Hiking to Dörfchen Guscha
near Maienfeld, Switzerland  (June, 2011)
On a bright, warm Sunday afternoon, Irmi and I, accompanied by our friends, Migg and Elisabeth, hiked from a valley floor near
the city of Maienfeld, up a long thirty-percent grade on rutted tracks through deep forest to the tiny village of Guscha high in the
"Falknismassivs."  Signs posted about the area alluded to a connection with the two-part work of fiction, "Heidi," written in 1880
by Swiss Author Johanna Spyri, purporting that Spyri had lived in Guscha for a time and received inspiration for the novel there.
Indeed, a large number of tour buses parked in the valley below, discharging a steady stream of middle-aged passengers clad
in sensible hiking attire intent on trekking to the top, if for no other reason than to take in the splendid view.  When asked about
the veracity of claims that "Heidi" might have been written in Guscha or inspired in part there, Elisabeth and Migg, both of whom
were born and raised nearby, responded with identical shakes of the head.  "Not true," they said, "not even remotely possible."
A rumor whispered often enough can become etched in stone; and, once tourists begin arriving with pockets full of easy money,
asking to see the source, it becomes a lucrative business.  Allow such a practice to exist long enough, and it's difficult to stop.
So, forgetting about Heidi, the four of us climbed to Dörfchen Guscha purely for some honest exercise, fresh air and a fine view.
Having parked the car by the side of this narrow road, we start out on relatively flat land.
Elisabeth is in the foreground, with Ron (left) and Migg (right) leading the way behind her. 
Pausing before the gate to a large "Festung" -- a long tall stone wall that formed a fortress
 against invading armies from the Austrian Empire in the 1400's. (Me, Elisabeth, and Migg)
Uphill, always uphill.  (L to R:  Ron, Elisabeth, Migg).
Ron taking a break on the long climb to the top.
City of Maienfeld in the distant valley.
View of surrounding hills from the top. The small sheds house winter food for animals (cows and sheep).
Irmi and Ron at the "Guschaspitz" (Guscha promontory) -- 1104 meters (3,588 feet).
We wish not to dispel any romantic notions about Heidi and Peter romping through
pristine Alpine meadows, but see those dark spots in the grass?  That's sheep dung.
View down into the valley: a Swiss military facility in foreground, city of Maienfeld in background.
Small mountain stream to the side of the trail.
Among the small cluster of buildings comprising Guscha is a single restaurant.  Here, on the terrace, hikers
partake a quick lunch.  No tour buses here.  Each of these hardy souls made the trek up from the flat lands.
Swinging the camera to the left, the ground beneath the terrace drops away, forming a grand vista.
Ron and Elisabeth in a small, extremely old "Gaststube," literally a bar but more commonly serving simple
food dishes, as well.  Note the brown "Kachel Ofen," a fireplace covered in tile that radiates heat into the
  room (opening for the fire is in another room behind the wall), a mainstay of old German and Swiss homes.
Sweating all the way up, I had been dreaming of the easy return trip. Ha!  Here we begin the long road
back down . . . which simply put strain on a different set of leg muscles, and I sweat almost as much
on the way down as on the climb up; by the time we reached flat land again, my legs were like rubber.
Ron giving his knees a break on the long walk down. 
Passing between the Festung on the left and a more modern structure on the right.
See the plastic drain pipe extending from the Festung?  Pretty advanced for the 15th Century!
Elisabeth and Irmi standing on flat land again. The spot to which we had climbed
lies about halfway up the mountain, among the green band of trees to the left.
Turning one-hundred-eighty degrees, this is the road that will take us home.
A short distance later, we stopped for a cool drink.  Hidden behind the church and large tree
 is a two-story hotel with restaurant where we sat in an outdoor courtyard and gazed up at
 the mountain we had just conquered.  Well, partly conquered.  Okay, one-third conquered.

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