We booked a two-night stay at Balmers Hostel, a ginormous campus with capacity to house over 200. We have lodged in many hostels over the years, but in our experience, a hostel is typically a lower-end hotel room on the 15th floor (exaggerating). Well, let me assure you, Balmers is a legit hostel. What exactly does this mean, you ask?

Two words says it all—“shared” and “noise.” Have you ever stayed in a large house with 6-8 young adults in each room, talking, laughing, screaming, and slamming doors for hours into the night when you are trying to sleep? (I am sort of being a bit dramatic here. We had WONDERFUL conversations with some of these kids and would stay here again 🙂

Oh, and did I mention that OUR, did I just say “our?” Silly me. The two bathrooms adjacent to our 10 x 12 room, are ANYONE’S toilets, and those showers next to the toilets  ARE ANYONE’S shower. Get the picture?


Anyways, the day we arrived, an older adult, maybe in his 70s, walked through one of the hostel rooms we were occupying and said “hi,” commanding a presence that seemed to be associated with some level of authority.  Well, Erich definitely aired this.   

Later that afternoon on the patio, as we were attempting to blog, but distracted by all of the goings on around us, we observed Erich interacting with everyone in the outdoors area. At one point, he brought us waffle cookies (Balmer-wrapped), and gave us a 1974 Swiss penny and said, “This is your lucky coin.”

After about an hour, we watched Erich bring a parade of a celebrators to the hostel, coax a young couple–dressed in their wedding garb, into his three-wheeler golf cart, revved the engine and lit the moment with his Swiss folk music blaring while he took off like a shot. We were learning about this person, Erich. He immerses himself in other’s values and brings “life” to the hostel.


It doesn’t end there. When he returned after parading the newlyweds down the center of town, he walked over to us and asked how we ended up at Balmers. That led to his learning that we were celebrating 50 years of marriage—after which, he went down on one knee, and snapped a picture of Rick and me.

But there’s more. Erich got up and said, “I’ve got an idea. Go put your stuff away.” And so we did.

We met Erich outside while he was opening the back doors of his 3-wheeler, with a “get in! I have a surprise for you.” Rick and I exchanged a look at this point. No telling what he had up his sleeve.

So Erich drove us around town, up and down some mountainous, forestry areas and pulled in to the entrance of some underground facility; all the while, Eric is chuckling, and chattering somewhat to himself (we couldn’t hear what he was saying because of the reverberation of said music).

We pulled up to what looked like an underground facility. He unlocked  the door, and said, “I have been responsible for this since I was 6 years old.” We had no idea what we were about to see—with a few snippets of Erich, we were a bit uneasy—ha. Here’s what we saw:


He has maintained, developed, sourced, marketed, stored, and cared for 1000s of manually made Swiss Alp cheese, aged anywhere from 2 to 25 years, weighing 25-40kg per wheel. The temperature is maintained via the cave’s underground insulation, and fans, with a variance of 1-2 degrees.

This was beyond STUNNING and FASCINATING in so many ways!


It was astonishing—but Erich’s joy in sharing this part of his life was infectious, and we were so honored to have shared this with him. ALSO, he sent home wedges of cheese—one for each of our kids, and one for the youngest grandchild. Says a lot about Erich.


It was so unbelievably memorable, to have had the privilege of  stepping into someone else’s passions, through their own eyes AND to have invested so many years in the process. So admirable!

 Thank you, Erich, for the gift that we will never forget. 

8 thoughts on “A BEAUTIFUL GIFT

  1. Well this is certainly a one of a kind experience! This must have been a highlight of your day today! And I bet the cheese is delicious!

    1. Haven’t tasted it yet–all wrapped up (like you buy it in the store) and knew it would be easier to transport home 🙂 It’s gonna be DELISH!!!So sweet that he sent some for our “kids” and one for the youngest grandchild!

  2. Oh my WORD! This is SO AWESOME! Those pictures say it all! Cheese heaven! Makes my mouth water! What a gift to have that experience! God is so good!

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