In recent years, Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchli has received a lot of attention, particularly after being featured on the cover of National Geographic’s Destinations of a Lifetime. Located in the Swiss canton of Apenzell Innerrhoden, my family and I recently visited this mountain restaurant, arriving early in the morning. Our timing was deliberate, as we wanted to get there before the onslaught of eager tourists, hoping to snap a photo of this highly Instagrammable landmark.
For over three decades, this mid-19th century guesthouse and restaurant has been managed by the Knechtle family, with the second generation taking over in 2014. Due to the increasing number of visitors, it stopped accepting overnight guests last year. Now, this week comes the announcement that the family’s last day of managing the Äscher restaurant is November 1, 2018.
Our visit to Switzerland’s “Destination of a Lifetime”
When we planned our summer vacation months ago, we had decided on the Appenzell region for reasons other than the Äscher restaurant—the quiet countryside, the colorful facades of the buildings in the town of Appenzell and of course, the local foods. After flipping through some brochures from the local tourist office, however, I quickly realized how close we were staying to the world-famous restaurant. We had seen the photos of its nestled into the cliffs of the Alpstein mountains. It looked amazing, and we decided to finally check it out.
How to get there: You can hike up from the bottom, starting from the Wasserauen station, from where you have the choice of several routes. Since we had our young children along, we decided on the easy route. First we took about a 15-minute ride on the Wasserauen-Ebenalp cable car up to the top. Then, we had a 15-minute walk down to the Äscher restaurant.
As we grabbed one of the few remaining open tables outside, some of which already had signs declaring them as “Reserved,” I considered ordering a classic Swiss rösti for my second breakfast. Instead, I opted for something sweet, as I usually do. The waitress brought me an oval plate with a large rectangle of Schlorzifladen with whipped cream. This delicious tart has three layers—starting with the pastry, followed by a filling made with dried pears and then topped with a creamy flan-like layer. With some hot coffee and a spectacular view, we really had a wonderful visit to the Äscher restaurant that will not be forgotten.
Under New Management in 2019
Currently, the search is on for new managers of the Berggasthaus Äscher-Wildkirchli. Several weeks after our journey to this remarkable cliffside restaurant, the canton announced that the couple managing the Äscher, Nicole and Bernhard Knechtle-Fritsche, would be leaving at the end of the 2018 tourist season. It has been reported that they have described an ongoing lack of space, water and electricity to meet the growing demand. Also, building restrictions on this historic property limit what physical improvement can be made. With the departure of the Knechtle family comes the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter for this special site.
I feel fortunate to have experienced it under the management of the current owners. They have successfully looked after this historic property for over 30 years, especially during a period of tremendous growth in the number of visitors. The 2019 season will begin in the springtime with new leadership (to be determined), and without a doubt, many enthusiastic hikers looking to experience this extraordinary destination.
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