Aescher: a cliffside hotel in the Swiss Alps

| September 2, 2014

What better way to kick off a new website, than to highlight Berggasthaus Aescher, an isolated mountain guesthouse in Switzerland? Pictures of this guesthouse float around facebook periodically in lists like “10 Hotels You Must Visit in Your Lifetime!” And quite frankly, this is a hotel you should try to visit in your lifetime, if even just for a bite to eat at the restaurant.

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There are some very important things to know about this hotel:

-The hotel can only be reached by foot, and you should be in good shape and familiar with hiking safety

-This is more like a hostel than a hotel: you share a room (our room slept 11), you share a bathroom, and there are no showers

-The included breakfast is bread and cheese

-Don’t even think about wi-fi, and it’s hard to get 3G or even the Edge network

 

So.  If after reading that you’re still game for visiting this amazing place, here’s the scoop!

First, the reservation details. It is best to see their website for current information.  Their season runs May through 31 October, so you have less than two months to get there this year!  With the exchange rate, it cost us approximately $50 per adult bed and $33 per child bed (each comes with a pillow and down blanket).  You settle the bill with dinner. They accept Visa and the EC Card, but prefer that you use cash (Swiss francs). The meals we chose were excellent: goulash and potatoes, and for dessert a local specialty: meringue piled high with whipped cream.

And now, our experience getting there:

We entered the Seilbahn (cable car) Wasserauen-Ebenalp into the GPS. Somewhere, we made a wrong turn—probably while giddy over the scene before us as we entered the region. Suddenly traffic was stopped because at that very moment, people dressed in traditional costume were driving cattle and sheep down the main road. The sound of cowbells was ringing through the air as the cows passed with giant, ornate bells around their necks.

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More cowbell, please

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Before long, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere–so far off the route that there were no roads showing on the GPS, and yet a restaurant was popping up in the green. We soon would discover that throughout the region, there are plenty of establishments you can only reach on foot.

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I got out of the car and studied a giant map on the side of the road, then took a snapshot of it on my phone—it came quite in handy as we retraced our steps. Somehow we had made it to the location where the “Standort” arrow (basically a “You are here” arrow) arrow points. We wanted to be on the left, at Wasserauen, to take the cable car up to Ebenalp.

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We made our way to the Ebenalpbahn. A roundtrip ticket cost us approximately $35 per adult and $15 per child. We walked in, paid, and stepped onto the cable car, which seemed to run on demand. (For more information, see their website .)

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Up in the air, our operator pointed out a church off in the distance. He said our hotel was just around the bend, but you couldn’t see it from our (expansive!) vantage point.

 

Once we got off the cable car sporting new ponchos we were offered, we decided to head up to a guesthouse and restaurant perched at the top of the mountain.

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My and Sequoia’s Schnitzel were very good and Paul enjoyed the regional macaroni and cheese.  Once we were finished, we excitedly began our trek down to the hotel.

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Suddenly, we came upon a turnstile in the middle of nowhere.

Why?

Why?

We passed through and soon came to the cave we would need to walk through in order to reach the hotel. It wasn’t much of an opening on either end, but inside was a handrail along the steps downward, and a few lights almost lit up the path.  But not really.  (Thank you, iPhone flashlight!)  Once we exited the cave, we checked out a tiny shack featuring an exhibit on an extinct bear.

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Going in

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coming out

Views became even more spectacular.

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All of a sudden, we came upon a chapel built into a mountain cave on a cliff.

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Next, we found ourselves walking through a tiny covered corner bridge which, I would soon see, connected the trail with a wood planked bridge that you could see through. And between the cracks, you could see straight down the cliff—in other words, you were walking (read: tiptoeing) on planks supported by a few beams, high in the sky. It was nerve-wracking for me and my daughter; Paul was unfazed.

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Once we rounded the bend, we could not believe our eyes: the hotel really was just tucked into the mountainside.

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When we arrived, I immediately used the bathroom. That’s when I saw that the whole side wall of the house was actually the mountain rock, which was seeping water, as mountains do.

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And then we were shown to our “room”: Mattress pads and blankets. Just a few inches between you and the floor. This was no Marriott.  Paul refers to this hotel as luxury camping. There was quite the view out the window, and almost always just one sound echoing through the mountains: cowbell.

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The hotel was nestled within the rock. As you walked around outside, you were rained on by drips of water falling from the mountain top above you.

aescher mountain top

 

Paul and Sequoia took a short hike as I got over the experience of walking across that corner bridge. During their hike, they witnessed a sheep-pony-dog stampede on the trail.  I was bummed to have missed it.

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Just steps from the hotel begins one trail where signs are posted advising you to tie your child to you. We did not go down that trail.

At dinner, we met a fun family, the daughter just one year older than Sequoia. They shared a table with us for dinner and breakfast, then bid us farewell as they continued up the mountain to another remote guesthouse.

When the time came, we spent the night on floor mats, which is about as comfortable as sleeping on floor mats. It was not a good night’s sleep (but I will say that the down blankets kept me warm).  Nothing mattered, though, when we awoke to the sight of clouds enveloping the mountainside.

aescher in the clouds

 

We soon set off – past the church…

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…and through the cave…and up the mountain. In case you weren’t sure, up is considerably more difficult than down.   At the top, we hopped on a cable car and bid adieu to the little hotel in the Alps.

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Poor saps below, heading down the trail to Aescher

Poor saps below, heading down the trail to Aescher

It really was quite an experience that I recommend to anyone who’s game!

 

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Category: Europe, Family Travel, featured, In Germany A Broad blog, Switzerland, Travel, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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