Plastic tourist doll wearing traditional ethnic dress, in a style similar to a dirndl. Her costume consists of a white blouse, red felt vest with silver applique, long black skirt, and blue Alpine apron. The maiden is wearing a black felt folk hat with gold-colored applique of rickrack. The bonnet is tied with black ribbon. Her black hair is fashioned into two long side braids. A sticker with the emblem of Liechtenstein is attached to her skirt. For more information about the culture in Liechtenstein, read the story.
Main language: German
Currency: Swiss Franc
Height in Centimeters: 15
Height in Inches: 6
Reading Level: 5.20
My name is Gretchen, and I live in Liechtenstein. My country is very small. It’s only 4 miles wide and 16 miles long. That’s smaller than most cities! We are surrounded by Switzerland and Austria, and our official language is German.
I have been skiing on the mountains in Liechtenstein ever since I was six years old. It was my mother who bought my first pair of skis and pushed me down an incline of snow. I can remember how I tried to stay upright using my ski poles as braces against the slippery slopes. Each time I got to the bottom of the slope, I turned around, walked back up to where my mother was waiting, and started down the mountain again.
Many times I would slip and fall on my way down the mountain. With each fall, my mother would shout, “Gretchen, you get yourself right up and start again.” I was cold, I was sore, and I was tired. But not once did my mother allow me to quit until the skiing lesson was over. She showed me how to balance and how to dodge in and out of the gates in front of me. She demonstrated how to lean into the turns so I could go faster.
On our way home from the practice session, we stopped at the market to buy some cheese and sausage. Mr. Fritz, the storekeeper, asked me how my skiing lessons were progressing. I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Mommy is a very tough coach.” He smiled at me and replied, “If you ever hope to be as great as Hanni Wenzel, you will have to practice hard.” I chuckled at the thought of being compared with Hanni.
Hanni Wenzel is a legend in Liechtenstein. Hanni’s family moved to Liechtenstein when she and her brother were little. Mother says that Hanna actually practiced on the same slopes that I am practicing on now! When Hanni was 18 years old, she became the Slalom World Champion. A slalom is a speed race where the skier has to zig-zag down a hill, passing gates that make up the course. It takes great skill and strength to be able to succeed in these races.
In 1980, Hanni was the first person from Liechtenstein to win a gold medal at the Olympics. She won two gold medals that year and one silver. She became an instant hero for our country. Her brother also won a silver medal! No longer could the big countries laugh about tiny little Liechtenstein sending a team to the Olympics!
As I ate my sandwich, I realized just how important it was to keep practicing. I knew I would have to forget about my bumps and bruises if I wanted to be a champion like Hanni. I am so happy that I live in Liechtenstein where I can see the beautiful Alps every day.