Appenzell, capital of the half canton of Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, northeastern Switzerland, in the Sitter Valley, south of Sankt Gallen. Originally a possession of the abbey of Sankt Gallen, it was the traditional capital of the Appenzell region and became the capital of Inner-Rhoden after the canton was divided in 1597. Notable landmarks include an ancient chapel of the abbots of Sankt Gallen; a modern church with a late Gothic choir; the town hall (1561–63); the 16th-century castle housing a historical museum; and two Capuchin convents. Two important annual events are the Corpus Christi procession and the meeting of the Landsgemeinde (or open-air cantonal “parliament”—actually a cantonal legislative meeting of all concerned citizens, a nearly unique manifestation of “pure democracy”). Pastoral occupations, embroidery, and the manufacture of textiles and furniture are the principal economic activities. The population is German speaking and Roman Catholic.

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As you might guess, the town of Appenzell is a cantonal capital–more accurately, the capital of Appenzell Innerrhoden, a Roman Catholic half-canton which lies within the arms of a Protestant neighbor called Appenzell Ausserrhoden. It’s most famous for its annual Landesgemeinde, an open-air parliament where citizens vote directly on major issues instead of trusting elected officials to make decisions for them. (Only men were allowed to vote until 1991, when the Swiss Supreme Court ruled that excluding women was unconstitutional.)

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Appenzell’s respect for tradition goes beyond electoral issues. On special occasions, you’ll see Appenzellers decked out in regional costume, and Appenzell has long been one of Switzerland’s most active centers for yodeling, alphorn playing, and other expressions of Swiss musical tradition. The local houses are also distinctive, with their painted façades and attached barns. And for tourists who fancy primitive art (especially with bovine subjects), there’s no greater attraction–and no better souvenir–than a traditional Appenzeller panoramic cow painting.

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