Northeastern Switzerland is a fine choice for a holiday vacation, regardless of season. Five of the most visited cities in northeastern Switzerland are Appenzell, Lake Constance, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen, and Stein-am-Rhein.
The city of Appenzell is capital of Appenzell Innerrhoden, a Swiss canton. Rather than have a municipal government, Appenzell is divided into districts that are self ruled. For this reason, water, energy, and firefighting infrastructure is located in a set aside municipality called Feuerschaugemeinde.
The core of the village of Appenzell, consisting of the 1563 town hall, the parish church, the ruins of Clanx (a castle) and the Salesis house are considered Swiss heritage sites, prominent nationally and internationally for their preservation of medieval architecture.
To the south, Appenzell becomes progressively more mountainous, with the Alpstein limestone range. In the foothills and valleys are located a number of small towns and villages. Trams are available from Appenzell to St. Gallen, and from there, trams are available to Heiden, Rorschach, and Trogen.
The region surrounding Appenzell is known for Landsgemeinden, a civic institution where democratic assemblies are held outdoors. Every eligible male and female citizen of age 20 or older must appear personally to participate.
Lake Constance is located at the northern edge of the Alps on the Rhine River. It actually is made up of three bodies of water: Obersee, Untersee, and Seerhein. The Obersee is the upper lake, while the Untersee is the lower lake, and the bit of the Rhine that connects the two makes up the Seerhein. Lake Constance is located in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, and the Rhine River flows into Lake Constance from the south.
The lake is a glacial lake formed in the last ice age. Because the Rhine and other tributaries carry sediment from the Alps, the depth of the lake in the southeast is gradually shrinking. Records report Lake Constance freezing in 1077 and several other years, with the most recent freezing of the lake took place in 1963. Though the Salmo Trutta, or Lake Constance trout was nearly obliterated in the 1980s because of pollution, the species has made a strong return due to protective measures.
On the Swiss side of Lake Constance are several towns and cities, among them Altenrhein, St. Gallen, Rorschach, Horn, Steinach, Arbon, Frasnacht, Egnach, Romanshorn, and Uttwil.
The city of Schaffhausen is the capital of the canton called Schaffhausen, which has a population of only about 34,000. The old city is full of Renaissance buildings that incorporate exterior sculptures and frescos. The ancient canton fortress called the Munot is still partially intact. Trains from Schaffhausen run to several popular tourist attractions, such as Rhine Falls in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, which is the largest waterfall in Europe.
During the middle ages, Schaffhausen was a city-state, and had its own coinage from the year 1045. In or around the year 1050 the Benedictine monestery, All Saints, was built and became the center of town. Schaffhausen bought its independence from the Habsburg empire in 1418 and became part of the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1501.
The Reformation started in Schaffhausen in 1524 and the city suffered severely from it, with a major bridge and transport route burnt down. It took until the 1800s for the stalled industrial development in the area to reignite. In 1857 the Rheinfall-Bahn Railroad from Winterthur connected to Schaffhausen.
St. Gallen the city is the capital of St. Gallen the canton. It began as the hermitage of St. Gall in the 7th century. The urban area in and around St. Gallen includes 160,000 or so inhabitants. It is considered the urban center of eastern Switzerland. The Abbey of St. Gall is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The library there has books dating back to the 9th century.
St. Gallen is now a transportation hub to the rest of Switzerland and also to Austria and Germany. It serves as a "gateway" to the Appenzell Alps.
Around the year 954 walls were built around the monastery as a bulwark against the Saracens (Arabs and non-Arab Muslims), and the rest of the town grew up around the walls. St. Gallen became a free imperial city in 1311, but by 1353, the guilds, particularly the cloth weavers guild took control of the government. In 1415 the city bought its freedom from Sigismund, the German King.
Stein am Rhein
Stein am Rhein is located in the canton Schaffhausen. The town core retains a well-kept medieval street plan, with the site of the city wall and gates preserved. There are still beautiful frescoes from this era that are very popular among visitors, and houses now stand in what used to be the city wall. Stein am Rhein is a peaceful village that was home to Johann Heynlin, the man who introduced the printing press to France.
Northeastern Switzerland is a region that is perfect for a vacation no matter what time of year. Towns and villages that still retain the charm of medieval architecture abound, and transport to and from other parts of Switzerland, as well as Germany and Austria is readily available and convenient.