Cliffside Dwelling in Switzerland

by Nancy Bestor

Our return tickets from Italy had us flying out of Zurich early in the morning. We knew we’d have to get to Switzerland the night before, so we began to look for a hotel. At the advice of my father-in-law, an expert on travel in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (I’m not sucking up here, he really is an expert), we decided to stay near Appenzell and catch an early train to Zurich. Rick Steves’ Switzerland guidebook recommends taking the 15-minute gondola to Ebenalp, at 5,300 feet, for a true rustic Swiss experience.

Never one to question Rick Steves’ recommendations, we quickly made reservations at the Berggasthaus Aescher. Built in 1805, this guesthouse is built into a cliff. If you were skimming over that last part, this dormitory style lodging is built into a cliff. The guesthouse itself and the stunning views from the outdoor dining area, are the most spectacular things I have seen in Switzerland.

Getting there is no easy feat, but that just adds to its charm. Sarah, Bob and I took the cable car (27 Swiss Francs roundtrip for each adult) and then hiked down the mountainside from the Ebenalp station. The walk takes about 12 minutes and passes through a cave, past a hermit’s house (I couldn’t make this up if I tried), and finally past a 400-year-old cave church.

We arrived in the early evening and Claudia, the owner, met us and showed us upstairs to our dormitory room (see our view in the above photo). There were at least twelve “beds” in the room—bed length cushions that lined up right next each other, but fortunately we had the room to ourselves. It turned out we had the whole guesthouse to ourselves that night. Many people came up the mountain for dinner, either by cable or hike, but we were the only ones staying overnight.

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