Switzerland continued to blow us away with its natural beauty and cultural diversity on our road trip last weekend that kicked off with a four-hour, post-work drive out to St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland. I fell asleep a couple hours in and Gui was a champion, escorting his sleepy wife to the hotel room upon arrival before going to park the car.
The next morning, we explored the Swiss-German city and toured the beautiful Abbey library — one of the oldest libraries in the world. To protect the floor, you have to wear these funny gray slippers over your shoes in the library, which was not fun for a certain foot-phobic individual wearing sandals (me). But the bigger disappointment was that no photos are allowed inside, with staff stationed around the room to apparently police that rule. Alas, the Swiss don’t play around, so I didn’t attempt anything.
Our next stop was the adorable town of Appenzell, about 20 minutes away, where we had a fabulous outdoor lunch at Gass 17 (veggie risotto for me, chicken sandwich with fries for Gui). The buildings in Appenzell are meticulously decorated with patterns and Swiss symbols and we walked off our lunch by wandering the narrow streets and taking it all in. We also stopped by the historic village square where once a year they still hold an open-air assembly in which eligible voters cast their votes by raising their hands (see photo below with the statue). Finally, we visited Appenzell’s local brewery, which had brewed the beer we had with our lunch, and Gui bought a few bottles to bring back to Geneva.
Next, we drove to the tiny country of Lichtenstein, where we wandered around the capital Vaduz (honestly, not so cute or happening) and then drove up the mountain to see the exterior of the prince’s castle (no visits allowed). The most exciting thing was probably when we paid a few francs to get our passports stamped with Liechtenstein’s insignia (super touristy, I know, but we got a kick out of it).
Afterward, we crossed back over into Switzerland and headed to Mainefeld, best known for being the setting of Heidi. Gui maneuvered the car up the mountain to Heididorf, which was packed with families of tourists taking their little ones to the Heidi petting zoo. We sidestepped the madness in favor of what turned out to be a very challenging hike up to “Heidi’s cabin,” passing only a few other small groups of hikers making their descent due to the evening hour. Gui and I made it to the top in record time — just over an hour, when the guide had told us it would take over an hour and a half — and posed for photos outside of the “cabin” (a restaurant) and in the meadow before heading back down.
That’s when the trouble hit: I had asked Gui at one of the trail forks if we needed to turn, but he insisted that we did not. Well, we did. Twenty minutes later, with thunder reverberating overhead, he realized his mistake and we had to literally hop a fence and run through a few empty cow fields to make it back to the car before the rain started. I feel like I should offer some sort of commentary about how women are clearly superior, but I am usually the one totally lost so I shall refrain 🙂
We drove through a couple of rain showers to reach our final stop of the day — Lugano, in the Italian part of Switzerland — where we went straight to bed, totally exhausted. The next morning, we wandered through town and then took the funicular up to Monte Bre for a view of the city. To be honest, I was not that impressed — it reminded me of the Salève in Geneva but the view was not as good because the prime overlook was monopolized by a restaurant. We opted to head back down to an Italian restaurant for lunch, which was lovely, and then walked along the boardwalk back to the old town. I had heard so many rave reviews of Lugano — and indeed, it is beautiful — but if you’re on a limited budget I would just go a little farther and cross the border into Italy. Italy at Swiss prices is just not as magical as Italy at Italian prices, in my opinion.
We made a pit stop in the Swiss-Italian town of Bellinzona to see its famed castles and snacked on gelato before making the long, nearly five-hour drive back home. Switzerland, you have some crazy price tags, but you will never cease to amaze us. Enjoy the photos!