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krisek Vaduz - A travel report by Krys
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Vaduz,  Liechtenstein - flag Liechtenstein
15238 readers

krisek's travel reports

Vaduz - An Alpine oasis of relaxation

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Vaduz, the capital of a tiny principality feels more like a village than a seat of a monarch, parliament and government. Its qualities are the fresh air and unrivaled spectacular scenery.

Princely Residence, the castle in Vaduz
Princely Residence, the castle in Vaduz
Vaduz has formally been appointed the capital of Liechtenstein, 132 years after the country was established in 1806, as Prince Franz Joseph moved his residence here. The principality is 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and not a metre larger. The entire length of the national borders with Switzerland and Austria is just 76km (47 miles).

Key historical facts are: 1342 The county of Vaduz is formed; 1699 Prince Johann Adam Andreas purchases the Lordship of Schellenberg and in 1712 Vaduz; 1719 Liechtenstein is elevated to the status of the Imperial Principality; 1806 Liechtenstein is admitted to the Rhine Confederation and obtains sovereignty; 1868 the principality abolished its army; 1923 Switzerland signs the Customs Treaty; 1924 Swiss franc becomes official currency; 1978 Liechtenstein becomes a member of the Council of Europe; and in 1990 the UN; 2004 Hereditary Prince Alois is appointed Representative of the Reigning Prince Hans Adam II.

In the entire country, there are only about 35,000 citizens, so Vaduz is just a large-ish village. It is a seat of the monarch, 25 member parliament and government with 5 ministers. A few fashion boutiques, jewelry shops and souvenir stores fill the places between cafes, restaurants, hotels and banks. People flock to Vaduz on weekends, mainly from Switzerland, to relax and admire the Alpine scenery.

Liechtenstein has never advertised its qualities as a tourism destination. But there was always something mysterious about this country that kept me wanting to come and see it. Perhaps it was its peaceful nature. The principality is one of few states on the globe with no military. The royal family has been considered amongst the most noble and respected dynasties our planet had ever produced.

Favourite spots:
Vaduz townhall (Rathaus)
Vaduz townhall (Rathaus)
The simple Rathaus with a distinct style was my favourite sight. It had a remarkable, and highly unusual in the region, rectangular facade. Its simplicity was stunning and only clever paintwork around the windows and doors made it look more sophisticated than just a gray-cream warehouse.

But really, my favourite part(s) were the incredible sculptures scattered around the main drag. The most significant was a tri-sculpture of horses standing in the front of the townhall. The bronze artwork seemed to analyse the most prominent features of the animal. The buttocks were exaggerated and split, whilst the other parts of the horses were individualised in a Picasso-Dalí style. Absolutely awesome.

What's really great:
The Alps surrounding the principality
The Alps surrounding the principality
The views of the incredible snow-capped mountains, looking like giant pyramids, were breathtaking. They are Liechtenstein's main quality! It is hard to describe in words how magnificent they were. I visited in early October. Snow fell the day before. The trees started turning gold and brown, but the meadows on the slopes were still vividly green. Almost juicy! From the top, the snow looked heavy and solid on the rocks, then, as it sat on the treetops, it appeared feather-light and gentle. The pine trees were dark green, almost black from the distance. The leafy trees, which emanated with golden, red, and brown colours below the pines, sat amongst the light, juicy green meadows. All this in 360 degrees!

Everyone around was relaxed. There was no rush. Almost as if everyone was on holiday or perhaps retired.

Vaduz church
Vaduz church
Well, there is not much in terms of sights in Vaduz. The castle is an official residence of the Prince and is off limits for tourits. In the capital itself there is a nice church with steep tower, which is worth a look, but the Alps are the sight! Considering that the town's elevation is 455 metres and the immediate mountain rising above the castle, Schönberg is 2,104 metres, still outstood by its neighbour, Ochsenkopf by 182 metres, there is a difference in altitude to be enjoyed. By the way, Naafkopf at 2,570 metres is the country's highest point. There are a few hiking trails near capital and even more higher in the eastern part of the principality.

If one is a museum goer, then amongst the most interesting ones near Vaduz (in Triesenberg actually) is the Walser Heritage Museum. It is about the Walser people, immigrants from Wallis, who came to these mountains in the 13th century. Their descendants still live in Liechtenstein, have their own language and customs.

Hotel Real and its restaurant, and a sculpture.
Hotel Real and its restaurant, and a sculpture.
In Vaduz, I have not come across accommodation for those on a shoestring budget. None of the hotels in town, however looked particularly fancy, either. There were a few modern ones, which branded themselves 'business hotels', which for me, it usually meant 'characterless'. For sure, these were only used by the visitors, who had some business or banking to do in town.

