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In praise of Heidi

Heidi's grandfather poses with one of his goats in front of the "Heidi House"


A series of special events and attractions in eastern Switzerland this year are bringing the story of Heidi back to life. 2001 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of writer Johanna Spyri who created Heidi.

Spyri wrote Heidi (originally "Heidi's Years of Apprenticeship and Travel") in 1880, and it became an immediate best seller. Over the intervening decades, about 50 million copies in about 50 languages have been sold.

In recent years, Heidi's popularity led to a dispute between St Moritz and the region around Bad Ragaz. Both wanted the exclusive right to the name, "Heidiland".

St Moritz allowed the Bad Ragaz region to use the name, and now both tourist offices, as well as offices in other parts of eastern Switzerland, are hoping to cash in on "Heidi Year".

Heidi fans can follow the "Johanna Spyri Trail" between the villages of Jenins and Maienfeld in "Heidiland". It was during a stay in Jenins that Spyri came up with the idea for the story.

Maienfeld is home to the "original" Heidi house and the village is also the starting point for a five-hour trek up to the Heidi Alp (summer only).

There is also a Heidi Flower Trail in St Moritz, where the producers of a popular Swiss television series on Heidi placed the orphan - unwittingly among the glitzy resort's jet set.

A new Heidi film is due for release in the spring. The Swiss scenes were shot in Switzerland, but the girl playing Heidi is German, who may have felt more at home in Frankfurt than Spyri's homesick character.

The regional Rhaetian Railway is also getting in on the act. "Heidi's Switzerland" is a five-day excursion through eastern and southeastern Switzerland, even though the girl herself, with the exception of her trip to Frankfurt, wasn't well travelled.

Special exhibitions focussing on Heidi and Spyri are being organised at the museum Strauhof and the Jugendbuch Institute in Zurich, and at the Johanna Spyri museum in Hirzel in canton Zurich - the author's place of birth. (Each exhibition begins mid-May).



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