Of all the European destinations one could imagine Liechtenstein would probably not make the cut for most traveled, most historical, or even most known, but its size and uniqueness would have it towards the top in terms of allure and fascination. For myself at least Liechtenstein fell into my vacation plans after I had exhausted the likes of Vienna and Budapest, Paris and London. Ultimately every place has its own draw and none have any specific visitation hierarchy according to me. The stars were simply aligned and the desire for the unknown plus the location of my Swiss adventure left me with a unique opportunity to visit the world’s 6th smallest country.
I have to recommend that the best way to explore Liechtenstein is via car. A car is easily obtainable from a Swiss or Austrian arrival and will help one to enjoy every twist and turn that Liechtenstein’s benevolent countryside has to offer. Probably one of the more fascinating questions that boggle the curious tourist mind is “what sets this country apart from everything around it?” The question is a fair one. The terrain is similar to the countries it borders, the houses are the same, the language is the same and not much seems to strike the untrained eye. Then it dawns on me. To understand a place such as this principality it is important to understand history. History in fact will recall for many that Europe was once covered in duchies, provinces, kingdoms, hamlets, principalities and all other sorts of subdivisions which are no longer existent. Similar to San Marino’s Italian associations and customs Lichtenstein is a large part Germanic in origin, yet has it own political, cultural and national identity very much close at heart. The presence of the Alps and the border formed by the Rhine are as much borders as they are common traits shared among nations with familiar ties.
All practical purposes suggest that one begin the magnificent journey into this pleasant highland with a stop in the capital. The city of Vaduz is exquisitely neat and proper. It is an appropriately sized capital with all the trappings of a fully self sufficient nation. There are numerous centers for banking and business. Beautiful residential districts abound as do spectacularly ornate churches and public buildings. The Church of St. Florin is a lucrative seat of art and simplicity. Perhaps the most memorable part of the skyline or cityscape is the Vaduz Castle which stands proudly overlooking the entire town on the side of the massive mountain which enshadows it. This is the home of the Prince of Liechtenstein and his family. It is not open to tourists but can be viewed quite well from the roads above and below it which straddle the mountainside. Down below at the start of the central commercial walking district stands the Government House and City Hall of Liechtenstein. The crème and white colored stone variations give a unique and sensible aura which is also what this country’s politics and policies often try to convey as well. The success gained by banking and tax agendas here has made Liechtenstein a major and capable player in the world market in general and specifically in all things economic. Also worth a stop is the city art gallery known as Kunstmuseum which offers a lot in the way of modern and contemporary works. What is impressive about this country and city overall is the active tourist industry despite the fact that this world capital lacks an airport or a train station.
While the city of Vaduz has some great sights to offer, no trip to this tiny nation would be complete without getting out to see the countryside. The mountains which form the backdrop of the city offer a great escape from the urban apartments and luxury to some of the most pristine and delicate nature around. Having gone in winter and parked my car alongside a great stretch of fields, I took to the wonderland on foot and was amazed at the heightened sense I had of everything around me. The feel of the soft crunchy snow beneath my feet, coupled with the dazzling array of white capped rocks and the piercing cold, fresh, alpine air is a combination that instills pure bliss in me even today as I recall such an atmosphere. The serenity and silence that such a place instills is only for the one who makes the journey into the heart of such natural fullness. This isn’t the only kind of emotion to be found in these hills however. Should you be looking for a more adrenaline charged pursuit on your voyage, perhaps you may wish to ascend the mountains that surround Vaduz to experience some of the best and purest Alpine winter sports at the nearby Steg ski resort or the Malbun ski resort just down the road.
I highly recommend Liechtenstein to anyone who has a passion to see something new and experience uplifting of the senses through nature and history. Liechtenstein is a country which is very comfortable in itself, it is a fabulous place to explore and an essential for the adventurer. The quality of life and pacific nature of things are nothing short of inspirational. It should not be put to the back of anyone’s list and probably shouldn’t be the first stop either. However, if you are in the neighborhood make sure and drop by, it would be a shame to miss and everyone deserves to relish such a delight.