Wildkirchli in Appenzell Canton of Switzerland is popular for the Aescher mountain restaurant built onto the rock face. We were allured by the postcard picture of the spectacular restaurant perched on the edge of the cliff doing rounds on the social media. Initially, we kept postponing the idea for it needed trekking and we were traveling with a kid through the supposedly non-stroller friendly path. But then we finally made up our mind for the decision we would cherish forever.
A train from Geneva to Gossau (St. Gallen) and then a train to Wasserauen took us around five hours. Though it seems like a long journey we never felt bored for the route has a plethora of picturesque vistas which kept our gaze fixed on the window. The lush green meadows crowned by pine forests and dotted with chalets and sometimes pretty churches left us in trance. Wasserauen is the terminal station and the scenic colossal hills make a ‘U’ turn forming a cradle of sloping green hills topped by dense forests and snow-capped peaks.
The Ebenalp cable car station is right across the street. There were hundreds of cars parked along the street and we dreaded if it would be too crowded with a long queue. We crossed a beautiful stream running through the green meadow peppered with white and yellow alpine flowers. We could see small chalets adorning the green hills in the backdrop as far as our eyes could see. Nevertheless, we joined the queue and waited for our turn. Surprisingly it did not take us much time and we were soon ready to board the cable car for a breathtaking ride.
The cable car runs every 15 minutes and transports up to 40 persons per ride. The steep seven-minute aerial ride up the hill to the summit of Ebenalp (1640 m) sweeps through dramatically changing landscapes. Beautiful rolling hills dotted with wooden cabins and grazing cows with tinkling bells is skimmed off half the way by high Ebenalp plateau covered by snow.
As soon as we stepped out of the Ebenalp station a gust of fresh and chilly mountain air rejuvenated our spirit. Soon we learned that stroller wouldn’t work and Chhavi had to trek along with us. We made our way through the path winding through the thick and slippery snow on the rocky surface. The bright green undulating hills peppered with alpine houses spread in front of us into the never-ending horizon. Initially skeptical, Chhavi soon was excited to walk along kicking through the snow.
Heading downhill we soon reached gravel filled and dimly lit path into the prehistoric cave. We cautiously walked past the excavation area and through the dripping cave roof to the other end of the cave.
Wildkirchli is also of interest to the archaeologists for the prehistoric findings including the skeletons of cave-bearers and stone tools from primitive times. These caves are believed to be inhabited by the Paleolithic Neanderthal. The hermit’s hut at the end of the cave is supposed to house some of the indigenous objects excavated in the caves but we found none or we missed?. Though there were some boards illustrating some historical facts. The hut is also said to have bones of cave bear which we doubt if it is the same display at the Ebenalp station.
The path leads from the Ebenalp station to the hermit hut at the end of the cave in less than 20 minutes. As we walked out of the dark caves we are greeted with a splendid panorama of the alpine massif with tips dusted with snow. We could even spot a tiny red cable car ascending towards the Ebenalp station.
The path to the right led to the cave chapel. The 17th-century cave chapel is built into a cave along with its bell tower built of wood.
The majestic views all around and the euphoria of making to this amazing locations doubles when your kid makes it along with you. Chhavi trekked all the way with us through the slippery path and dark gravel paths of caves.
Few more minutes walk along the rock face and we got the first glimpse of the Aescher mountain restaurant. The vista was incredible! The wooden hut was clung to the mountain face with a sheer drop on the other side. A massif of snow-capped mountains and the deep blue Seealpsee Lake at its foothill made for a stunning backdrop.
The restaurant was jam-packed. We somehow managed to find some place for us inside the restaurant. The back side of the room was open to the rocky cliff. The 170 years old restaurant is pretty small and can host a small bunch of people. The tables arranged on the terrace at the entrance offers splendid views of the mountains and the valleys. We asked the owner for a recommendation and ordered Rosti and a dessert with a hearty topping of cream.
The Ascher-Wildkirchli sits secluded from rest of the world amidst the awe-inspiring nature. We spent ample time marveling at the restaurant and the bounding mountain landscape. Definitely a wonderful experience to savor.
We returned back to the Ebenalp cable car station to embark on our journey back to Wasserauen. One can also hike down to Wasserauen through paved paths meandering through the valleys though the route is said to pretty steep at several points.
We spent some time taking in the magnificent view at Wasserauen while we waited for our train to arrive. We were back at the Wasserauen station by late afternoon hence we decided to stop by at Appenzell village which was on the same train line.
The quintessential alpine village of Appenzell had long been on the list. We could easily combine Wildkirchli with Appenzell. As we had no idea on how long it would take to Wildkirchli so we headed straight to Wildkirchli and got down at Appenzell on the way back to Geneva.
Wildkirchi visit was a wonderful experience and this trip had crossed out yet another item from our bucket list. Have you visited Wildkirchli did you hike down to Wasserauen we would love to hear your experience.
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