I can't say I went to Liechtenstein because I've always wanted to go here. To be honest, I've probably never given Liechtenstein much thought at all. The thoughts that I have thought have probably mainly revolved around the questions:
1) How do you actually spell the country's name? (thoughts when I solve crosswords)
2) How can such a small country have so many downhill skiers? (thoughts on the TV couch watching downhill skiing on a slow Sunday)
But then the day came. We would drive from Feldkirch in Austria to Davos in Switzerland, straight through Liechtenstein. Fate had simply brought us to the world's 6th smallest country. The principality that lies like a thin slice of cheese between Switzerland and Austria, surrounded by steep mountains and green meadows.
We were approaching the border with Liechtenstein and thus also the border with the EU. Would we be stopped? Would anyone like to look at our passports? But not then. In 2011, Liechtenstein joined Schengen, which closed border crossings on the Austrian border and freed up traffic. We had suddenly left Austria behind us, barely without reacting.
There are no motorways here, but the toll-free (but not so fast) roads took us through small villages before we suddenly realized that we were probably in Vaduz. Could we really be in the capital? We had passed fine alpine houses with steep roofs and wooden shutters, stone churches and Italian gardens with flamboyant fruit trees. Where was the big city feel? Isn't this one of the world's most famous banking cities? Perhaps the popular nickname "Städtle" (small town) could have given me a clue as to what I should expect about Vaduz. In my mind, I would be in a smaller Zurich, but the feeling that came up was rather "small ski resort". Turned off and parked the car. Yes, it actually seemed like we were parked in the middle of the city center. Even though there are only 5000 people living in Vaduz, I would probably imagine something a little more grand of a capital city with a lot of financial companies. A little more glass buildings and shiny silver signs with abbreviations.
However, there is one thing that stands out in Vaduz, a building that can hardly be avoided wherever you turn in the city. The impressive castle, where the prince and his family live. On a cliff overlooking all of Liechtenstein, Vaduz Castle has been enthroned for almost 700 years. It is possible to hike up here, but since it is the prince's current residence, there are no guided tours inside the castle. So we chose to look at the castle from a distance.
The main street in Vaduz is neither particularly long nor particularly stately. Here on the promenade are a few small shops, a handful of restaurants and a few museums. We looked into a small bookstore combined with a toy store, full of miniature trains and games. The price level was on par with Switzerland, which perhaps we should also have expected - as the currency in Liechtenstein is the Swiss franc. A group of well-dressed older men hung out on the pedestrian street with their well-polished vintage cars, one car shinier and more luxurious than the other. Liechtenstein has one of the world's highest GDP and average wages, which you can actually feel when you look around here in Vaduz.
Had a coffee at modern Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein and wondered if we might have missed something worth seeing. Yes, there is also a national museum, a ski resort (but we were here in the summer) and another castle. Then we had seen such a "stick your head in and take a picture" sign on the street, which suddenly felt like an obligatory sight. Everything simply takes on different proportions in Liechtenstein.
Found a sun-bleached coffee cup with the castle of Vaduz on it in a small shop along the pedestrian street, it had to be the compulsorily purchased "full mug" as a memory of this visit. Jumped into the car and thought to scout out Liechtenstein's second castle, but realized to our horror that we had already rolled into Switzerland. Before I even had time to enter the next destination on the GPS and basically without warning. We will simply have to visit the other castle the next time we happen to drive through Liechtenstein. But these days at least I can spell Liechtenstein when I do crosswords.