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Four Weeks in Goldingen, Switzerland – Courtney Steven

Four Weeks in Goldingen, Switzerland – Courtney Steven
Four Weeks in Goldingen, Switzerland - Courtney Steven

Well, I have spent the past four weeks with the Riget family in Goldingen. Goldingen is in the St. Gallen canton and is the only place that I have/will stay that is outside of the Bern canton! So, I was pretty excited to finally stay in a new region. My host family consisted of Hanni (mom), Werni (Dad), and three brothers Walter (23), Sammy (25), and Ivan (27) who live at home, plus a sister Michaela (29) and her kids Lars (9), Sascha (7) and Mia (3). Werni and Walter work on the farm; they have about a dozen pigs, beef cows that are in the mountains, and a wood business (they make firewood as well as benches, water troughs, flower boxes, etc). Hanni works part time at a bakery and part time doing inventory for the Coop (a grocery store). Samy is a driver for a bakery company and Ivan builds houses, I think… So to sum it all up, it’s a pretty busy household!

I arrived on Sunday, August 16 at the train station in Rapperswil where Hanni and Lars picked me up. At the house I met the rest of the boys. We spent the afternoon playing games and getting to know each other.

During my 4 weeks in Goldingen I went to an Alp, saw the Riget workshop/yard, went shopping, went to Rapperswil, attended a Swiss competition, I went to a forestry show, saw the Santis, the Urnerborden Alp, and Tellsplatte. I discovered a pub in Uznach called the Canadian, we went to the Kreuz Alp, picked up a truck in Austria, I made Spatzli and Zopf and I went to work with Samy. I spent a weekend in Zurich, we went to the Einsiedeln Abbey, to the Dinosaur museum in Aathal and to a place that makes cowbells.

We actually went to Urnerborden Alp twice. Hanni and her family vacationed here when she was young and many members of her family still vacation here! The first time we went was to pick up her sister – she had spent 2 weeks there on vacation. We picked her up and went to the cheese store and restaurant in the town. But it wasn’t a very clear day so Hanni took me to the Alp again on a better day so that we could enjoy the view. The second time we were to the Alp the cows had come down the mountain and were in the village for a few weeks before they continue home to the base of the mountain for the fall/winter. This was really cool because there is just cows walking around everywhere! Some families fence their cows in and other let the cows roam around the area (including across the road) and they fence in things they want to keep the cows away from, like your car and house! Again we went to the cheese store and the restaurant, and then we went over the mountain and came down the other side. On the way was home we stopped at Tellsplattte, which is a pretty little place along the lake. Here they have bells set up that can play a tune on the hour.

Rapperswil is a village near Goldingen that is on the lake of Zurich so it is a bit of a tourist city. It is a very nice little place. There is a Castle and Montissori as well as a zoo and two rose gardens. The zoo is cool – it is small but that makes it nice because it is easy to see everything in a few hours.

The Swiss competition was really neat. The Riget’s business was a sponsor for the event and donated a prize so we were invited to the event for a lunch with the other sponsors. The event reminded me a bit of a track meet; it was mostly youth but the events were very different! There was a gymnastics routine, a competition where you lift a rock above your head then put it down and repeat, a version of high jump where you run straight at a bar and jump over it into a sand pit (as you go the bar gets higher and further away), sprinting, wrestling and Schwingen (Swiss Wrestling). How they awarded the prizes was really neat: there were prizes within each category and you got to pick a prize in order of your placing. There were a lot of prizes in each category and a wide range of prizes! There was money, animals, furniture, decor, large and small appliances. Saturday night after the competition they had live music that we attended.

In Luzern there is an annual forestry show; so, I got to go to it with Werni, Walter and Ivan. It was really cool because it was half outdoors and half inside. It reminded me of our Canadian Dairy Expo but forestry! There were some really neat machines like the ones that split an entire log at once! The Riget’s also have a machine like this; I think it is really cool. There is an arm attached to the machine so you can pick up a log and put it onto the conveyor where it is cut to any length between 1/2 to 1 meter then it is split (all at once!) and lands on a conveyor and someone at the end stacks it in a round form. Once the form is full it is tied and the rounds are stacked in the shop.

The Santis is possiblely my favourite mountain. From the top of the Santis you can see 4 different countries! From one side over the Lake Bordensee you can see Germany, east of that you can see to Liechtenstein and to the mountains of Austria. Plus to the south you can see all of Switzerland to France and Italy! It is a beautiful view.

One night I was searching for something to do and I came across a pub called the Canadian! This pub was in Uznach, which isn’t far from our house, plus there is a bus that goes from Goldingen to Uznach! So, off I went to find some Canadian friends. Unfortunately, I only met one Canadian, the owner, briefly. But, I made some other friends in the pub so it was a good night; I even went back a second time! The pub was decorated with stuff from Canadian sports teams, moose, Canadian signs and license plates so it was pretty cool.

A few years ago the Riget family had a restaurant on Kreuz Alp and one day Hanni and Werni took myself and Lars up there so I could see the restaurant and they could visit their friends. The alp is not far from the Santis so I could see to where we had been a few days before! On the alp one farmer gave us a tour of his home and the barn. Everything is very small and minimal because they only spent 6 weeks up there. Another family made us a Swiss food to try!

One day I got to go to work with Samy. Samy drives for a bakery company so we spent the morning delivering frozen baked goods to various stores and restaurants in the area. We started in Benken then headed to Zurich then around Oftringen, Zofingen, Langenthal, Schenkon then back to Zurich and the bakery in Benken. It was nice to spend the day with Samy and see what he does.

While at the house one day I was looking for things in the area to do and I discovered the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich and that they had a performance on Friday night! Being a previous high school band geek this was very exciting! We had no plans for that evening/weekend so I bought a ticket and made plans to spend the night in Zurich. The Orchestra was absolutely amazing! And the hall was gorgeous with beautiful acoustics! I was in love. The next day I went on a free walking tour of the old town of Zurich, and I toured the Frau Munster and the Gross Munster. During the tour I discovered that that evening there was a museum event happening in Zurich, for 25 CH you got evening (7pm to 2am) access to all museums and special buses running to the museums! So, I arranged with my host family to stay another night. It was a lot of fun. I went to a museum about the human body and evolution (Kulturama Museum Des Menschen), a museum about human diseases (Moulagenmuseum), the Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum) and a museum about geology and natural gasses/fossil fuels (Focus Terra).

On Sunday when I returned home from Zurich Hanni and Werni took Lars and I to the Einsiedeln Abbey, a montissaury and convent, where Hanni and Werni got married. The church is overwhelmingly beautiful. It is full of gold and colourful paintings. In front of the Abbey is the Lady Fountain, which has 14 taps, and is said to equate to the 14 holy helpers. The water from the fountain is also said to have a healing affect.

The final adventure that Hanni took me on was to a Dinosaur Museum, the Sauriermuseum, in Aathal! I don’t think that I have ever been to a dinosaur museum before so it was pretty exciting. Most of the remains they have there are actually from a ranch in the USA but there have been remains found in Switzerland and lots of areas with foot prints!

To end my time with the Riget family we said our goodbyes in the morning then Hanni, Werni, Lars and I headed to Bargen for the BBQ with the Boss Family. The two families know each other through the IFYE program and previously exchanging IFYE’s so they were happy to have the opportunity to catch up.

This concludes my four weeks in Goldingen! Now it is two weeks in Bargen and that is the end of my exchange! Time is flying now! I am already five days into my time in Bargen and we have lots planned for the next week!

Stay tuned, it wont be long before my exchange is over!



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