BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Saturday, 7 July, 2001, 05:53 GMT 06:53 UK
Swiss celebrate Heidi centenary
Swiss lake
Heidi loved the great Swiss outdoors
By Emma Jane Kirby

Switzerland is in full celebration mode this weekend, remembering one of the world's most popular fictional characters.

The story of Heidi, the orphaned little Swiss girl who lived in the Alps with her grandfather, has never been out of print since it was first published 120 years ago.

It has now sold 50 million copies worldwide and is available in 50 different languages.

Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Heidi¿s creator, Johanna Spyri, and tourists are flocking to Heidi's hometown of Maienfeld near the German border to pay their respects on what¿s being called "Heidi Day".

Theme park

But anyone seeking the original Heidi, who was a nature loving little girl with strong Christian beliefs and a distaste for material goods, may be forgiven for wondering if they have come to the right place.

Johanna Spyri's tomb
Johanna Spyri died 100 years ago
Heidi Village is not quite a theme park but its certainly not the sleepy little village of Dorfli that Heidi grew up in.

The grandfather's hut still nestles in the fir trees on the mountainside - but no visitor is expected to barefoot it up there as Heidi did.

The modern tourist can hitch a ride on the Heidi wagon.

What's more, the Grandfather himself has shunned his surly, hermit ways and now positively enjoys showing visitors around his hut, complete with the little straw bed where Heidi slept in the hayloft.

He teaches them how to milk Dusky and Daisy, his two pet goats, and sometimes he will even offer tourists a glass of Heidi wine and a slice of Heidi pizza.

Booming economy

Johannes Spyri herself might also be a little stunned to see what globalisation has done to her homespun little heroine.

But she would no doubt be pleased that Heidi - and the tourism she has spawned - is making money for the local community.

Spyri herself originally began writing the book with the noble aim of earning money with which to help the wounded refugees returning from the Franco-Prussian war in 1871.

Since the Maienfeld region changed its marketing strategy four years ago to promote its Heidi heritage, the number of overnight tourists has increased by 15%.

But the local people of Maienfeld are tired of Heidi.

They feel they have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt, and the pen, and the fridge magnet, and the snow shake, and the phone card.

And yes, even the Heidi cheese.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

18 Aug 98 | Europe
Peace moves in Heidi wars
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories