As we were descending the beautiful Swiss mountain path, we ran into three, black and grey goats with bells around their necks grazing on the Alpine grasses. “Look Mom, It’s Schwinnley, and Snowball.” I smiled because my 12 year-old son had been less than excited to listen to the children’s book Heidi. But, I as we walked through the breathtaking paths of Switzerland, he continued to mention Clara, grandfather, Heidi and the grandmother. He had been just as affected by the beauty of the book as I had been. Before visiting Switzerland, when planning your trip with your family to Europe, make sure to read Heidi by Johanna Spyri with your children. It will transform your visit.
As I climbed and gasped for breath, I thought about the sheer physical strength involved for a young boy to hike the goats up to the meadow each day. And then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a family moving their cows and goats up the trail. The Dad and the children, all working together with sticks in hand. They ran after the strays under the backdrop of the beautiful mountains. I felt a little like Heidi who said, “I want to go about like the light-footed goats,” playing in the carefree meadows.
During the hike, I noticed how therapeutically quiet the ambiance of the Alps is. I thought of how lonely it must have been for a young boy to pass the days alone up here. It finally made sense why he missed his friend Heidi when she had gone away.
I tasted the goat cheese that sick Clara had ate to help make her well. It was rich and nourishing, and I thought about how delicious it must have tasted to a girl who had been stuck in bed for most of her life.
Reading Heidi before visiting Switzerland will make your senses come alive up in the simpler mountain life. You eye catches the mountain huts, your ears hear the sounds of the water melting off the mountains, and your mouth tastes the dandelion jam made by a local woman-all focusing your sense to the right now. The purple, blue, and yellow flowers growing freely on the hills decorate the hillside nicely. Up in the mountains there’s a different kind of life: a life, where you notice the wind moving the trees. A life where God feels closer. A place where you want to say, “If I spend every moment, for the rest of my days, thanking God for all his goodness to us, that would still not be enough.” All these things reminded me of the simple life Heidi had with her grandfather.
It was getting late and our day in the mountains was ending. I thought of Heidi talking to her grandfather about the colors of the sun setting. I heard her grandfather telling her that, “It is the sun that did it. When he says goodnight to the mountains he throws his most beautiful colors over them, so they may not forget him before he comes again the morning.”
On your own European adventure, go to Switzerland. You will fall win love with the beauty of the mountains. But, before visiting Switzerland go read Heidi. You will be looking for Goat Peter on every corner.