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Two Weeks in Hoffstetten, Switzerland – Courtney Steven

Two Weeks in Hoffstetten, Switzerland – Courtney Steven
Two Weeks in Hoffstetten, Switzerland - Courtney Steven
Well, I seem to be getting a little behind on my blog posting! I would love to tell you that I will make this short and sweet but that would simply be impossible! So, I will break it up into 2 posts; the first one will cover the end of my stay in Hoffstetten (from August 2nd to August 16th) and the second I will post early next week covering my past month spent in Goldingen! My time in Hoffstetten was too short! My second week with the Trauffer family was more low key, we spent time at home, had a birthday party for Sylvan, socialized with the neighbours, went swimming in the Brienz lake, and moved boxes up two stories to Irene’s playgroup room so she could start getting ready for school! It was nice to have a low key week before embarking on the IFYE hiking trip. The IFYE hiking trip was quite the challenge! But, it was great to spend some time with the other IFYE’s again and meet the late coming Irish IFYE. I wrote an article about it for the IFYE news:  
This past weekend, August 15th and 16th, was the IFYE Hiking weekend. The 9 international delegates that are still in Switzerland (Canada, Estonia, Taiwan x3, South Korea, Costa Rica x2, and Ireland) met with 5 past IFYE’s to embark on a hiking adventure. The adventure got off to a rough start when half the crew had a little train mishap and ended up on the wrong half of the splitting train. But as per usual everything happens for a reason because one of the IFYE’s traveling on their own made the same mistake and they all ended up together! Luckily the group of IFYE’s at the starting point included a past IFYE who knew where they were going. So, once they figured out where everyone was the first group started on their way with the second group to follow when they arrived. We started our hiking trip at Zwischenfluh-Post at about 1000 meters elevation. The first day of the hike was all uphill; up winding roads, through pastures, and into the woods. This made for beautiful scenery but also some difficulties as some of the delegates had never really been hiking before. But, with a lot of encouragement and teamwork both groups met up at the lake Seebergsee at 1831 meters elevation. After a little break and some swimming we were off again! From the lake we climbed a steep 100 meters to get over the peak then it was all downhill to the hut at Obergestele (elevation 1803 meters) from there. You would think this would have been the easy part of the journey, but some of us (Canada) kept falling into holes! Once we arrived at the hut we quickly worked together to get dinner on the go with only a few minor setbacks, we had no running water for some reason and the fire for the stove was being difficult (apparently it just needed a little luck of the Irish). After dinner we had a great night getting to know new people, reconnecting with each other, talking about our experiences thus far, playing Wolverine, and finally a heated debate about the Swiss Agriculture system compared to the European Union. The second day of our trip had a bit of a slow start as we were a little sore and still tired. But, once we were up we made quick work of breakfast, clean up, and getting repacked. From the hut we hiked up to about 2000 meters elevation, almost to the peak, where we had a magnificent view of the landscape (we were actually above the clouds!). This part of the hike took us along some pretty interesting paths; along the edge of a cliff and over loose rock! But, it was well worth the view. Unfortunately, the weather decided not to agree with us today and we ended up a little wet, but we kept on going and just enjoyed that fact that it wasn’t blistering hot like the day before. After the peak of the mountain it was all downhill to Oberwil i.S train station at 836 meters elevation. This leisurely walk down was apparently a little too leisurely as we ended up hitching a ride down the last of the hill once we got to the road because we were cutting it a little close for time! Overall this was a very exhausting weekend but it was made great by the good company. I cannot say that I will ever forget that time in Switzerland that I hiked the Niederhore Mountain. Thank you IFYE Swiss for making this weekend possible!
  The worst part about the weekend was that I had biked to the train station so after surviving that intense hiking weekend I had to bike home which is all uphill! But I made it, barely. After that I took a day of well deserved healing/rest and did nothing because boy was I sore! On Tuesday I was still feeling the pain from my recovering muscles but we figured it would be good to get moving again, plus I only had a few more days in Brienz before moving to my next host! So we went for a walk at the Axalp. This is a beautiful spot. There was a storm here a few years ago that left a lot of broken trees. So, being in the area highly populated with wood carvers, some of the local wood carvers decided to take some time off work and turn the broken stumps into works of art. This quickly because a tradition. Every spring local wood carvers take a week off work and they go and carve in the forest! This has made for a beautiful unique nature trail. And, to top off the already scenic walk there is a lake at the end of it! And cows, there are always cows when you go walking in the mountains. But there weren’t just your normal beef or dairy cows, there were water buffalo and highland cows too! At the base of the Axalp there is a waterfall, Giessbach falls, and hotel, so we stopped off there for a little “cool down” walk. This summer has been very dry in Switzerland, Irene stated that she had never seen the lake at Axalp to low or the falls so small! To top off my Tuesday I went to a wood carving workshop where I got to carve and paint my own little cow! Here I met a family from Germany who have been vacationing in Brienz for almost 20 years! Then I biked into Brienz to enjoy an evening of traditional Swiss folk music. This included a Yodelling group, an accordion group, and a guy playing the Alphorn while another one did traditional flag throwing. On Wednesday I finally got around to actually seeing the little town of Brienz. Brienz is famous for its wood carving and a little romantic street that was once named the most beautiful street in Europe! This evening we decided that I should stop in Luzern on my way to my next host in Goldingen, but we quickly realized that this would only give me a few hours in Luzern. So, we decided I would leave half a day early and spend Friday night in Luzern so I could spend a day and a half exploring! This was a great idea, but it meant I had one less night to get my stuff in order before leaving! Thursday I got up early and went off to explore Schynige Platte on my own while everyone else was at school/work. We planned my adventure so I could have lunch on the mountain then take the steam boat home from Interlaken! The mountain itself isn’t the best one that I have been on, but it has a magnificent view of the Jungefrau and its surrounding mountains. Taking the steam boat across the Brienz river was pretty cool. I met a couple from Florida who were just here for 4 days to see this amazing hotel in some remote location which is where she got engaged at with her first husband. The lake of Brienz and the lake Thun are possible the most beautiful lakes that I have ever seen; they are a magnificent turquoise colour! To continue the tradition that I seem to have started, I made my host family pancakes and maple syrup for supper. It was thoroughly enjoyed by all, we finished 2 batches! The best part about making pancakes for my host families is that it is not only introducing them to maple syrup but the recipe is a family favourite from my late Grandma Steven! Thursday night and Friday morning I once again packed my bags to head off on my next big adventure! After lunch with the Trauffer family for the last time we said our good-byes and I headed off to Goldingen, with a layover in Luzern. My weekend in Luzern was awesome; unfortunately a little rainy but I didn’t let that stop me! I walked through the old town of Luzern, made friends at my hostel, discovered live music at an Irish pub, went on a city tour, attended the Museum of transportation, checked out the Panoramic Museum and saw the famous Lion Monument. The old town is your typical “old town” with pretty cobble stone streets and old houses, the old town wall and towers where the guards kept watch. Luzern is famous for their old chapel walking bridge that is filled with beautiful paintings, the water tower that is attached to it, and the dying Lion Monument that is carved into the natural rock as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers lost during the French Revolution. My favourite thing about Luzern was actually my time spent in the Irish pub; I met 3 Canadians and made friends with many Irishmen! This was probably the most at home I have felt because almost everyone was speaking English! During my time at the pub I even got to watch a rugby game; this was intense and dangerous because Ireland was playing and the pub was filled with Irishmen yelling at the TV! After a great weekend I once again collected my things and boarded a train to my next destination where I would again cross my fingers and hope that they would easily recognize me! Stay tuned as my next blog post will be up shortly!

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