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Breathing the mountain air in the Cortoi children's camp

Not far from our base camp in the idyllic Mergoscia near Locarno Monti di Cortoi rises to a height of 1000 metres above Mergoscia in the Verzasca valley. A few years ago Cortoi only consisted of a few broken down heaps of stone, the remains of former hamlets. Today Campo Cortoi makes a wonderful excursion for a short hike from Mergoscia, leading through chestnut groves to a small clearing with its picturesque, lovingly restored rustic stone cottages. For a long time we wondered who was behind this project. The answer was supplied by Daniel Läger, the director of the not-for-profit Campo Cortoi cooperative, who promptly invited us for dinner. When we arrived there were a few other visitors who had of course made their way there on foot, because Cortoi can't be reached by car or cable car. Next a group of 'Martians' in fancy dress put on a theatre show at different locations which led the spectators right through the whole camp. The 12 teenagers had rehearsed the show during their week at the holiday camp, a week which couldn't be more down-to-earth. The reason for this is that the Campo is very different to city life. All food and drink have to be carried up to the camp on foot, which is why soft drinks and other unnecessary weight has to be avoided. But home-made bread tastes heavenly, especially after a day in the fresh air! It was a great fest, and it became very clear that the kids and their supervisors had really grown fond of one another. As we head home, lighting the way with torches, the animals rustle in the forest and we decide that our own children can also go to Campo Cortoi as soon as they're old enough.
However, the holiday camp is only part of the work which Christina, Urs and Daniel do in Mergoscia: their responsibilities also cover youth work and maintaining the cultural landscape, a range of courses and cultural events and renting out the five cottages to private holiday-makers, school groups and other organisations as well as looking after and extending the facilities.
Five fully renovated houses are available for private individuals and organisations to rent, providing adequate room for 26 people. The common house provides a meeting room for large groups, while the newly designed kitchen makes it possible to cook for large-scale events, too. The bathroom facilities meet present-day hygienic requirements, while hot water for showers is provided by solar panels. During periods of bad weather the water is heated by a wood stove. The gas which was required previously has been fully replaced by sunshine and wood as sources of energy. A single 'Rustico' has been kept exactly in its original condition. Equipped with simple bunks, it offers some additional accommodation.


Just below Campo Cortoi Konrad and Shirley Müller manage a pro specie rara certified farm which has received a number of awards and where top-class organic meat and sausages are produced from the farms cows and pigs. For decades Konrad and Shirley Müller have been farming and taking care of the Cortoi farmlands as well as the Bietri Alpine meadow which lies at a distance of some two hours from the farm.

For prices please see 
Site plan of Campo Cortoi

Site plan of Campo Cortoi

Extracts from the programme for the year:

Woodcutting weekend
26.01.2008 - 27.01.2008
Beginner and advanced woodcutting.
Free incl. food, accommodation and equipment.

Kids' camp: witches' cuisine and ghost stories
17.02.2008 - 23.02.2008
For 9 - 14-year olds. We cook and enjoy the modern witches' cuisine, experiment and invent new dishes and, while the food bubbles in the cooking pot and the witches' bread rises in the oven we tell and act out the adventures of witches and wizards, large and small.
Price: Fr. 250.- (Fr. 200.- for children from the city of Zurich) incl. journey, food and accommodation.

Chestnut cultivation to the south of the Alps
08.03.2008 - 09.03.2008
An informative Sunday morning walk guided by Urs Nüesch through the new chestnut growth in Mergoscia.
Price: Fr. 50.- (incl. evening meal and breakfast)

Inauguration of the Perbioi–Cortoi track
13.04.2008 - 14.04.2008
Following the official opening of the completed stretch of track there will be lunch on Cortoi.

Family camp: bull roarer and penny whistle
20.04.2008 - 26.04.2008
For families. From resonating wood to penny whistle, from the lithophone to the bull roarer. Under expert guidance we make simple musical instruments from natural materials.
Prices: Adults Fr. 280.-, Children Fr. 180.- (for children from the city of Zurich: Fr. 150.-) incl. journey, food and accommodation.

Summer festival on Cortoi
14.06.2008 - 15.06.2008
Cortoi in party mood. Programme for young and old.
Price: adults Fr. 60.-, children Fr. 25

Film night
12.07.2008 - 13.07.2008
Specially selected movie progamme in the open air.
Price: Fr. 50.- (incl. evening meal and breakfast).

Cooperative week
03.08.2008 - 09.08.2008
Summer holidays on Cortoi: baking, eating, playing, hiking together. Cortoi is reserved for cooperative members. Future members are very welcome, too.
Children's camp: spectacle week
10.08.2008 - 16.08.2008
A week full of theatre, circus, music and spectacle.
People rehearsing, laughing, fighting for their ideas, experimenting and having fun while they put together a performance against the familiar backdrop of Campo Cortoi.
Price: 250.– (230.– for children from the city of Zurich)
incl. journey, food and accommodation.

Children's camp: knightly tournament
05.10.2008 - 11.10.2008
Knights and ladies meet at Campo Cortoi to take part in theatre shows and tournaments.
Price: Fr. 250.- (for children from the city of Zurich: Fr. 200.-)
incl. journey, food and accommodation.

18.10.2008 - 19.10.2008
Family party with chestnuts, music and entertainment for the children. From 15 hrs.
Price: Adults Fr. 50.-, Children Fr. 25.- (incl. evening meal and breakfast)

Woodcutting week
09.11.2008 - 15.11.2008
We stock up on firewood. Beginner and advanced woodcutting.
Free incl. food, accommodation and equipment. 
Susanne Fritz