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Published: March 18th 2016
So, this happens all the time….you’re sitting there having a very nice conversation when somebody interjects “I will be vacationing in Liechtenstein this year!”
Okay…..that was a boldface lie. In all reality, unless you’re a fairly well-schooled geography student from Europe or really like to ski, you may not have spent much time thinking about the sixth smallest and one of two doubly land-locked nations in the world. When it comes to being small, this principality is roughly 25 km (15 miles) north to south and barely 15 km (9 miles) wide. Suree, it’s bigger than Vatican City and Monaco, but you could easily drive right past it without blinking. They don’t have their own money (they use the Swiss franc) and haven’t had an army for, well forever. They finally granted women the right to vote back …. in the 1980’s, and their monarch is a prince whose net worth is north of $5 billion.
So naturally, we had to come here. It shares a border with Switzerland and Austria Which allows you to visit three countries in one day without really trying very hard. You are likely to weave into one and out of another without realizing
Home to the Royal Family, who oddly enough did not invite us over...
It has an abundance of natural beauty and virtually no crime. What’s not to like? As you know we are not the norm so we’ve stayed three nights and had a grand time.
When we arrived at Hertz in Lucerne we were told we did not have a reservation and he didn’t have a car for us. We took out our voucher from Auto Europe proving that we did and also supplying them with our confirmation number. The young man behind the counter said the address on the voucher was not a Hertz address anymore that it was an Avis. He’s not sure how the wrong address ended up on the voucher. It was most likely a third-party reservation internet-type thing. He then looked in the computer at our confirmation number and agreed that we had a reservation but the car was supposed to be picked up north of Zurich not in Lucerne. Again we pointed to the Lucerne location on the voucher and he gave up. We were grateful that after a 40-minute wait he was able to figure out how to give us a car, even though it was smaller than what we had paid
Wild Garlic Soup
for. We were happy not to be delayed any longer and agreed to take the Fiesta. He said all he had left was a Maserati and he would need that later in the day. I’m certain that a highly skilled customer service rep would have given us the Maserati, but of course….. What do you think? Should we write the CEO of Hertz?
Tucked into our little Ford, we headed off along the pristine roads of Switzerland. We’ve never seen such clean and smooth roads such as these, they wind through the hills and constantly provide charming views of the countryside. In this part of Europe with this many mountains, getting from point A to point B is never in a straight line and it takes about twice as long to get there…but the views are worth it.
If you are looking for a panoramic view of this part of the world you’ll want to take the Pfander cable car in Bergenz, Austria. You’ll have a 360-degree view of mountaintops, valleys and Lake Constance. You can hike, bike (ski a bit during the winter) and take your dog. They also have an alpine animal park at the top,
Beautiful local farms
which you can hike to. By the time we reached the summit a few clouds were beginning to set in but the view was phenomenal. Our photos didn’t capture what we saw but that’s ok as we will remember the beauty.
Travel tip #63: When you are in this area you will need to stop at a gas station before you get into Austria and purchase a sticker to put on your car. If they catch you on the toll road without this sticker they will fine you 200 Euros. This is not a mistake you want to make! Fortunately our travel agent extraordinaire warned us.
Meanwhile…..Vaduz Castle is in the capitol city of Liechtenstein and is the home of the ruling royal family so unless you are very well connected you will not be taking a tour. It sits on the mountainside overlooking the town of Vaduz and is rather attractive. There are some hiking trails that will give you a decent view if you are after some different angles. You can see this castle from almost anywhere in town, so seeing as they didn’t invite us up for a drink, we settled
for some nice photos.
We had to laugh at ourselves as we decided to venture south of where we were staying to see the Gutenberg Castle, in Balzers, Liechtenstein. Remembering that this is a small country we knew the drive would not be far even though it is one of the towns on the far south end of this lovely country.
As is the norm for our society these days, we did not want to get lost, so we used our GPS and it turns out we probably could have found the castle in a deep fog on a cold winter night. We only had to travel about 4 miles. It is perched up on a magnificent hill surrounded by breathtaking mountains. We parked the car and walked the narrow drive way to the top. The hillsides are covered with grapevines and at the top they have several park benches where you can sit to enjoy the show stopping view. So, we sat, and we sat some more, just taking in the incredible view. Then we wandered the grounds of the castle, which was closed, most likely because of the time of year. We thought might run into
a few other curiosity seekers, but few tourists come to Liechtenstein so we had these amazing views to ourselves. Sweet!
At the base of the castle hill sits the Church of St. Nicolas. The setting is sublime. We spent a few minutes in the church. Dave lit a candle for his mother, as is his custom when visiting a Catholic church. We walked the graveyard and it was one of the most interesting ones we’ve ever seen. They have gravestones a standard size of approximately two foot by four foot, which are attractively engraved. A two-foot by four-foot plot of grass above each grave has been decorated in the most amazing ways. Most have some type of small shrubs and flowers planted along with a little fence around the space. Some have photos and some have religious symbols. You can see they are freshly cared for by loving family members. It was a very special place.
This part of the world grows a lot of grapes and they are planted on many hillside. This area is known for white wines.
After visiting the church and castle we were heading back to Vaduz to go to the national
From Pfander hilltop in Bergenz, Austria
museum when Dave went rogue and turned right heading up the mountain. MJ had questioned a few minutes before how all those people got to those houses built on the side of the mountain. They look like they might slip off but clearly that has not happened. For the next twenty minutes our car hugged the contour of this snake-like road as we quickly gain elevation searching for the summit of this road. It seemed to go on and on and we realized at some point it would crest the mountain and head down into Austria. At last, we found a viewpoint took some photos and headed back toward the museum.
We headed back into the Vaduz, which is the capital and has about 5,000 people and paid a visit to the Liechtenstein National Museum & Treasury Museum. It turned out to be a bit of a gem as the Treasury had a collection of antiques along with a few Fabergé and Cloisonne eggs. The National Museum had nice displays depicting everything about Lichtenstein, including the Prince’s personal collection of stuffed and mounted wildlife, if you’re into that sort of thing.
A ninety-minute car drive will also allow
Gutenburg Castle in the background & Church in the valley
you to head north and east to the city of Konstanz, Germany, which is located on Lake Constance. This grand lake is the third largest in Europe and the Old Town part of the city is a nice place to wile away a few hours, even in the early spring. The highlight for us was the Imperia, which is a statue at the entrance to the harbor. We approached it and determined that we needed to head a few steps north to get a frontal view, but the joke was on us as the statue is on a pedestal, which rotates every four minutes. If you simply wait, you will get the photo you want. It is a rather strange looking statue and looks out of place, but was erected on private railroad property, so there you have it…..
Interestingly enough, in our three days in this small, but interesting nation, we were able to visit three different countries in one day….twice. Our first day took us back in to Switzerland and then to Austria, the third day saw us go through Switzerland and into Germany. All in all, we had a marvelous time here. Don’t let this little
country pass you by. It has a good vibe and plenty to keep you busy for a couple of days.
Where we stayed: Hotel Schatzmann, Triesen, Liechtenstein
Favorite restaurant: Gasthof Schafle – so good we ate there twice.
We feel fortunate to have visited: Vaduz, Triesen, Triesenberg, Balzers, Schaan, and Malbun.
*** We are having some camera troubles so the photos are not as sharp as usual.
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