James Jackman / July 10, 2016
An Interrail Adventure - Blog 8: Liechtenstein
Change in Germany, another change in Austria and 10 minutes later, there I’d arrived in the Principality of Liechtenstein. A tiny little country nestled between Switzerland and Austria, I mainly decided to come here for the hell of it – worst case scenario, it was just another European country to tick off the list. But boy am I glad I came here!
After checking in and sorting myself out, it was time to do some wandering. However, how much wandering is there to do when the country itself is at its longest about 15km long? Well, I intended to find out. I’d already been informed by a Canadian chap in my room that there was a postage stamp museum which had free entry 15 minutes walk away from my hostel (which was next to a large field). Alas this was closed for the evening when I arrived in Vaduz, the capital. However, a free art gallery next to it was open until late, so I decided to spend a while in there. Walking in and managing to avoid being drafted into a German-speaking art discussion group that was taking place, I enjoyed the various abstract pieces. I can’t say I understood them, but I enjoyed them, and isn’t that all that matters?
Strolling out of the gallery, I discovered that for only two nights a show was in town! My mindset being “why not”, I decided to give it a watch. What proceeded was an hour and a half of an all-German play, interspersed with some impressive circus acts. Think fire-eating, juggling, whip cracking and some rather remarkable acrobatics. Now, my German is pretty basic, so a lot of the time I had no idea what was happening. Hence, when they suddenly would go into a dance number or start doing somersaults, I was fairly perplexed. However, I think I grasped the basics of the story, which is more than I expected given the scenario.
As it turns out, the country of Liechtenstein is located where the Eastern and Western Alps meet, with the river Rhine acting as its border with Switzerland. Hence, all of its major towns/cities resided in this valley, meaning it was very flat until you moved east or west. So, when I discovered a free bike rental in Vaduz the next morning, I knew my plan – cycle down to the border! It’s not very often when you can cycle from the capital to the next country in about 40 minutes, so that’s what I did, with my trusty bike, Hanni. After crossing the Swiss border a few times and making sure to stand in two countries at once, it was time to return towards Vaduz.
The border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein
However, on my journey down I’d spotted a small manor/castle which could be entered, so that was my next stop. Making my way up to the castle, I realised something – there were no other tourists here! I was truly off the beaten Interrail track and it felt good!
That afternoon, after returning Hanni to her home, was the long awaited trip to the postage stamp museum. Now, you may mock, but it was surprisingly interesting to learn about how stamps are made. I even got to see some old-timey stamps as well. However, it was quite a small museum, so I was soon looking for something else to do. I ended up doing some hill walking, following some paths suggested by the tourist office – I was only wearing converse shoes, so I couldn’t do any serious hiking! After walking through woods, along roads and through a small village, I came to a point where I decided to stop and take in the view. It was amazing, I could see why people dedicate entire holidays to trekking the Alps. Eventually, I decided to come back down and after a while I was back at the hostel and I was glad to rest my feet!
The Liechtenstein landscape
I spent this morning taking a slow walk to Switzerland where I needed to get my train to Zurich. It was a slow walk because I just wanted to take in the scenery. Along the way, after passing many cyclists I came across two chaps who were guiding some donkeys along. These donkeys were definitely in no rush to get anywhere! Chatting with the men, they explained they were taking the donkeys up into the hills for their holiday – it wasn’t too clear if the holiday was for the men or the donkeys. Soon after, I stepped out of Liechtenstein into Switzerland and it wasn’t too long until I was at the station, waiting for my train. Looking back on Liechtenstein, it was a worthy stop on my trip, especially in providing a bit of a difference from staying in cities. Speaking of which, off to Zurich next!