Around the World in Words: Switzerland

Chocolates, knives, and Carl Jung. These typically come to mind when I think of Switzerland. Another inevitable conjuring is Heidi, the girl of the Alps whose story I’ve known since I was a young girl. I used to watch the animated TV series, and the theme song inevitably pops into my head (and gets stuck there) when I think of her.

However, I don’t know that I ever read the book upon which the numerous series and movies are based, so my reading challenge seemed like the perfect time for it. Many know the timeless tale: Heidi the orphan is sent to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps when there is no one left to care for her. Although said grandfather is something of a grouch, living in the Alps to get away from people and their foibles, Heidi soon melts his icy heart.

It’s a sweet story, centering around a feisty but faithful heroine, and celebrating the vivifying freshness of a simple life lived among the Alpine peaks. The author, Johanna Spyri, spent time in such settings in her own life, hence their inspiration upon her stories.

A somewhat Swiss author writing in a completely different vein was Herman Hesse – somewhat Swiss, because he was German-born. I’ve only read his novel Der Steppenwolf, but a few more of his titles are on my shelf, waiting to be consumed. A while back I discovered that my great-great-grandfather was called Herman Hesse, but a study of the timelines revealed that he was not the famed author.

Someone who seems to find himself in Switzerland quite often is James Bond. 007 frequently has one rendezvous or another in Switzerland; and, of course, Bond girl #1 Honey Ryder was played by Swiss actress Ursula Andress.

The British secret agent wasn’t the only one with a tendency to end up in Switzerland. Think of the von Trapp family at the end of The Sound of Music, Jason Bourne in the beginning of The Bourne Identity, or the Swiss village Grindelwald posing as Princess Leia’s home planet Alderaan in Star Wars: Episode III. It seems, however, that I haven’t watched Swiss films set in Switzerland, bar the occasional Heidi adaptation. I may need to start a cinematic exploration.

“The happiest of all things is when an old friend comes and greets us as in former times; the heart is comforted with the assurance that some day everything that we have loved will be given back to us.” – Johanna Spyri

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