Canton: St Gallen
Destination: Walensee / Seerenbach waterfalls
Interesting thing: One of Switzerland’s favourite sausages, the Olma Bratwurst, originates in St Gallen. Also called the St Galler Bratwurst or Kalbsbratwurst, this tasty veal sausage was awarded IGP – Protected Geographical Indication – in 2007.
St Gallen is one of the bigger cantons, both in terms of population and area size. It’s quite close to Zurich and famous for its incredible medieval monastic library and next-door abbey, which I visited 18 months ago. It also forms part of the eastern border of Switzerland where it hits Lake Constance and is the ‘gateway to the Appenzell Alps‘. So, I was somehow thinking our St Gallen canton visit would be a bit more of an “occasion”. However, Saturday found us with the first real springlike day of the year and we were itching to go somewhere. In our usual Slapdashian fashion, we’d not really planned it, and didn’t want to go too far afield.
I have to give a shout out to two other local bloggers for the inspiration here — I remembered Mom in Zurich’s post about the Walensee and Himself is a big fan of Moms Tots Zurich‘s hiking info (as am I). We’ve driven past the Walensee on numerous occasions and it always looked lovely. So we figured, why not make a specific trip there.
The Walensee on a sunny March day is pretty stunning (more pics below). It’s one of Switzerland’s largest lakes and is mostly surrounded by dramatic cliffs. The bits you drive past are not anywhere you can stop. So we headed to the other side of the lake to Betlis with the idea to visit the Seerenbachfälle — the country’s highest waterfalls, with a drop of over 700 metres (I’m slightly confused as to whether this is for the two sections put together or the long, thin top fall alone but it matters not).
Those who had planned better could park near the ferry stop (the ferry wasn’t running when we went because: winter) and do a ~45 minute hike to the falls. Or, you could take the slightly hairy, one-lane road and then walk for 10 minutes. When I say a single-lane road, I mean it. The road is so narrow, there’s a strict regime for coming and going in 15-minute intervals so there’s only traffic going one way at any time. You are squeezed between the rockface and a sheer cliff down to the water most of the time. Of course, we blithely ignored the sign in German and almost had a head-on collision (at 20km/h) in a narrow tunnel but hey ho! Luckily there was a small verge that Himself managed to reverse into so the three cars going the correct way could pass us (two of which stopped to explain how stupid we had been). Anyway, it gave us an excuse to stretch our legs and take in the lake views.
When we reached the end of the road, however, our timing was perfect. Just the right amount of time for a stroll up to the falls and back before lunch! The Waterfalls were pretty cool – I was impressed by how close you could get. And the day was just magnificent. Green, green grass with its first smattering of spring blossoms, snowcapped mountains, the jade lake, blue skies with barely a cloud. Simply stunning. This is Heidiland (it actually is). And, to stick a bunch of metaphors in the blender, my little girl’s heart was alive with the Sound of Music.
Making our way back, we had a lovely lunch at the Paradiesli Landgastof – a very pretty hotel inside and out that reminded me of a Blue Mountains B&B. The kids also enjoyed looking at the handsome rooster and Llamas in residence. After that, we got back on the road — during the correct timeslot. And made our way home.
A lovely, if slightly last-minutey canton visit/ day out!