Switzerland: Maienfeld

Side view of Heidi's home

Growing up we watched an animation called ‘Heidi’ nearly every day. I fell head over heels in love with Switzerland, wishing that one day I can experience an ounce of this beauty that Heidi called home.

As soon as I could read I immersed myself in Johanna Spyri‘s Heidi over and over, dreaming about the snow-covered Alps basking in the sunshine. I never actually thought that I would even leave South Africa, never mind see Switzerland!

I am so privileged to have family all over the world. My uncle, auntie and cousin moved to Switzerland many years ago. Then I moved to England and, as they say, the rest is history!

Since Switzerland is literally just a hop over the pond from England it is natural that I had to go and visit.

Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine the actual beauty of Switzerland. As we were driving I knew instinctively why Johanna Spyri wrote about the Swiss Alps. I finally understood Heidi’s longing for her beloved mountains.

From a distance the Alps looks as if it has been painted with vivd watercolours onto the liquid, pale blue horizon. Each grass blade has been carefully drawn in place by an Artist’s hand. Just like in the animation series and in each movie I have seen, you can hear the distinctive clong-clong of the bells around the cows’ necks as they graze along the dusky green pastures. The fresh mountain air gives you a sense of happiness and excitement that is difficult to describe.

For years I only saw Maienfeld and Dörfli in my minds eye, through the very accurate descriptions and observations of Johanna Spyri. It was just like she has described it – the sounds, the smells, the feel… And now I’m finally here.

I knew her home was tiny, but she really did live in a shoe box. I loved seeing how the museum curators recreated the kitchen, complete with homemade bread rolls and melty cheese. Her bedroom was so interesting! Her teeny tiny bed in the loft was only an oversized wooden crate stuffed with hay and covered with a sheet… The sweet smell of the hay rose into my nostrils as the sun’s rays gently caressed my cheeks as it danced through the circular window opening.

“And on the floor of a goatherd’s hut there are all sorts of things that do not belong to a dress.”

Johanna Spyri

Downstairs the goat shed was exactly as how I imagined! In my minds eye I can hear Schwanli and Baerli’s happy bleats as Heidi and her friend Peter takes them deeper into the mountain for a day full of fun.

As our exploration of Heidi’s tiny home came to an end I couldn’t help but think about how she felt when she had to leave this simple, but beautiful little oasis. Hopefully we will soon return, just like Heidi did to her beloved mountains…

Saying good night to the mountains, the sun throws his most beautiful rays to them, that they may not forget him till the morning.

Johanna Spyri

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