If you follow people who live in Switzerland through Instagram, you will without a doubt come across the classic picture of the Aescher Berggasthaus. Carved into the mountain, this little wooden house, with a pointy roof and a panoramic patio, looks too good to be true. But a pleasant 20-minute descent from the Ebenalp peak down the path that goes through fields and a cave, on the last curve, you walk right into this postcard view.
I always find it interesting to visit places that I’ve seen and studied to the last detail on social media. I’m always curious “how it is in real life”, and what I can say is – because 95% of the time you see this spot from the exact same angle, once you get there you’ll see how much more beauty there is to discover.
We took a high-speed train from Zürich to Gossau, and from there boarded a slower scenic ride through Appenzell that curved around the landscapes for some gorgeous views of the region. At Wasserauen we decided to go straight for the goods, so we headed for the cable car to the top of Ebenalp (at which point I purchased a red “Switzerland” hat from a lovely Swiss grandpa at the nearby shop, because the day was bright and hot and it was only the beginning). We hiked down to Aescher Berggasthaus and were met with traffic on all sides. The place itself was buzzing with life. Beer, cards, and loud laughter, families having lunch, determined hikers plowing through the crowds onwards down the path and a ridiculously gorgeous mountain panorama next to it all.
It was so tempting to stay up there and spend the whole afternoon in the sun, but curious blogger newcomer that I am, I was determined to see Seealpsee and so we marched on, past the mountain house, down the path to the lake. The track is obscured by a forest in many areas so it remains quite muddy and slippery, with some convenient and inconvenient roots and rocks along the way. It must’ve taken us an hour and a half to descend (no doubt slowed down by our choice of footwear. Though running shoes were adequate for the job, I’d do this in hiking boots next time. You never know where your ankle might turn).
As luck would have it, by the time we arrived at Seealpsee, the sun was on its way to hiding and I only caught the crystal turquoise waters for a glimpse. As we made our way around the lake, the weather quickly started to change from cloudy to stormy, but the sight was beautiful nonetheless. I did dip a toe in the water and it was ice cold to my liking, though I did see people going in for a quick swim. I’m not Swiss enough yet. The lake is surrounded by mountain peaks that reflect sharply in the water and also seems to be the home of some confident cows, who very nonchalantly marched across for a drink.
It’s a beautiful place to break for lunch and that’s what we did. At first, our goal was to take a rest and go back up that very same slippery path, but as the wind picked up it felt like it was about to rain any minute, so we took a different, more lateral route back to Wasserauen. One of my favorite stretches of the hike was exactly this way from the lake – through green pastures with mountains rising high above on all sides. If you stop for a moment, all you hear is the sound of wind and cowbells.
By the time we arrived back in Wasserauen, rain seemed to change its mind and we still had a one-way journey left on the cable car from our roundtrip ticket, so we hopped back up and returned to the Berggasthaus for an early dinner. Best. Rösti. Ever. And with that view, it is by far, still my favorite meal in this country. After a big slice of Appenzeller cheese (yum) and a few mugs of the local beer, we were finally ready to say goodbye to the region and return to Zürich. We were gone maybe 9-10 hours but it felt like a full adventure and we got home happy and exhausted. I highly recommend this hike, this area, and those Rösti. You won’t regret it.