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A Tour of Switzerland - Appenzeller® and the Canton of Appenzell

The Canton of Appenzell, traditions alive and well

In the south of Lake Constance, in the heart of a picturesque green landscape of valleys and mountains, exceptionally unspoiled, the small town of Appenzell and the canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes embody traditional and authentic Switzerland. Hiking and climbing in the Alpstein massif as well as a culture steeped in peasant customs and religious traditions are the highlights of the region.

Strong identities

The Canton of Appenzell joined Confederation in 1513, after more than a century of a bitter struggle against the political hold of the Habsburgs and the feudal system, led by the mountain people of Appenzell for their freedom. But the historic Appenzell region has, since 1597, been divided into two sub-cantons for religious reasons. The half-canton of Appenzell-Outer Rhodes (AR) and that of Appenzell-Inner Rhodes (AI). This score reflects both faces of Switzerland. Appenzell Outer Rhodes is the more populous of the two. Mostly Protestant, even today he has become more industrialized than his counterpart. The economic fabric is dynamic and fits well within a landscape that remains unspoiled: housing remains low density.

Appenzell-Inner Rhodes is the most sparsely populated Swiss canton, with only 15,400 inhabitants living in idyllic landscapes that attract many tourists. The canton remains predominantly Catholic and attached to its traditions: the churches display numerous effigies of Saints, paintings representing Christ, triptychs and confessionals.

Proud of Traditions

While time has not stood still in Appenzell-Inner Rhodes, an economically very active canton, its inhabitants remain faithful to peasant traditions and have managed to preserve an extremely rich popular culture. The Chlausezüüg, for example, where incredible pyramids of bread and cakes with honey and almonds are made at the end of the year celebrations. Or the Funkesonntig, where young people make big fires on the first Sunday after Shrove Tuesday.

In the Protestant canton, we are not left out. In the hinterland, the New Year is celebrated for example on January 13 in a feast with pagan overtones, due to the refusal, in the 16th century, of Protestant peasants to recognize the new calendar imposed by Pope Gregory XIII. This is the Silvesterkläuse. Children dressed in fairy costumes composed of branches, cones and pine needles, and women with oversized headdresses, surrounded by heavy bells, parading majestically in the streets of the villages.

Mount Säntis symbolizes the unity of the Appenzeller people

If there is one thing that marks the unity of Appenzellois beyond religious differences, it is Säntis. Located 6 miles south of Appenzell, the Catholic capital, it straddles the two cantons as well as that of St. Gallen. The inhabitants of all the cantons meet there for beautiful hikes or climbing. At the top they can, due to the isolation of the Appenzell pre-Alps as well as the Säntis exposure, admire the Black Forest and the peaks of Germany, Austria, Italy and even France!

The strongest cheese in Switzerland

Powerful, aromatic and delicate, Appenzeller® is the cheese of all contrasts and superlatives! Switzerland’s strongest cheese has been made for over 700 years in the rolling countryside of Appenzell. Twice a day, the farmers bring the freshly milked and still lukewarm milk to one of the 50 or so village cheese dairies, where it is transformed into tasty Appenzeller® cheese, according to an old artisanal tradition and with a lot of love.

Made with raw milk, it is smooth under its brown and red rind. It develops unique floral aromas thanks to its trade secret: "Sulz". Throughout its ripening period, it is brushed two to three times a week with this brine made with aromatic mountain herbs, the recipe of which is a well-kept secret!

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