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SLEEPING ON STRAW IN SWITZERLAND

In the past, sleeping in the barn was reserved for stable hands. Or for those unlucky kids (or husbands) who were punished for misbehaving. But these days, people actually pay for the experience. And I was one of those people. (You shouldn’t be surprised though — I’ve even paid to stay in a prison cell!)

Schlafen im Stroh (sleeping on straw) is actually a thing in Switzerland. It’s commonly used by hikers who want a cheap place to crash for the night, shower, and have something to eat before or after a hike. And Switzerland — being a well-known hiking paradise — has these ‘barn hotels’ in almost every part of the country.

But you don’t have to be a hiker to stay there. There are people who travel all the way across the globe just for the experience of sleeping in a barn. Like this Malaysian girl, for example.

In September 2019, my partner and I had the privilege of staying with the Signers’ family on their farm in Wasserauen.

Location

Image result for appenzellerland
Source: Appenzellerland Tourismus
 
The Signers’ farm is located in Wasserauen, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Switzerland. It is right at the foot of the Alpstein, an idyllic hiking area with plenty of things to do — from paragliding to cable cars to a mountaintop restaurant. Further details can be found on the official tourism page of Appenzellerland.
 
The place is easy to reach by car, bicycle, and train. It is only 5 minutes’ walk from Wasserauen train station. Upon exiting the station, walk through the parking space till you reach Hotel Alpenrose. Then, turn right and cross the river using the footbridge.
 
If you’re driving a car, go past Hotel Alpenrose, and about 50m after, turn right into the main entrance of the farm (the gate with the big signboard). Free parking available.
 
Sleeping on Straw Wasserauen

How to Book

You can make a booking by contacting them directly on their website. Stefan, the person in charge of online bookings and enquiries, is very responsive. Alternatively, you can book via Airbnb. If it’s your first time on the platform, use this link to get $40 off your first stay.

Room

There are 4 separate rooms available:
  • Room 1 for 12 people (new guesthouse)
  • Room 2 for 6 people (barn)
  • Room 3 for 8 people (upper floor, beside hay room)
  • Room 4 for 6 people (barn, for guests with pets)

Schlaf im Stroh room

Rates

(Inclusive of breakfast and tourist tax)

Children (up to 3 years)

Free

Children (3 – 12 years)

CHF 14

Children (12 – 16 years)

CHF 19 

Adults (16 years and above)

CHF 30

Dinner is available with advance notice:

  • Spaghetti with salad (CHF 9)
  • Pasta with cheese, special sausage, and apple sauce (CHF 14)
  • Meat from the grill, with salad (CHF 14)
  • Hot meatloaf with salad (CHF 12)
  • Vienna sausage with bread (CHF 5 )

What to Expect

Getting There

As we were coming from Vaduz Liechtenstein, it took us several trains and connecting buses to get there.
 
Taking the train in Switzerland can be overwhelming for a first-timer, especially if there is no direct route to your destination. But don’t worry — just approach the information counter at any train station, tell them where you want to go, and they will give you a booklet with a complete schedule of all the trains you need to take.
 
And the schedules are accurate down to the last second. If it’s not punctual, it’s not Switzerland.
 
I have to say — even the journey to get there was a treat in itself. Never had I ever seen such magnificent mountains and sprawling valleys and grass so green.
 
Well, maybe in New Zealand. But New Zealand is an entirely different world.
 

Check-In

Schlafen im Stroh, SwitzerlandThe farm wasn’t that hard to find, despite my non-existent sense of direction. Trying to enter was a little confusing though. The small gate led to the barn but it was blocked by what I assumed to be an electric fence to keep the goats in.

Now I had no idea what an electric fence was supposed to look like, but I wasn’t going to take the chance. There was a house in the other direction, so I decided to check there instead. 

The problem was that to get to the house, I had to walk across the field, but the grass was so green and pretty I wasn’t sure if I should step on it. So, I had to go round to the main gate, as there was a cleared path leading to the house. Silly, I know.

There was no one in the house. It was only a few minutes later that someone emerged from the barn. He introduced himself as Klaus, Stefan’s father. Klaus spoke very little English but it was enough to relay to us everything we should know.

