Want tradition? Try this. As late at 1990, women were denied the vote and elections and other town business are still conducted each year at a gathering on the Landsgemeindeplatz in the city center. Citizens entitled to vote are required to attend. Ballots are cast by acclamation or a show of hands. Most men proudly wear a sword or bayonet passed down from their forefathers. Traditional dress for them is a black hat decorated with flowers, a bright red vest, gold pants, white knee socks and an earring. In fact, they look a little like the San Francisco 49ers.
Women wear ankle-length pleated skirts, tied bodices, huge embroidered lace collars and, in their hair, the Schlappe, a black-winged bonnet trailing a wide red ribbon.
Appenzell's intricately painted houses, tradition-bound citizenry and peaceful setting can lull one into thinking it is not only spiritually but physically far removed from the rest of the world.
Not so. Zürich is a little over an hour away by car and just under two hours by trains which depart about once every hour. Bregenz, at the western-most tip of Lake Constance is only 40 minutes by car or an hour and 40 minutes by frequent train. St. Gallen, an interesting city itself, is only 19 km (12 miles) away and from there train connections are possible to such places as Lindau in Germany (less than two hours); Konstanz (a little over an hour); Vaduz, capital of Liechtenstein (about an hour and a half) and Schaffhausen (less than two hours). Trains to St. Gallen from Appenzell run about every 30 minutes and the trip takes about half an hour.
A pleasant day for railpass holders might be to take the 10:08 a.m. to Romanshorn via St. Gallen, then the ferry across Lake Constance to Friedrichshafen in Germany, arriving at 11:26 a.m. Have lunch there, perhaps take in the Zeppelin Museum (tel. 07541/3801-0, fax 07541/3801-80, Seestrasse 22) and then it's about half an hour east to Lindau. After an afternoon stroll around that delightful lakeside city, catch the 4:29 p.m. to Appenzell, arriving at 6:19 p.m. The ferry also carries automobiles, so you can do the same thing by car.
The village of Stein also makes for a pleasant half-day excursion. There you'll find the Appenzeller Volkskunde Museum where most mornings you can watch a farmer making Appenzeller cheese by hand over an open fire. After that go next door to the Appenzell Schaukserei (Showcase Cheese-Dairy) and see the same basic process done in computer-controlled stainless steel tanks, vats, centrifuges and presses. Afterward, you can have lunch in the dairy's restaurant.
There are several other picturesque villages in the canton which can be quickly reached by car, bus or tram, or you may even want to walk to some of them.
Appenzell has two new museums housed in extraordinary buildings that somewhat overshadow the works they display. The metallic, futuristic Museum Liner and the Kunsthalle Ziegelhütte, a converted brick kiln with stunning contemporary architectural elements, are both worth a visit if only to see the structures themselves.
Each Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. tours are conducted by the Appenzell Alpenbitter, a distiller of several liqueurs, the most popular being a black aperitif served over ice and called Alpenbitter. Though our guide spoke only German, the operating-room-clean plant was interesting, particularly the room containing huge open containers of dozens of spices. At the end, there is a tasting and an opportunity to purchase product.
On a clear day you might drive to Schwägalp and take the cable car to Mt. Säntis, the highest peak in the Alpstein range.
Each evening, at a hotel or restaurant somewhere in the area, there is live Swiss mountain music. Traditionally dressed men, each with a single earring (a tiny version of the scoop used in the cheese making), play the concertina, piano, bass violin and sometimes one or two other instruments. It is said the best Swiss yodelers come from here. Your hotel or the tourist office, which publishes a daily listing of events, can provide details.
Not in most guidebooks but worth a peek is the Baroque Pfarrkirche St. Mauritius on Hauptgasse across from the Hotel Hecht. Note the extraordinary chandelier and the church organ.