“I want to go about like the light-footed goats.”
― Johanna Spyri, Heidi
I had the privilege to walk in my childhood hero’s footsteps. Heidi.
Heidi has always been a symbol of everything I was in my youth. Wild, kind, wise, living by my own inner instinct. What an incredible marvelous experience visiting her world in the heart of the Bündner Herrschaft region, next to the beautiful town called Maienfeld.
I stayed at the lovely Heidihof, but getting there was quite the ordeal. First of all I stepped off the train onto the Maienfeld platform 3 pm on Sunday afternoon with no WiFi and no idea where to go next and a suitcase that weighed half of me. Nothing goes on in that town on a Sunday afternoon. Close by was a board with directions, but seeing as my suitcase has been pulled around on cobblestones streets for two and half weeks already, I feared for those little wheels. They went from strong and round to a very odd square shape that now just looked warn.
Close by was a big beautiful curvy women manning a kiosk stand. I asked her for help and she was so incredibly kind. Not only did she call me a taxi, she also handed me a Solero – my absolute favourite summer treat. (I’m not getting paid to say this!)
On the drive up the hill to Heidihof I thanked the Lord that I did not attempt to walk all that way with my suitcase. My room had a beautiful view of the alps and gorgeous sketches of Heidi’s life on the wall. My windows opened onto an expanding balcony and I drank in the beauty surrounding me. Then I went inside and put my face underneath ice cold running water. I visited in the middle of a heatwave.
It was not long before I set out to drink mountain water from the icy cold Heidi fountain.
I visited the Heidi museum, visited the original Heidi house, saw Heidi’s winter house that is now a private property, sat at the table Heidi and her Grandfather ate at, climbed up to her bedroom and sent postcards to my family at the worlds smallest post office. This anything but little adventure has put Heidi’s story into a whole new perspective for me when I saw all the people in wheelchairs who set out to visit this village. I realized what a beacon of hope Clara was for those who had dreams to one day walk again. Heidi was not the only hero of this story.
I set out to walk up Heidi’s alp, the place where she and Peter spend most of their childhood. The place she longed for so dearly when she was sent to Frankfurt and it was breathtakingly beautiful.
Early the next morning I did the entire hike and tour all over again. Who can sleep in this heat anyway? I am still thanking myself for that decision. It was as awe inspiring the second time around. While I was sipping ice cold water from the fountain I heard Afrikaans (my mother tongue) spoken behind me. The older couple was first shocked silent when I answered them back in Afrikaans, and then delighted. The women grabbed my hands and pulled me down onto a bench next to her. She told me their entire life story and then asked about my travels and all the amazing places I’ve been and seen. At long last I hugged them, missing the warmth of my South African people, and made my way back to the hotel again where coffee and croissants were waiting.
For those who are not familiar with Heidi’s story I recommend reading the book. It is a winner at any age and it is a true story. The best part? She married Peter in real life and they had four children. It is a story about trusting your wild, it is a story about second chances and transformation and meeting people and loving them where they are at in their story. It is about Heidi spending so much of the first part of her life wondering and learning, and then using what she learned with that childlike wonder to soften hearts and change lives.
The alps still make me feel small and majestic all at once. I will be back.
The South African Heidi