 

The Barn

The barn had two floors. We got the smaller room on the ground floor, which could fit up to 6 persons. Since there was no other guest during our arrival, we got the whole place to ourselves. Adjacent to our room was the shared bathroom.

What impressed me the most was how clean the place was. Despite there being a bed full of loose straw, the floor was clear of any stray pieces. And despite there being a cowshed just next door, there was no unpleasant smell.

Schlaf im Stroh view
Schlaf im stroh view

The bathroom was spotless. It came with a proper toilet, a sink, and a hot shower. In fact, it was much better than my bathroom back home! I don’t know why, but I had been expecting something more primitive — like a pit latrine, or a bucket of water for showering with. Then I remembered I wasn’t in Asia anymore.

Schlafen im Stroh toilet
Schlaf im Stroh toilet

The Family

Signer family treeOn the wall of our barn, there was a poster with pictures of the Signers. They are quite a big family.

But during our stay, Klaus was the only one who was there to attend to us. His wife Ruth lives on another farm about 10 kilometers away, which she manages on her own.

Their “Schlafen im Stroh” farmstay is only available in the warmer months. Once it starts to grow colder, Klaus (and the animals) will move to the other farm, where it is warmer.

The couple has 5 kids — Stefan being the oldest among them. It was his idea to turn their summer residence into a farmstay business.

 

The Animals

The goats on the Signers farm were some of the cutest I’ve seen. They liked to nibble on everything, including my jacket, my hair, and my hands. In the stable next door, there were around 10 cows being milked.

Schlaf im Stroh cows

 

This would be stating the obvious, but the farm should be paradise for those who love animals and hell for those who don’t because you’ll practically be living amongst them. In the morning, the sound of cowbells is going to wake you up and keep you awake for the rest of the day.

 

Then there will be other sounds and antics that you’ll have to deal with. At one point, we heard a strange scratching sound on the wall of our barn. Soon enough, we found out who the culprit was.

And this was the newest calf on the farm:

Sleeping on Straw 

 

Sleeping on straw isn’t as bad as one might expect. Think a lumpy mattress — not great, but still better than sleeping on the floor. The straw gets everywhere though, and it can be itchy. If this bothers you, bring a sleeping bag. It would make it a much more comfortable experience.

Sleeping on straw

And also keep you warm. It was only mid-September and we had several layers of clothes on and yet we were still freezing. They did provide wool blankets, but we thought we were only allowed to take one per person, so that was what we did.

But the next day at breakfast, when we met the other guests and they told us they had slept under SIX layers of blankets, we wished we had taken more.

Breakfast

The breakfast was the highlight and the perfect ending of our stay. There was an extensive spread of breads, cheeses, eggs, meatloaves, yogurt, muesli, and jams, all of which were homemade. The eggs, yogurt, milk, butter, and cheeses were all sourced from the farm. I don’t mind having that kind of breakfast everyday. What a wholesome way to live!

Breakfast Schlafen im Stroh
With Klaus and the other guests from South America

Additional Info

Check-in: After 5 p.m.
Checkout: 11 a.m.
  • The farmstay is only available in the warmer months. Please check their availability before planning your trip.
  • Not recommended for infants (under 2 years old).
  • Not recommended for people with allergies.
  • No smoking! The whole place is made of wood and straw.
     
    No Smoking Wasserauen
     
  • No parties or events.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption is allowed.
  • Please be considerate to other guests. Click here to get tips for staying in a shared accommodation.
  • Pets are allowed, but must be supervised at all times.
  • The rooms do not have heaters. Bring warm clothes.
  • Bring your own towels and toiletries.
  • If you have super-sensitive skin, bring a sleeping bag. There are also sleeping bags for rent at CHF 3 each.
  • A barbecue and simple kitchen are available for shared use, free of charge.
  • There are electric sockets but no Wi-Fi.

The Verdict

Is it good value for money? Yes, it is great value for money. Knowing how expensive Switzerland can get, CHF 30 is a steal. Especially with the kind of breakfast we got.

Is it worth traveling across the world for? Absolutely!

I had always dreamed of living a simple and self-sustaining lifestyle on a farm (if only I knew how to keep a plant alive for more than a week!), and this farmstay gave me the opportunity to experience that even if it was just for a day.

Schlaf im stroh guestbook

Posted in Switzerland

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