An American in Switzerland – Day Seven

I managed to get out of bed and moving, and ate a super fast cold breakfast in the tavern before dashing off to the train station. I keep misgauging how easy it is to get around here, so I had time to buy a bottle of water at the kiosk before getting to the meeting spot to meet Eva. We both bought our tickets, and lucked out because the next train to our first stop, St. Gallen, was leaving in just seven minutes.

The countryside was again just gorgeous, covered in snow. Tons of beautiful buildings with unusual gables and painted scenes, and still more exposed beam and plaster buildings. We had a lovely chat during our trip. Her English wasn’t as proficient as some of the other non-English speakers I’d run in to, but it seemed to improve throughout the day as we chatted.

In St. Gallen we had to transfer trains from the big inter-city train to a small slow train to get to Appenzell. The train was quaint, with an all wooden interior (cushioned seats, though, thank goodness). There were only 10 benches per car, whereas there are usually 50 benches per car on the big trains (double that if the car is a double-decker). There were only two elderly gentleman in our car, and eventually no one by the time we arrived in Appenzell. The ride was a bit less smooth than the bigger trains, but it was a lot of fun. This train would climb up steep slopes, and the tracks often ran right next to the road.

Oh, and I should mention that Eva is seven months pregnant, but as sturdy and steady as any other person. She’d been here the whole three weeks, traveling to different parts of Switzerland on her own. Very impressive, especially since she didn’t know a lick of German, and hardly any English (when not very many people speak English, and none speak Taiwanese!).

We arrived in Appenzell hoping to get to the Appenzell Showcase, which advertised a cheese-making tour, and local traditions and folk costumes and customs. We were disappointed to learn that the building wasn’t actually IN the town, but about a 20 minute ride outside of Town. We’d have to rent a public car (not quite the same thing as a taxi or a rental car, but somewhere in between), and that the first car that could take us couldn’t get us there until 3PM. The cheese-making demonstration was only available from 9 AM to 2PM. Even though we’d taken the 8:37 AM train out of Winterthur, we didn’t arrive in Appenzell (due to a really long wait on the tracks at one point on the small train) until after 11AM. I was so disappointed and frustrated, because my guide didn’t mention this.

So, we opted instead for the local Museum Appenzell… which didn’t open until 2PM. We decided to do a little wandering and shopping, and then grab a late lunch and go to the museum… only… most of the stores started to close at noon for lunch! I made a few purchases, and then we took a look at the local cathedral, which was utterly gorgeous inside. Most of my pictures didn’t come out well, though, due to poor lighting. After that, we found a local restaurant for lunch that happened to have English descriptions on their menu (most restaurants post their menus every day outside).

We took our time eating, and probably could have shared a dish together. We both got a roasted half a chicken and terrific home made French fries and shared a decent apple strudel with vanilla sauce for dessert. Mmmm… I had a glass of some local wine that was pretty good, and Eva had juice and then a Coke a Cola (which is the only American soda that you can find here, and it isn’t very cheap). Oh, and the appetizer! I picked out a local cheese… which tasted and smelled really really really really weird. Eva could only eat one bite, but I managed to eat a few pieces once I drowned them in the mustard that was provided. I brought the leftover cheese back to the hotel for Heath to try, and he could only stomach a small nibble. It has been dubbed the stinky-feet cheese.

We still had time to kill before the museum opened, so we did a little more shopping and wandering, taking pictures, and sliding in the icy slushy streets. It was then that I realized I had no clue who I would call if Eva slipped on the ice and hurt herself. I remembered a conversation from the night before, where the UK coworker, and the German and a Swiss were talking about emergency numbers. Its 999 in the UK, and something similar in German, and of course I chimed in that it is 911 in the US. The Swiss said he didn’t have any of the emergency numbers memorized, because they don’t have a three-digit emergency system, and each department (i.e. police, fire, ambulance) had a different number!! Luckily, I slipped more than she did.

The Museum Appenzeller was fantastic. It was what I thought Switzerland would be like – country folklore and traditions and unique costumes. And this was just a small portion of Swiss life – each canton (state) has its own unique folk traditions and costumes. In Appenzell, the people stay very close to their traditions, wearing their traditional costumes on religious and regional holidays. They also had a vaguely pagan-esque holiday involving dressing up with masks and covered in tree-branches and gathering to sing on the darkest day of the year. I can’t remember what that festival is called. And there was another festival that involves almost Asian-looking masks and huge headdresses performing a play in a sort of Japanese No style.

The traditional woman’s headdress is a complex and detailed giant black fan-like object that almost looks like it belongs in the Dune movie. The rest of their outfit is fairly similar to something that would have been worn in most countries in the early to mid 1800’s, but more ornate, with imported Chinese silks.

Again with the cows… Appenzell people love their cows and have several festivals surrounding them. The men and the cows wear eNORmous bells that are decorated with brightly colored fur. And even little boys wear traditional costumes and herd tiny goats instead of cows.

The lace and the embroidery from this part of Switzerland is beautiful and elegant. They usually don’t use color – just white on white. But it is very very pretty.

In the museum there was also a blacksmith’s shop, objects from a cheese-making facility, and hand-painted beds and dressers.

Eva and I got through the museum in about an hour, and I attempted to locate some less expensive local wine, but ended up coughing up far more than I wanted to (they had several tourist-trap kind of shops with over priced trinkets). We caught the next train out of Appenzell back to St. Gallen, and a few stops into our trip, our empty car suddenly was packed with very loud school children ranging from probably about 9 to 15 or so.

When we got to St. Gallen, Eva wanted to make a stop into the city to find a particular shop for a particular brand of whisky for her husband. After the child-noise-fest, I was very ready to go home, but I helped her find a local map… where the street name was no where to be found. We talked to a local vendor and apparently we had to take a bus about 10 or 15 minutes to the outer edges of the city to get to the shop. At this point it was nearly 4PM, and we were going to get crammed on a rush hour train if we went out to the shop. Eva decided her husband could do without, and we caught the next train back to Winterthur (after I snagged a cup of hot cocoa to go from the only drink vendor in the station – Starbucks).

We said our goodbyes at the station, and I went back to the hotel room, where again, Heath was home early from class. I was fighting a headache, so he went on with out me to a local pub, and I hid under a pillow until he came back to get me for dinner.

It was just us and the jolly UK coworker for dinner this evening, and we were back at the Italian restaurant. My gnocchi dish was nearly as good as the previous time, and I was good and got a tiny ice cream scoop for dessert.

After dinner, I was introduced to a secret little bar called the Sky Bar on top of the tallest building in Winterthur on the 23rd floor. It really was quite a marvel of architecture and design that they squished in so much floor space into a tiny corner. There was a translucent floor above the main floor that spanned the length of the club and was reached with tiny little stairs. The club was really long and narrow, and lined huge windows that overlooked the city. It was nice, and in a way reminded me of going to Reunion Tower in Dallas. The boys had beer, and I had a rather fruity pink drink whose only ingredient I recognized was Amaretto. It was yummy. I think it was called a Jungfrau, if I remember correctly.

Back at the hotel, Heath and I watched Secretary in German. Stayed up too late watching it, but oh well.

And I typed half this update in my hotel room, and half while on the train from Zurich to Bern (a stop along the way to our next destination).

Pictures of my time in Appenzell with Eva can be found here.

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