SHE is the little Swiss girl whose adventures have inspired six books, more than 25 movies and TV series, two stage musicals – and even a couple of computer games.
Heidi, written by Johanna Spyri 140 years ago, was also hugely responsible for creating the romantic and idealistic image of Switzerland that is still widely held today.
At a time when travel was only for the well-heeled, the 1881 children’s book transported families to a whole new world depicted in line drawings of shepherd’s huts in the mountains.
Johanna herself grew up in the Swiss countryside, lived in the city, and then fled into the mountains. Just how much of Heidi is her own story will never really be known.
Because, shortly before her death, the author burned all her diaries and most of her letters. Heidi was, she said simply, “a story for children and also for those who love children”.
It only took a few years from the time the Heidi books were first published for them to become an international success. To date they have been translated into more than 50 languages.
To mark the anniversary, Heidiland – the tourist area where the character lived – is championing a series of hiking trails so that fans can follow, quite literally, in her footsteps.
It was with her grandfather up on the Alps above Maienfeld that Heidi felt safe and secure, and where she felt the pure joy of being, and the hamlet of Maienfeld is a must-see.
“From the friendly village of Maienfeld, a footpath leads through green, wooded corridors to the foot of the heights, which look down on the valley from this side, big and serious,” Spyri wrote.
The hamlet is home to the Original Heidi House – with furnishings as they were in Heidi’s time – and the Johanna Spyri Museum Heididorf, a village and gift shop full of Heidi souvenirs.
It boasts Switzerland’s smallest post office with a special Heididorf postmark so fans can share the love. There’s also the Johanna Spyri Museum in Hirzel, just an hour away by car.
‘In The Footsteps of Heidi & Peter’, a family hike up to the Ochsenberg, better known as Heidialp, begins in the Heididorf.
The first few metres are a little steep, after which it continues with an even, pleasant incline. Rest areas and campfire sites are available along the way.
On the Heidialp is the hut in which Heidi lived very happily with her grandfather, Alpöhi. The hut is still inhabited today by a shepherd, who tends the cattle on the alp and offers visitors regional delicacies.
Holiday region Heidiland stretches from Lake Walen to the Sarganserland and the Bündner Herrschaft. The varied mountain and lake landscape in eastern Switzerland offers a variety of tours for hikers, bikers and e-bikers.
In winter, the two large ski resorts Flumserberg and Pizol also offer numerous opportunities for winter and snowshoe hikers, cross-country skiers and sledders.