2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

Pretty Sure Most Alpine Lake Vistas Are Fairly Similar

Pretty Sure Most Alpine Lake Vistas Are Fairly Similar

Lager in Switzerland

At the entrance to many a rooftop bar, you’re bound to come face-to-face with a huffy bouncer. But, turning the corner of a grass-lined path on Ebenalp, the northernmost summit of the Appenzeller mountains, to Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli, we encounter a more adorable than intimidating gatekeeper. Only three feet tall, complete with a flowing mane and four stumpy legs, a jet-black pony on his lunch break is the only obstacle between us and the bar. Fortunately, he lets us pass to Aescher.

For over 170 years, Aescher, an oak tavern constructed into the mountain cliffside, has offered refuge to hikers looking for a place to rest and fuel before continuing their journey, regularly shuttling food and drink ingredients more than 8,000 feet up the mountain. Although the lodge no longer permits overnight stays, the tavern continues serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner to trekkers who traverse to the guesthouse, garbed in neon spandex and wielding walking poles—as well as the less active guests who take a cable car up to the top (my partner’s family and I fall under the latter category). In addition to the afternoon pick-me-up and gut-busting portions of rösti, a local specialty of potatoes blanketed with melted cheese, people come for the postcard views of emerald, snow-capped peaks, soundtracked by echoes of the roaming cows’ bells.

This afternoon, the tables are packed, with families of six fighting for the tables closest to the edge. Although we fail to grab a spot for the three of us, the middle-aged man who cut us off smiles sheepishly. Whether out of guilt or pride, he begins offering his advice on how and where to hike that day.

“After you head down, go to the right and you’ll come to this fantastic lake,” he says, as if it were a gem of a hidden find, describing in cinematic detail a body of water giving way to a wide-open view of the mountains. “You can’t miss it,” he adds.

When we finally find seats, we order our first round, including an Appenzeller Dunkel Lager for myself. I assume that somehow there’s a connection between the beer and our location. When our bottles arrive, the label depicts a stereotypical watercolor scene of Swiss locals in traditional garb, proudly swigging from pints of brew. But the scenery of a lake, surrounded by parting sides with a full view of a mountain in the background looks familiar. Could that be lake the guy described?

Amused at the not-so-secret status of the “secret” lake, I fuel myself with the rösti and down the malty brew.

At sunset, we arrive at Seealpsee, the lake to which the man referred, and sure enough, it looks a lot like the label on my beer bottle (although there’s no one in traditional attire around). It also looks a hell of a lot better in real life.

Up Next

A Chinese Tour of Europe

Featured City Guides