Friday, July 8, 2016

Touring the valley

Early breakfast this morning, because today was tour day. Our morning was spent learning about Appenzeller Alpenbitter, a local liquor that is illegal to export, is deemed to have medicinal qualities, and is made with 42 herbs and the secret recipe is only known by two people.  This tour was in German so I had to have Greg act as my translator, I feel like I only caught ten words that I understood during the initial presentation...  After a light lunch back at our gasthaus, we drove to Stein to learn about Appenzeller cheeses. Luckily we got an English iPad tour here and a cheese tasting at the end of the tour.  Yum!  Next door was the folk museum, where we got to see traditional art, dress and handiwork. All of these tours were either free to the public or part of our Appenzeller card.  What a great deal!

Have you noticed we didn't do any hiking today? Other than enjoying the views from our balcony, we are giving our legs a break today.  We are more than a little sore from hiking some four miles down the mountain yesterday.  Each time we climb or descend our three flights of stairs to the room today, we say ouch!

We had driven the car to our tours today, but the Appenzeller card Michael gave us includes free public transit, our destination for this evening was in easy walking distance of the next train stop, and our home stop is just down the hill (driveway) from our hotel.  We noted the times for the train and set off for the evening.  We were going to the Hotel Hof Weissbad where we could have dinner and hear some live traditional music.  We found out that dinner was a special event on music nights, a buffet.  Greg and I initially cringed, buffets are not our favorite, usually chock full of low quality vats of food to feed the masses but we decided to give it a try and were overwhelmingly surprised.  The salad bar and starters were high quality and fresh, the choices for main dishes, were served to order from the kitchen rather than chafing dishes.  This was no wedding buffet, this was a Swiss smorgasbord! One look at the dessert bar and my inner voice who likes to quote from movies said, “Augustus liebling, save some room for later!”  So a modest salad and small plate of grilled trout and vegetables made it possible to try this array of goodies.  After enjoying watching a young group of locals perform the traditional Appenzeller music, we walked back to the train station with plenty of time to spare.  Not wanting to miss the last scheduled train for Schwende, we arrived over twenty minutes early, the evening was brisk but the we chatted with each other to pass the time.  Only mildly nervous that we were the only two at the station because that had been the case when we departed for Weissbad this evening, we had to note that the the arrival time for our train had come and gone.  Wondering how long we should wait, perhaps it was just running late, we had noted that sometimes happens watching the train from the perch of our balcony over the past few days.  In the distance we saw a bus, I joked that when the demand for trains dwindled perhaps they just popped a bus on the tracks.  Not quite, but the bus did pull up to the train station, it's placard reading the direction we were headed and opened the doors.  The bus was also empty, so Greg appealed to the driver.  In German he explained, “we were waiting for the train to Schwende, but…?”  The driver’s response roughly translated to, “There is no more train, I am the train.”  When Greg offered to fish out our transit cards, he told us to just get in, no worries. He was a jovial guy with kind of a nutty laugh.  It made me feel like we riding the night bus from Harry Potter when the Hogwarts express failed to show.  Grateful that we didn't end up walking those kilometers back home, the bus dropped us just across the street from our train stop and we felt triumphant that we had used public transit at night in the alps and it worked even if not in the way we had planned.

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