I accidentally found Liechtenstein on google maps when I was looking at my possible journey routes from Vienna to Switzerland. I’d definitely heard of it before, and Im not sure if I ever registered that it was (legally) considered its own country. I think I bought a bottle of wine from Liechtenstein once, and thought it was a city in Germany, but, due to my ignorance, I could have been convinced it was just a region of Austria or Switzerland.
But, country #74 for me, Liechtenstein is no such place. The border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein is formed by highway 13, which is technically in Switzerland, since its on the west side of the Rheine. It is a tiny place, nestled in the alps, with no train station or airport. To get there by public transport, one must take a regional train to a nearby Swiss town called Sargans, and then take a bus 14kms to Vaduz, the capital city.
Me and my friend Ursina drove there, only 45 minutes from her home in Flims, but she too had never been there before. She taught me all I knew about Liechtenstein before going; that it was very Catholic, rich, and people spoke a mixture of German-German and Swiss German… or was it Austrian-German, I forget.
The first thing we did was visit a Catholic church. Only one other woman was inside, and it had an alter made of fall fruits – pumpkins, squash, tomatoes… On the podium stood a book with a list of names of holy people that had died on that day (October 10th) in history. A few blocks away, cows grazed in green pastures next to the soccer stadium and city banks.
Liechtenstein was very rich-feeling, although we saw very few people to talk to about life there. But we saw their fancy cars and fairy-tale homes, standing pristinely in the spotless streets. Downtown Vaduz is small, we walked through it in 15 minutes, which ended at Hofkellerei vineyard. We wine tasted some Riesling, and walked back across town to get her car since we were too lazy to hike up to a pretty castle hanging from the cliffs above us.
We got lost in a maze of mansions and switch-back roads, but eventually found the steep, narrow, cobble-stoned road to the “Schloss.” We were confused why signs were always marked “no visit” and “privat”, but then the castle guard explained it simply. “This is a private residence for the Prince and his whole family.” So then I learned that Liechtenstein has a monarchy, and a very big royal family, since the castle must have had 100 rooms and for one prince to fill that, he must have a lot of kids.