No doubt the current residents of Appenzell, Switzerland's most tradition-bound canton, stay with the old ways because that's the way they want it; not because it attracts tourists. Either way, a past woven into the fabric of everyday 21st century life is one of the Appenzell canton's most appealing features.
Like many Swiss mountain towns, a custom that continues to survive involves the movement of cows to and from the high pastures. On such days, farmers turn out in black hats with ribbons and flowers, bright red vests, yellow knickers, knee-length white stockings, and buckled shoes. Locals and tourists line the route and occasionally offer wine to the herders. The cattle are also groomed and decorated, and prizes are awarded for the best teats and udders. 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.
As one might guess, traditions die hard in Appenzell. It wasn't until 1990 that women were given the right to vote. Now they, too, participate in democracy in its purest form: an open-air vote of all citizens on the town square, the Landsgemeindeplatz. Election day in Appenzell, the last Sunday in April, gets national TV coverage and is a day of brass bands, parades, and traditional dress. Citizens entitled to vote are required to attend. Ballots are cast by acclamation or a show of hands. Most men wear a sword or bayonet passed down from their forefathers. With Glarus to the south, Appenzell is the last canton that still conducts the business of government in this way.
Distinctive, traditional architecture is another convention to which Appenzellers cling. In the small business district, narrow streets are lined with elaborately decorated and painted buildings. Intricate wrought-iron signs, flower boxes, and an occasional Swiss flag project from their façades.