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Heidiland: "People are pleased"
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Meinfeld explains its claim
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Peacemaker Jurish Spasher looking for a breakthrough
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Tuesday, 18 August, 1998, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Peace moves in Heidi wars
heidi wars
Two neighbouring Swiss resorts are locked in a bitter dispute over which one has the right to claim the children's heroine Heidi as their own.

At stake for Heidiland and rivals Maienfeld village are pride and rights to the marketing potential of the best-selling classic.

Heidi is a national symbol, representing the feisty spirit of the mountain people and the Swiss love of nature.

Only in the past few years have the Swiss seen the Heidi story, written by Johanna Spyri in 1879, as a source of income.

Heidiland supremo Urs Kamber got in first with his heavily marketed Heidiland Holiday package. It sells an entire region in eastern Switzerland as Heidi's spiritual home.

He said: "A lot of people thought it would be too aggressive. But three years on, after finding we hadn't made it into a new Disneyland, they are very pleased.

"They see that we have a lot more tourists coming here. They are saying 'Okay, maybe it's not so wrong'."

His Heidiland includes a cable-car ride up a Heidi alp where tourists eat a Heidi meal before feeding the Heidi goats and meeting Heidi's grandfather.

Heidiland initiatives include Heidi coins, make-up, bubble bath and, in the pipeline, Heidi chocolate.

Heidi rival

Mr Kamber's rivals across the Heidi valley say it is enough to make the fictional heroine turn in her grave.

Neighbouring Maienfeld, in Graubunden region, also lays claim to the Heidi heritage.

They too offer tourists a Heidi alp, a Heidi trail and a Heidi grandfather, known as Alm-Uncle.

They also say they hold a trump card in the Heidi wars - authenticity.

Tour guide Teresa Ling said: "The first sentence of the book is 'Up the Mountain to Alm-Uncle: In the old and pleasantly situated village of Maienfeld, a footpath winds through green and shady meadows to the foot of the mountain'."

Graubunden Tourism Board has decided to follow Heidiland's lead by cashing in on one of Switzerland's most famous exports, but without the hard sell of its neighbours.

Their 10-minute tour is proving popular, particularly with Japanese tourists struggling to keep to hectic schedules.

Peace moves

During the dark years of Heidi wars the two sides barely spoke to each other but now the two sides are moving to resolve the conflict.

In a diplomatic breakthrough Jurish Spasher, of Graubunden Tourism, is acting as go-between.

He said: "We want to put up some rules of how to deal and act with each other.

"We especially want to put things together in such a way that all of us can benefit from this emotional trademark, Heidi."

If both sides can agree on future rules they both may be able to benefit and, just like the original Heidi story, this chapter may have a happy ending.

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