trails are well signposted, as usual, and the signposts even carry a little goblet to show which places have an inn. The tourist office in Appenzell has plenty of maps and trail guides, as well as mountain-bike routes and the brochure Barfuss durchs Appenzellerland, outlining a trail which you can follow barefoot through grassy meadows from Appenzell village up to Gonten, a couple of hours west. Gonten is also the scene of the cantonal Schwingen (traditional wrestling) championships, held in late June.

Most hiking trails are crammed into and around the narrow valleys sandwiched between the three great rock walls of the Alpstein range. The small village of Wasserauen, a short train ride or a couple of hours’ walk south of Appenzell, is the base station for a cable-car running up to Ebenalp (1640m), from where a high-level route takes you five hours along the ridge crest to the Säntis (see below). Another route from Wasserauen runs up for an hour into the narrow valley of the beautiful Seealpsee. This isolated tarn is the site of a celebrated annual folkloric festival which culminates in a yodelling of Mass on Assumption Day morning (August 15). The attractive Berggasthaus Forelle on the lakeshore (071/799 11 88, fax 799 15 96; a; April–Oct) has comfortable, traditional-style rooms as well as dorms for Fr.25, while on a different side of the lake is the simpler Berggasthaus Seealpsee (071/799 11 40, fax 799 18 20; a; April–Oct). Both have terrace tables at which to enjoy succulently prepared lake fish. Beyond Seealpsee, a two-hour trail hairpins its way steeply up to Meglisalp, with its own rustic Berggasthaus (Phone & fax 071/799 11 28; a; dorms Fr.26; May–Oct), and a festival of folkloric dancing on a weekend in late July.

Appenzell’s most famous peak is the Säntis, at 2502m well below the mighty proportions of the Alps but nonetheless the highest point for miles around. Trains run from Appenzell to the small town of Urnäsch, departure point for hourly buses which follow a winding road up to Schwägalp, from where a cable-car rises to the Säntis summit, marked by a giant striped TV tower. This is a popular day trip, especially in summer, and if you’re staying for lunch, you’d do best to aim for the older, more atmospheric Berggasthaus on top, rather than the newer canteen-style diner – both, though, have terraces offering spectacular panoramas over the Bodensee and into Austria one way, and over the Toggenburg valley and towards Zürich the other. From the Säntis summit, it’s an easy three-and-a-half hour hike along to Ebenalp, from where you can pick up transport connections back to Appenzell.

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