Page 1. " The pretty little Swiss town of Mayenfeld lies at the foot of a mountain range, whose grim rugged peaks tower high above the valley below "
Maienfeld as seen from Wartenstein Castle, Pfäfers
Creative Commons AttributionMaienfeld as seen from Wartenstein Castle, Pfäfers - Credit: Kecko
Falknis mountain
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeFalknis mountain - Credit: Isabel V

 Maienfeld is a small town in the eastern part of Switzerland, in the canton of Graubünden (also known as Grisons).

When Heidi was written, in 1880, there would have been about 1,240 people living there. Today, there are just over 2,500.

The town is overlooked by the Falknis mountain, which is part of the Rätikon range.

Cantons of Switzerland
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCantons of Switzerland - Credit: User:Ojw














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Page 1. " trudging uphill on a pair of hobnailed boots "
Hobnailed boots
GNU Free Documentation LicenseHobnailed boots - Credit: Anthony Appleyard

Hobnails are short nails with chunky heads.

Hobnailed boots have hobnails fitted onto their soles to give a grip on rocky ground or on snow. They sometimes also have a horseshoe-shaped piece of iron on the heel, and a metal toe-cap.

Click here to see another picture of hobnailed boots


Page 1. " the little village of Dörfli, half way up the mountain "
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeHeidihaus - Credit: Roland Zumbühl of Picswiss

The village of Dörfli is a fictional creation.  Johanna Spyri was probably thinking of one of the small hamlets on the mountainside above Maienfeld. One such hamlet is Ober-Rofels, which is now known as Heididorf (Heidi's village).

At Heididorf, one of the old houses has been made into a museum called Heidihaus (Heidi's house). Visitors can see models of some of the characters from the book. They are also offered some idea of what it would have been like to live in a Swiss alpine home over one hundred years ago. The whole of the area associated with Heidi has been given the name Heidiland.

It has also been suggested that Johanna Spyri may have based Dörfli on a village called Jenins which she visited as a child.



Jenins in 2008
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJenins in 2008 - Credit: Adrian Mitchell




Page 3. " A wonderful job with a good family in Frankfurt "

Frankfurt is a city in the southwestern part of Germany. The river which flows through its centre is called the Main. In 1910 there were about 414,000 people living in the city.  Today there are about 704,000.

It is sometimes known as Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt on Main) so as not to confuse it with Frankfurt (Oder), a town in northeast Germany.


Kaiserplatz, Frankfurt am Main (between 1890 and 1905)
Public DomainKaiserplatz, Frankfurt am Main (between 1890 and 1905) - Credit: Photoglob AG, Zürich or Detroit Publishing Company


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Page 3. " Last summer they stayed in the hotel at Ragaz where I've been working as chambermaid "
Bad Ragaz (between 1860 and 1890)
Public DomainBad Ragaz (between 1860 and 1890) - Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

Ragaz, now usually called Bad Ragaz, is a small town about a mile (2 km) from Maienfeld (see bookmark p.1). It lies at the foot of the Pizol mountain and is in the canton of St. Gallen (which is marked SG on the map of the cantons).

From 1840 onwards, thermal water (water which is naturally warm and rich in minerals) was piped to Bad Ragaz from the spring at Pfäfers just a short distance away. Bad Ragaz then became well known as a health spa. Several luxury hotels, such as the Grand Hotel Quellenhof, were built to accommodate visitors to the spa.

When Heidi was written in 1880, there were just under 2,000 people living in Bad Ragaz.








Cantons of Switzerland
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCantons of Switzerland - Credit: User:Ojw

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Page 4. " She came from Prättigau, further down the valley "
Prättigau is the name of a valley in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. It is a popular area for skiing, sledging and walking and contains many picturesque villages such as Saas im Prättigau.  Klosters, the world-famous ski resort, is also in the Prättigau valley.
Saas in Prättigau
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSaas im Prättigau - Credit: Adrian Mitchell
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Page 4. " And then, why was he always called 'Uncle Alp'? "
Mountain pasture in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMountain pasture in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland - Credit: Kim Hansen

Heidi has been translated from the original German into many other languages. It has been translated more than once into English, and different translators have used different words and phrases. In some versions of  Heidi, 'Uncle Alp' is called 'Alm-Uncle'.

