Following in Heidi's footsteps...

Swiss stay

It was as if we had walked into the pages of Heidi. In the distance, one could see the low, rounding hills, dressed with dandelions for the summer. Here I was, in the rustic town of Appenzell.

It was early in the morning, a subtle wind fluttered through the empty streets. Suddenly, the haunting tones of a rustic alphorn sounded from the mountains, signalling the start of a new day. The village burst into activity. Barefooted farmers herded their cattle along cobblestoned streets to the grazing pastures in the distance. The smell of freshly baked bread wafted up the streets. The colourful shops with their painted facades opened their doors to visitors and restaurants laid out their embroidered tablecloths. I stood there and soaked up the quaint atmosphere, excited by the whole prospect of spending a day in this traditional town.

The best way to explore this quaint town and absorb its old-world charm is to just stroll around, walk up and down the main street, check out the local stores and maybe pop into the nearest home-cum-bakery when you get hungry.

So that’s exactly what I did. I visited Bazar Herche, one of the biggest family businesses in town. The old-fashioned building with its typical Swiss windows, with anecdotes of the best of our childhoods, left me awestruck. The building has been used for many purposes since it was built. It was home for the Swiss confederation, a tannery and a wine hall before it came into the possession of the Herche family in 1896. The Herche family, coincidentally, also founded the American Hershey’s chocolate company. Once I had entered, I could feel the history of the building and imagine the generations of children buying their favourite toys here.

The next stop was at the factory for the world famous, Appenzeller cheese. The reason for the fame of the cheese is the respect for the tradition and culture that still runs in the blood of the cheese-makers and dairymen. The process is a mix of the old and new. In fact, the tour is not about sampling cheese, it’s about getting a glimpse of the process firsthand, from the cow till the packaging.

As the sun began to set in the Alpine Hills, I heard the alpine horn call again, perhaps signalling the end of the day. I entered the majestic town hall, which housed the museum of Appenzell’s history and culture. The exhibits strongly reflect Appenzell’s rural and rustic traditions and one seems to feel the invigorating beat of Switzerland’s heart very distinctly in the tranquil countryside, where the Swiss people are still firmly grounded in their roots.

Just one day in this countryside district was enough to show me the irreplaceable need for being versed in the life of the countryside. The people of Appenzell believe that if one can acknowledge one’s heritage, understand the power of tradition, and enjoy the small pleasures of watching the snow melt away and surrender to the sunlight, then their life has been lived well. This age-old adage, which we first heard in childhood fairytales, comes alive in this land of tranquility and my one day here reminded me of it. As all turned into darkness in Appenzell, a bright light had turned on in my mind...yes, visiting Appenzell, was like walking into a dream.

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