Living in 1800s Heidi Hut in Jura Mountains Switzerland

Heidi Hut in Jura Mountains SwitzerlandSurviving in our rustic little chalet chiseled out of the side of the Jura Mountains, a few miles from the French border, is challenging as we adjust to living in the 1800s.

In the morning I shiver under my duvet, while Gerald cleans out ashes and then starts a fire in our burning stove, which holds two, foot long logs at a time and provides our main heat.Heidi Hut in Jura Mountains Switzerland

From the outside our chalet looks cute, but inside I feel like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Nothing fits. I bump into furniture and hit my head on low hanging beams. The Swiss were short especially at the turn of the century.

A stone wall divides the main room, the size of box car, into a kitchen and living area. Our refrigerator is the size of one like in a college dormitory. Ditto for the freezer squeezed under the stairwell.

Fortunately, we have indoor plumbing at least downstairs. Our water closet, the size of a telephone booth, is as cold as an out house. If you perch too long on the porcelain stool, which feels like squatting on a block of ice, you end up chiseling icicles from your bottom.

Heidi Hut in Jura Mountains SwitzerlandThe staircase, so steep and narrow, must be navigated sideways and leads to 2 bedrooms. In our bedroom, the antique armoires are too narrow to hang things, so I rolled up our clothes and stored them in baskets under our bed.

Knotty pine walls and a wood beamed ceiling make it cozy. Two shuttered windows overlook the little red train track, where a 2 car train shuttles workers, skiers, hikers up and down from the mountains to Nyon in the valley.

The other room upstairs, used as a make shift office, has a bunkbed piled with junk awaiting our move. Between the rooms an open area with a ladder, gives access to an attic that we never enter for fear of stirring up ghosts or wild animals.

Upstairs, lacks plumbing. I cannot safely navigate the stairs a dozen times a night to the bathroom. Instead, I use a porta potty balancing on a crate in the closet sized nook at the top of the stairs. The seat, sized to accommodate a toddler’s butt, is so tiny, I fear I’ll tumble head first down stairs every time I pee.

Like in Laura Ingall’s Little House on the Prairie, in order to survive the winter, a local lumberjack dropped a truckload of timber outside our door. We stack 3 cords, a ton and half, of wood in precise neat piles like Jenga blocks. Now I understand why Swiss make wood piles so tidy. It’s to keep them from rolling down the mountainside.

Chores are endless living in the past century. Like laundry. I wash 5 articles at a time in our miniature machine. Then like pancakes on a griddle, I flip socks, long johns and t-shirts on racks in front of the wood burning stove.

We don’t have a phone line or TV, but we can access Netflix - limited over here - so we watch any international series available. We followed Scandinavian murder mysteries, Spanish dramas, Italian comedies. Last night, so desperate for entertainment, we tuned into an Egyptian soap opera with French subtitles.

But when I wake up in the morning and throw open my shutters, the view of sun rising above the evergreen covered mountainside is inspiring.

Part of the reason for moving here was for this… to drop right down smack dab in nature when walk outside our door.

We are living in a scene from Heidi.

The only way we could get closer to nature would be by camping out. Sometimes I think we are.

Posted in humor, travel.


  1. Are you yodeling every morning now, too?! Quite an adventure! Being short, I’d have a bit easier time of it, and I like sleeping in the cold. That’s why I always choose the porch up at the lake. I miss that place! Hope your build moves along more swiftly. Be well. Keep enjoying those positives! This too shall pass…and it’s been fodder for another tale!:

    • Thanks Sheila. Yes, I think you would fit in this place better than I do. Me, I can’t wait to enjoy the spacious, luxury of the Lake Lodge & I also think the porch is the best spot there. You feel like you are sleeping outside without the bugs!

  2. Well, Pat, kudos to you for attempting something like this. However, I’m not sure even a glorious view would be sufficient to keep me in a tiny 1800s domicile! Perhaps I’m just too used to being spread out in the middle of the U.S., surrounded by corn and soybean fields, with bird choruses at all hours of the day and evening! Oh, and central heating and air, along with adult-sized plumbing fixtures, ha!

    • Oh dear Debbie, your description does make me miss all the simple beauty of the midwest, not to mention all the modern conveniences especially as you say adult size plumbing fixtures! I didn’t even write about the 2 minute shower limit here. After 2 minutes our shower runs cold!!!

  3. I’ve got to hand it to you for your perseverance. Not sure I could handle the cramped corners. I need my space. I can just picture you poised on your portable potty during the night trying not to fall down the stairs. Too funny. But you always find a way to find the best in every situation. Kudos to you. Hopefully it won’t be much longer. At least not another winter.

    • Oh Tina, my nerves are shot! We just found out the delays are so bad, it will be another winter until our place is finished. Nine different families are moving into the 3 triplexes and each one of them have been guaranteed a different final date for move in and all of them are wrong.

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