Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heidi's Home

Have you read the children's book Heidi? When we were little, I read Heidi every fall for a few years, curling up with the book and a bowl of crackers and cheese to tide me over the first delicious chapter. I loved how different her life on the mountain was from our low country marsh and water world, and I'd get sniffily every time I read about her trip to Frankfurt and how she longed for her home and for her grandfather and friends. Thanks to log cabin replicas, I thought I had a good idea about the mountain hut she lived in, but I grew up wondering what her alp and the view from her window might really look like.


My sister moved to Switzerland ten years ago, and since then we've spent many of our holidays there, exploring Zurich and the mountains nearby. But I'd never been to Heidiland, so on the last day of our Easter trip we decided to go visit the mountains where Johanna Spyri gave Heidi a home. Caroline is just the right age for an introduction, and it would give us a chance for one last walk before we headed back to Prague.

Heidi's alp is south-east of Zurich, very close to the border of Lichtenstein and not far from the most western tip of Austria. The mountains here are toothy and steep, and jut up from the river and the valley with no knee-high hills to soften their edges. We drove off the highway from Chur, and in less than five minutes were heading directly up hill through Maienfeld and then past orchards and up to the Dorfli, the small hamlet where Heidi's Aunt Deet and mother were sprung from.

Dorfli, renamed Heididorf, is now a collection of mountain houses with nice cars in the driveway and beautiful, postage stamp gardens. Behind the houses, heading up the slope yet again, stands a small museum, a goat pasture and a house modeled after Heidi's grandfather's hut. Caroline was enraptured with the hut, and she went searching about the rooms to find a few of the grandfather's three legged stools, to climb up the ladder into Heidi's bedroom and best of all, to sit on Heidi's bed and feel the hay mattress.

When we left the hut, we visited the goats, who were having a slow day napping in their shed. They perked up when they saw visitors with goat feed and one handily jumped the fence to beg for his share. He ate the bag too, in a last moment spurt of gluttony. Then it was time to head back to our cars and wend our way to the highway (this time through back roads that took us through more orchards, a Swiss military encampment and many small, nearly empty, villages.) As we drove, I read Caroline the first few chapters of Heidi. We have been reading Heidi every night since.

Our copy is a new edition we picked up at the museum for Caroline. While we were there I also bought some postcards of Heidi illustrations. When Will asked me who they were for, I said, for Kolo readers of course!! So if you've followed me this far down the page, and would like a postcard of a Heidi scene, I have three to mail away. I'll do a random pick on Friday, just leave a comment, and let me know your email address if I don't have it already.

Photo by Julia@kolo. Illustrations by Maria Kirk, from The Project Gutenberg Ebook of Heidi.

17 comments:

Ellen said...

I love the Heidi illustrations! Am guessing that book is no longer published?

Julia said...

It isn't, but as the copyright has expired I could get it reprinted for you! (Though the images would not be high res, ah well.)

bouncyczech said...

The air always seemed clean and crisp when I was reading that book.

Julia said...

The air is clean and crisp. As you drive up from the valley you leave any fog or smog behind and the sun comes out. It was so bright that day, it was actually hard to take good photographs!

Barrett Bonden said...

For some elderly Americans and one rather older green-card-carrying foreigner, Heidi has another resonance. During the last quarter of a thrilling NFL game, the NY Jets led by Joe Namath were mounting a staunch come-back (it may have been the year they won the Super Bowl) when the screen went blank and then, as scheduled, the credit titles for a new version of Heidi started rolling. Oh the acid comments by predominantly male sports commentators the following day.

Julia said...

The Heidi Game, Nov 17, 1968! I found some of it on youtube just now, including David Brinkley's apology the next day. Who knew?

poppy fields said...

My girls would love to visit Heididorf.

Eleanor said...

Caroline sat on Heide's bed!!??!! Life simply doesn't get much better than that!! I'm BUMMED that when I was in Switzerland (many years ago now) I didn't know about that museum.

I'd love to be in the draw for the postcards. How wonderful that you thought of all of us on your trip.

Bebe said...

So much fun!! We will have to read Heidi next. Mamie Grace would love that. She would also love a postcard from C telling about her trip. Miss you guys. Have you made summer plans regarding C yet? We need to talk.

countrypeapie said...

What a wonderful trip! Love that toothy mountain.

Jess said...

I love your guided tours - it never occurred to me that you could visit "Heidi's" house. I loved the books as a child but I haven't reread them - my copy has the Jessie Wilcox Smith illustrations (I just flipped through and got all nostalgic). And you know I love postcards - your last one is gracing my fridge at the moment!

eurolush said...

What a wonderful day! I remember reading Heidi as a child and dreaming of that mountain view.

Maybe we need to include this outing on our visit to Switzerland, too...

Thanks for sharing!

BabelBabe said...

I wonder if my 8yo boy would enjoy Heidi. My copy is falling apart, having been read to death in my childhood. Thanks for the gorgeous mountain view - I cant imagine waking up to that every morning. Lucky Heidi! I feel a rereading coming on....

Joan said...

I remember driving through there as a teenager and thinking it all looked like a postcard. It was incredibly beautiful. Loved Heidi as a kid.

I wish I'd known ahead so I could tell you to go, but my niece and her husband just played in Prague. Their band is Handsome Furs. They had a wonderful time.

Julia said...

Joan,
The poor guys got caught up in a last minute edict by City Hall calling for a noise ban at one of Prague's most popular rock venues, so they had to move locations. I heard about the ordinance in the news but didn't know your niece was involved!

joan said...

My niece is Alexei Perry. They are having the time of their lives. She has been emailing travel reports and is a good writer.

alice c said...

We have distant cousins who live a Heidi life in the French Alps. In the summer they live in a tiny chalet surrounded by cows with bells. You have to walk through the meadows to reach it and climb a ladder to go to bed. It truly felt as though we had fallen through the cover of Heidi and landed on the pages.