Cliffhanging Swiss guest house seeks new landlords

The Äscher-Wildkirchli guest house in Alpstein Keystone

A Swiss restaurant tucked into a rockface and made famous by a National Geographic magazine cover is looking for new management after the family that has run it for the past 31 years is calling it quits. 


Nicole and Bernhard Knechtle-Fritsche are giving up the franchise for the Äscher-Wildkirchli guest house in Alpstein, northeastern Switzerland, at the end of the 2018 tourist season. 

Local media quoted the couple as saying they could not keep up with demand, given restrictions on renovation work on the site, which is perched under a cliff at 1,450 metres above sea level. 

Accessible probably isn't the word Keystone

In 2015, National Geographic featured it in a story on “Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the world’s most amazing places”. 

As early as 1800, hermits and farmers began to sell simple drinks and food on the Äscher Alp. At the beginning of the 19th century, the hut below the Ebenalp slowly turned into a guest house, now one of the oldest in Switzerland. From 1987, the “Äscher” was run by the parents of Bernhard Knechtle-Fritsche, who, with his wife, took over the lease in May 2014. 

Too successful 

Now just a restaurant, the Äscher has experienced a boom over the past 30 years and has been visited by many guests from within Switzerland and abroad, the government of canton Appenzell Inner Rhodes said on Monday. 

The inn is a victim of its own success Keystone

The exposure in National Geographic helped it become a popular tourist destination.  

The Ebenalp railway also benefited from the inn’s pulling power and on peak days 2,500 passengers took the cable car from Wasserauen up onto Ebenalp. After a short hike, many pass through the caves to the hermitage and the chapel and on to the Äscher-Wildkirchli guest house. 

St. Martins chapel in the Wildkirchli caves, founded in 1621 Keystone

A consequence of this success is that for a while now the building’s infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up with the growing number of guests, the Knechtle-Fritsches said on Monday. The lack of space and limited water and electricity would repeatedly result in bottlenecks. The loo situation was also out of date, they said. 

Certain adjustments were planned, they explained, but due to conditions imposed by the protection of historical monuments, there would be major structural restrictions. Given this, they said they could not carry on. 

The local authorities said the lease would be put out to tender soon.

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