There is no doubt in my mind that of all the places I have ever visited, the small area of Appenzell in the far north east of Switzerland must be be the most magical place on Earth. Not in the sense of fantasy, but in the daily lives, culture and traditions that live on and are preserved and cherished by the Appenzellers.
Whereas in other parts of the world traditions are kept for little more than touristic value, in Appenzell it is still a part of life that they protect because it is how they live. In the small municipality of Urnäsch, just s few miles from Appenzell, the rich culture is especially preserved.
We were fortunate enough to be told that there would be a market day in Urnäsch while my wife and I were visiting Appenzell. Expecting a few fruit stalls and a cow or two, we drove out to Urnäsch with perhaps a light lunch and a walk in mind. Instead, we arrived and were greeted by approximately two hundred cows, complete with ornamental cow bells, being prepared for market. The farmers and their wives and children all in traditional dress and a small group of yodellers singing beautifully with the accompaniment of their bells.
What we didn’t see were tourists. We were amazed to see men and boys in either the traditional blue shirts with delicately embroidered edelweiss or the striking red and yellow costumes with a golden spoon earring hanging from their right ear. As an aside, the spoon was used in times past for measuring salt. Salt being salary as it was then.
The other amazing aspect for us was that we were so warmly welcomed. Not to be guided to a tacky gift shop and tempted to part with our money, but simply because they were proud of their culture and heritage and wanted us to share it with them.
A few images of Appenzell can be found here. I dare you not to be tempted to make the journey to this absolutely magical place one day.