Small hotels on Städtle street (e.g. Engel, Real, Residence) seemed the best options if one wanted to be close to the action, and the people. Those, who wanted spectacular views, had to try accommodation off the centre. Yet, Vaduz being such a small town, a wee walk into the centre while breathing in the Alpine air would only qualify as pleasure. So, it did not really matter where in the capital one stayed.

Vaduz, general view
Vaduz, general view
The Tangente Eschen was a jazz venue, which attracted artists from around Europe. Therefore they played wide a range of jazz styles from modern to experimental to cross section to traditional. The relaxed atmosphere of the place translated to plenty of the face to face time with the musicians and led to concerts lasting twice as long than originally planned. What a wonderful venue, indeed!

The Takino was a film club, which did not shy away from discussions about controversial films. It had comfy sofas and an intimate bar, which were perfect for chatting and taking a mickey out of the productions.

Then, it was not easy to find a high profile nightlife place in a form of a disco, club or even a lively pub. The city seemed much too easy going to be wasting time for heavy partying. Of course, each hotel had a bar, and there was plenty of low profile action there, and many spots to have quality conversations over a drink.

A vineyard in Vaduz
A vineyard in Vaduz
It is not easy to designate hangout points in a city, which in its entirety is a big hangout place. The cafes along Städtle were a good starting point to perhaps write postcards over coffee or try the rare Liechtensteinian wine. The path leading towards the princely castle had two amazing viewpoints. Not much to do there apart from admiring the views, but nice spots away from others.

The principality has never put tourism as a priority. To such extent that the souvenir shops in Vaduz carried more Swiss-themed items than those of Liechtenstein. So, although there are some spectacular places to see in this great tiny country, only recently, a tourism office was opened to provide some general information. I heard that more trekking trails, and perhaps climbing, would be open, which might lead directly from the capital. For the country is so small it could be walked all over in few days.

Governmental building and the princely castle above.
Governmental building and the princely castle above.
Städtle pedestrianised alley between the castle cliff and the post, where the townhall stands, was the best place for a quick snack and coffee. Many restaurants and cafes had their tables, often with parasoles, on the pavement, some surrounded by liitle hedges or planted palm trees. Most offered a mix of Italian (pizza, pasta) and German (shnitzel, sausage) dishes. As everywhere in the region, there were also simple Turkish kebab stands (most also served baked sausage) and Asian restaurants offering mainly Chinese dishes.

I tried Engel Restaurant, adjacent to a hotel of the same name. As it was cold, although a very bright day, I treated myself to a cappucchino with a shot of Johnny Walker (CHF4.70 + CHF9.50). It was lovely! Their wiener schnitzel (CHF24.90) was also nice - big, served with yummy vegetables and unhealthy slim chips. The restaurant had tables in the pavement with a view towards the prince's castle and the townhall.

Other recommendations:
Castle and church of Balzers
Castle and church of Balzers
The tourist information office, behind the main post office (buses from Sargans stop at the post office) was very friendly and helpful. For €2 they stamped passports with a souvenir stamp, but most of all provided free information on what to do and see in the principality.

There is no airport in Liechtenstein. The closest and best ones are in Zürich, Switzerland and Friedrichshafen, Germany. Then, one had to take a train to Sargans or Buchs, respectively (both in Switzerland), from where regular buses link to Vaduz. Bus line #12 runs all the way from Sargans (18km) to Buchs via Vaduz, actually. On the Swiss side, Buchs is 18km from Sargans, and there is a rail link between the two, too.

A few hundred metres from the border separated from Sargans by the Rhein river is Balzers, a town that boasts an incredibly dramatic location for a castle perched on a steep hill with white mountains in the background, and a lovely church below. The castle is clearly visible from the Swiss side.

Published on Monday October 6th, 2008

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Thu, Nov 06 2008 - 03:49 AM rating by rangutan

This country is so small that I did not have enough info to write a report myself. You did and very well!

Sun, Oct 12 2008 - 11:21 PM rating by magsalex

Lots of information and some nice pictures.

Wed, Oct 08 2008 - 06:13 AM rating by jorgesanchez

good report about a tiny country

Tue, Oct 07 2008 - 02:31 PM rating by robynallen

This place is breathtaking. You have done a great job on this report and the pictures capture the amazing scenery.This place looks like it is quite affluent. The buildings look well maintained and very grand.

Tue, Oct 07 2008 - 02:21 PM rating by eirekay

As always, great descriptions and terrific insight!

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