A few years back while surfing the net for unique places to visit I came across this picture that instantly made me sit back and take notice. I was not sure if this is real. I thought its one of those pictures that must be Photoshopped ,enhanced and put up on the internet. Somehow I couldn’t get this picture out of my head. I saved it and it remained my wallpaper for the longest time.
Being an Indian, Switzerland holds a special place in our heart all thanks to Bollywood , especially the movie DDLJ (yes i am a big time fan). And every DDLJ fan has a dream to visit Switzerland once in their lifetime to relive those raj-simran moments. We have heard about most of the places in switzerland either through books, travel magazines, internet or Bollywood movies. So when I came across this picture, googled and found out that its in Switzerland, I refused to believe. This surreal picture triggered the travel bug in me once more. I said to myself, if I ever visited Switzerland it had to be for this place. Of course the list of places to see in this country was long but this one went straight up the list…at the top. If not this then nothing. It got instantly added to my “Bucketlist”
Aescher, wildkirchli is one of those places you would want to visit once in your lifetime. This 170 year old hotel is hanging on a cliff side , it makes you wonder how someone could build this place on a narrow ledge onto a rock cliff. We took a train to Gossau and then changed to the red colored Appenzeler Bahn which drops you off at the last station on this route , the beautiful Wasserauen. This mountain hotel or Berggasthaus (in German) is in the beautiful Appenzell canton in the north of Switzerland. The people here are friendly , helpful and down to earth a big contrast to what we felt in some other parts of Switzerland (more on this in later posts). Appenzell takes you back in time, it’s an old world charm. It’s like time has stood still here. The beauty of this place just blows you away. Green pastures, swiss cows grazing lazily , the landscape dotted with little hamlets and beautiful chalets and even more beautiful people. A perfect backdrop for a Yashraj movie.
Wasserauen is one such place that mesmerises you. To go to Aescher, you need to stop at this beautiful open station from where you take the cable car up to Ebenalp, this is where the real adventure starts. While buying tickets for the cable car at the counter, the folks there were surprised to see Indians. They told us that they hardly have any Indian visitors here. They were really happy to see us. They went out of the way to help us. We took the cable car up feeling all excited. In less than 10 minutes, the cable car made a sweeping ascend amidst spectacular scenery up to Ebenalp. The 360 degree view from Ebenalp was mind blowing. But the real adventure starts here, from Ebenalp you need to hike down to reach the hotel. The 15-20 mins hike took us 40 mins because we are not used to hiking plus it was like walking down the steep valley. We even kept stopping for photo ops. As you hike down you first come across a turnstile , a narrow edge which leads you to a cave.
Wildkirchli gets it’s name from a group of three caves which was discovered in 1940. These caves were, later inhabited by Hermit monks. The Aescher hotel was built to accommodate pilgrims who visited the monks. The monks are now gone but the hotel remains. The cave is dark, cold , damp and slippery at places. The trail is illuminated with a dim light and has railings to hold onto. We struggled a bit but were finally out of the cave. We passed an old hermit hut. And the scenery from here was beautiful. We then continued walking, and came across a 400year old chapel. This little red chapel built by the hermit monks was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. High up in the mountains, at a desolate location with no human trace..you already feel close to god. We left after offering our prayers.
Throughout the trail we were surrounded by mind blowing scenery, the clouds played hide and seek. It drizzled a little , just for a minute, the clouds danced all along. The weather kept changing drastically.
After another 10 mins and a sharp turn around the corner of the cliff I was finally there.
I just stood there for more than 20 mins , taking in the views from a distance. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I was here. This is what they say a dream come true.
Aescher guesthouse is literally built into a cliff. It has dormitories to accommodate guests but no bath or shower. The water comes from the mountains in a trickle in the bathroom sink. There’s no internet or TV but with a view like this who needs them? The place is run by Claudia , Benny Knechtle-Wyss and their five children. They have rabbits, chickens, goats and 2 cute dogs for company. The place is open only from May to October. Rest of the year it remains closed due to bad weather.
Once here, we treated ourselves to lunch with a view to die for. We had the worlds best chäsrösti . I had read that one has to taste this if at Aescher. And Believe me it’s delicious !!! Don’t worry about putting on weight as you have to walk back up to the cable car. The hike back up is exhausting but the experience is one of its kind. We even came across a lot of para gliders ready to take off from Ebenalp.
This place was the best memories I got back from Switzerland. And what a great way to start my trip.. Yes , this was the first place I visited in this beautiful country. We had arrived here straight from zurich airport after keeping our luggage at the lockers as our check in was late. Trust me this was the best decision ever made. It was the most memorable part of our 11 day journey without a doubt. Aescher, Wildkirchli was a dream come true and I never imagined that one day I would be standing right here pinching myself back to reality.. Telling myself “yes it’s real”.