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Published: February 6th 2017
What is it that drives some people to explore the world, to keep pushing new boundaries when most of us would surely be sated? The thrill of visiting a new country casts a powerful spell; clearly I’m still afflicted with the travel bug that has propelled me around the world for all these years! One of the few Micro States I’ve not visited is the Principality of Liechtenstein. This landlocked country in Central Europe is surrounded by Switzerland and Austria, with German the national language. My research indicated the best way to get there is from Zurich, providing an unexpected bonus as I haven’t yet visited the financial hub and biggest city in Switzerland.
The journal left off at the conclusion of a wonderful visit to Kosovo, where I boarded a direct flight to Zurich. I had to get up early to catch a taxi to the station, being glad to see the driver waiting on time in the freezing cold. It cost 13 euros to get to the small and efficient airport. The flight was uneventful, arriving in an equally freezing Zurich in the middle of the day. I was surprised to arrive to -5 degrees celsius at noon,
as the cold snap in Europe continues unabated. Zurich is an extremely wealthy city that hums along with typical Swiss efficiency, it's stunning how they make all the snow disappear from the city centre. A train takes new arrivals from the airport to the central station in short order, from there it's a quick walk to my hostel in the middle of the historic centre. I found it odd that reception in unattended between the hours of 12:00 noon and 3:00pm, it’s not as if the Swiss are renowned for taking siestas in the middle of the day! Nevertheless I parked my bags in the common area after a guest offered to keep an eye on things, so I could head out for a preliminary stroll and get some lunch.
It doesn’t take long in Zurich to realise you're in one of the world’s most expensive cities, with the prices coming as a shock for even basic items. My hometown of Sydney is considered expensive by world standards, but Zurich is on another level entirely. I met a German girl who also expressed surprise at the prices. She recounted a story of her friend applying for a job as
an architect in Zurich, and was asked how much she expected to earn. Apparently the panel scoffed at her suggested salary, and said they would pay triple the amount. There is certainly plenty of money floating around, but as with other expensive cities unless you're earning the local currency it pays to watch the budget.
I headed back to the hostel after 3:00pm to be welcomed by the friendly staff member. We completed check-in formalities then I asked about a day trip to Liechtenstein, there's a regular train service to a border town. She also canvassed the option of a day tour incorporating parts of Switzerland, a cursory review of the itinerary confirming the tour as excellent value for money. I signed up for the tour straight away, then headed out in the cold to photograph this beautiful city at the mouth of Lake Zurich; so rich in history, tradition and culture. The historic centre on both sides of the river is compact and a breeze to navigate, with beautiful buildings and gorgeous streets dotted throughout Zurich.
I woke next morning full of anticipation, heading out to the bus terminal at the back of the main train station.
The tour bus wasn't crowded on a cold winter’s day, with the driver and a dedicated guide at our disposal to commence one of the best day tours I’ve been on. We started with a tour of Zurich itself by coach and on foot, receiving an excellent introduction to this stunning city. As we headed out of Zurich we passed the world headquarters of Lindt chocolates. Visitors are not able to go to the factory itself for hygiene reasons, but there's an impressive Lindt shop in the area to indulge your passion for chocolate. We then headed to Raperswil-Jona for lunch, checking out the magnificent medieval castle on a hilltop overlooking the centre. The town is pretty as a picture, providing endless photo opportunities in an elegant setting. We pushed on to the Swiss Alps to marvel at the stunning scenery, enjoying the mountains and lakes, and watching the cross country skiers motoring along the beautiful trails.
Finally we arrived at the Rhine river, crossing the bridge and entering Liechtenstein with no border formalities; it was possibly the easiest border crossing of my life. The local people requested the use of the Swiss franc prior to 1920, so Liechtenstein
is a breeze for day trippers. My guide recounted a story of Swiss soldiers once crossing the Rhine by mistake, having to scurry back when they realised they were armed in a different country. It's only a short drive to the capital Vaduz, where the castle of the Prince towers over the city. We piled out of the bus to explore the capital of this beautiful Micro State. It was fortuitous when the heavy fog covering cleared up on arrival in Vaduz, with perfect sunshine a picturesque backdrop to the lovely buildings in the snow. It was as cold in Vaduz as Zurich, nevertheless the locals were out and about to enjoy the world class shopping in elegant stores featured in the city. The people of Liechtenstein have the highest per capita income in the world, so it seems life in the Principality clearly has it's advantages!
Liechtenstein is an alpine country, famous for winter sports as well as shopping. I saw several glamorous stores while in the city, and the cars on the streets are new and expensive. A feature of Vaduz is the beautiful parliament building, just down the walkway from tourist information, and St Mary's church
across the street. There are plenty of delightful little streets just off the main thoroughfare, with the city stunning in the snow against a blue sky. Many tourists take the train from Zurich to a border town, to be ferried in to Vaduz by a regular bus service that drops visitors in the centre. Obviously that's a budget option to visit Vaduz, but train fares are expensive in Switzerland, so the Heidiland day tour out of Zurich is worth considering. We weren't finished yet, as we boarded the bus and crossed the bridge back to Switzerland. Our final stop on the tour is Heidiland, the mountain setting for the world famous children's novel character Heidi. We walked winter trails, with the fog lifting magically to reveal the spectacular mountain backdrop that inspired the author to write the novel. It's a natural paradise in the Swiss Alps, the mountains take on an orange glow in the afternoon. I'm delighted to have visited Liechtenstein during an unforgettable day trip out of Zurich. The tour was great value for money, the scenery on both sides of the border mind-boggling, with another country added to my ever expanding list of countries visited. Liechtenstein is
a gem to visit in the centre of Europe, basically all of you should be here now!
The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams." Oprah Winfrey
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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