Both 'alp' and 'alm' are German words for high mountain pastures where animals are taken to graze in the summer.

Page 5. " He and my mother both came from Domleschg "

The Domleschg valley is in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. The main village in the valley is called Thusis.


Thusis (between 1890 and 1900)
Public DomainThusis (between 1890 and 1900) - Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

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Page 7. " it came out that he had joined the army and was in Naples "
Colonel of the 2nd Swiss Regiment in the service of the Kingdom of Naples (c. 1850)
Public DomainColonel of the 2nd Swiss Regiment in the service of the Kingdom of Naples (c. 1850) - Credit: A. di Lorenzo
Kingdom of Naples in 1810
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeKingdom of Naples in 1810 - Credit: Eltharion

Prior to 1848, individual Swiss cantons had their own armies. After that date, the armies from the cantons were made into one central army.

Up until 1874, Swiss soldiers sometimes served as merceneries in European battles. They were involved in conflicts in the Kingdom of Naples in southern Italy from 1731 onwards, and had four regiments stationed there during the middle part of the 19th century. On the map, Regno di Napoli is the Kingdom of Naples. The city of Naples is marked as Napoli.

Page 8. " Tobias was apprenticed to a carpenter in Mels "

Mels is a small town in the canton of St. Gallen not far from Maienfeld (see bookmark p.1). In 1900, there were just over 4,000 people living there. Today, there are almost 8,000.


View from St. Martin, a hamlet above Mels
Creative Commons AttributionView from St. Martin, a hamlet above Mels - Credit: Kecko

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Page 8. " the pastor told him he ought to do penance to clear his conscience "
Swiss Reformed Church at Jenins in the canton of Graubünden
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSwiss Reformed Church at Jenins in the canton of Graubünden - Credit: Xenos

In Switzerland, a pastor is a minister in the Protestant Church.

Christianity was the main religion in Switzerland during the period in which Heidi was written, and remains so today. Christians in Switzerland may be either Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Until 1920, the Protestant churches as a group were known as the Swiss Reformed Church. Since 1920, they have been known as the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches.

The picture on the left is the Swiss Reformed church at Jenins. It has been suggested that Jenins may be the model for the village of Dörfli.

Page 9. " I wanted to get a job in the town, so I took Heidi up to Pfäffersdorf "

The 'town' is Bad Ragaz (see bookmark p.3).

Pfäffersdorf, now usually called Pfäfers, is a village a short distance from Bad Ragaz. It is the site of the Tamina gorge where there is a hotwater spring which supplies thermal water to Bad Ragaz.

Originally, visitors could bathe in the hot spring water at Pfäfers itself. From the 13th century onwards, monks from the Benedictine monastery in the village took advantage of the healing powers of the water, and a special bath-house was built in 1704.

The spa at Pfäfers, called Bad Pfäfers, was the first spa established in Switzerland.


The monastery church at Pfäfers
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe monastery church at Pfäfers - Credit: Roland Zumbuehl

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Page 10. " This was Peter the goatherd's home "
'Boy with goat in landscape' (1858)
Public Domain'Boy with goat in landscape' (1858) - Credit: Rudolf Koller

A goatherd is a person who takes care of goats.

In Switzerland it is a tradition that animals graze on the high mountain pastures in the summer. This means that farmers either move to the higher ground to live during the summer or that they employ a herdsman.

In Heidi, Peter is employed to look after the goats during the summer months but goes to school during the winter.

Page 21. " then sat himself down on a three-legged stool "
Three-legged stool
Public DomainThree-legged stool - Credit: Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810-1896)

Three-legged stools are traditionally used when milking cows and other animals.

They are said to be less wobbly to sit on than four-legged stools.





Page 21. " and blew up the fire with the bellows till it was red and glowing "
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBellows - Credit: Audriusa
Public DomainBellows - Credit: Jongleur 100

Bellows are used to pump air into a fire so that it burns more brightly.

Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBellows - Credit: Wolfgang Sauber


Page 22. " he put a large piece of cheese on a toasting fork "

A toasting fork is a long-handled fork. It is used for toasting food, especially bread, in front of an open fire.

Click here and here to see pictures of toasting forks.