I had the great good fortune to visit Aescher Restaurant in the Swiss Alps this summer, one of those places that are all the more rewarding because of the effort it takes to get there.
Get to Zurich, drive two hours to the picturesque town of Appenzell, take a cable car up 5,400 feet, hike down a steep, treacherous trail, through pitch dark, wet caves, past a cave chapel, then around a narrow, mountain-hugging ledge to the little hotel and restaurant.
I often complain about too much travel. Two hundred and fifty days a year on the road, more or less, for twenty-six years non-stop.
At the same time, I appreciate how lucky I am to see so much of the world. As our work bounces us around the globe, I’ve been able to visit the most wondrous and remote sites, including Petra in Jordan, Nan Madol in Pohnpei, Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, penguins in Patagonia, Kilauea on Hawaii, Matera in the south of Italy, and Sumela Monastery, which clings to a cold, wet, remote cliff in the northeast of Turkey.
Some of these isolated places have sought the tourism dollar since my long-ago visits, and now have improved access.
The journeys to reach these truly awesome sites are arduous. Long, challenging travel is a prerequisite for rarely-seen beautiful or historic spots. It's why they’re rarely seen and still (relatively) unruined.
In late June, Bob and I visited a friend in Appenzell, Switzerland, which alone was a treat. Our friend drove us a few miles from his house to the idyllic scene at the base of the Ebenalp cable car.
We ascended over glorious views of pasture- tree- and farm-covered hills as far as the eye could see. Parasailers soared below us, high over endless shades of green.
Cows dotted the pastures beneath craggy snow-caps; a bucolic scene the epitome of Alpine beauty.
The Aescher Restaurant
I'm happy to report that Aescher restaurant does not rely on its spectacular views for its reputation. I found its menu modern and enticing, while relying on local and traditional ingredients.
I had a rough buttermilk-polenta I won't soon forget, and a perfect plate of goat cheese, pears, honey, and nutbread.
So how does the Aescher get all its ingredients nearly a mile high? Everything comes by the cable car: food, water, and all supplies. Anything large or heavy comes by helicopter.
The Aescher restaurant and guesthouse was built in 1884, 135 years ago, long before cable cars and helicopters. What possessed the inspired kook who thought it was possible? Who did he think would come visit? Think of all the builders hiking up the mountain, and beasts of burden hauling lumber, windows, furniture… What craziness. What wonderful craziness.
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