Being a typical male I have the ‘completion’ gene ingrained within me. It was pretty much for that reason alone that Mrs Wilbur, Hamish & I travelled to Liechtenstein during the first weekend in February.
This now leaves me with Andorra, Malta & San Marino for a European nation clean sweep. I have also visited Catalunya, Wallonia, Transnistria & of course Scotland in case any of those should one day become independent!
This is an account of our whistle stop journey to the tiny Alpine principality with a population below 40,000.
Before I start, a trivia question. What are Liechtenstein & Uzbekistan the only examples of in the world? Answer at the end of this post.
Plane, train and automobiles to Liechtenstein
The taxi picked us up at the unearthly hour of 4.30 in the morning to get us to Gatwick in time for our 6.50 easyJet flight to Zurich.
We arrived ahead of time at 09.15 local time and headed straight for the Flughafen Bahnhof. We were still pretty bleary-eyed but happily I had made all my research well beforehand and knew the journey off by heart.
We would take a train the short hop to Zurich Hauptbahnhof, take another train to Sargans close to the border, before catching a bus to Liechtenstein’s capital Vaduz and finally another bus to the mountainside town of Triesenberg, where we would be staying for one night.
The cost of the return ticket covering all transportation was just under £67 each, about par for the course by Swiss standards. We used the ticket machines and held on to the flimsy bit of paper as if it were a precious jewel.
The first part of the journey from the main station was worth the ‘entrance fee’ alone.
We each took a window seat on the upper deck and enjoyed the fine view of Zürichsee, the 88.66 km² glacial lake that gives Zurich its gloss.
For the majority of the one-hour journey we followed the lake, accompanied by bright sunshine and blue skies. Far better conditions than had been forecast.
We alighted at the small station of Sargans and the train continued its journey to Chur. Our bus to Vaduz was already in situ, so we clambered aboard and waited to be transported to my 46th European nation (if you include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Monaco, Turkey & Vatican City, which I know is stretching it on several fronts).
The journey to Vaduz took thirty-minutes, with the border sign just about visible as we crossed a small bridge.
The population of the capital is under 6,000. We decided that we would explore a little next day and head to our hotel for lunch and a rest.
There was just time for Hamish to spend €3 to get his passport stamped at the tourist information office, before we took another bus for an 18-minute climb up the mountain to Triesenberg. The bus then continued onto the ski resort of Malbun higher up the mountain.
We stayed at the pleasant Hotel Restaurant Kulm – £110 bed & breakfast for a double room with a lovely mountain view.
After some rather salty soup, we set off to explore Triesenberg. The town is home to an impressive Catholic church, a couple of shops, a cafe, town hall and 2 restaurants.
We walked down a path away from the sparse traffic to take in some decent views across Vaduz and up the valley to the snow capped mountains.
After a 3km stroll we figured we just about deserved a coffee and slice of delicious forest berry pie!
We had chosen Triesenberg for the peace & quiet rather than anything exciting (I am not actually sure whether anything that can be categorized as exciting actually exists in these parts anyway!).
After time back at the hotel doing nothing, we headed for a very tasty evening meal at Restaurant Kainer.
Our waitress was Hungarian, just like the one who had served us in the cafe earlier. They didn’t know each other, so I guessed there must be something that drew Hungarians to Liechtenstein. Any ideas what that could be?
Vaduz & Zurich
We awoke to the sound of rain so decided we’d have a quick look around Vaduz before heading back to Zurich.
A view of the castle (the private residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein), a close up of the town hall and a breeze around the cathedral was all it took to take in Vaduz’s highlights. There were however a few museums if you are that way inclined……..
We retraced our tracks via Sargans to Zurich. Such was the weather for the return that the lake was invisible this time.
We had all been to Zurich before and in view of the inclement weather had no desire to do much more than hole up in a coffee shop and then a restaurant.
That was a bit of a shame as Zurich on a pleasant day is eminently stroll-worthy.
The rain did stop mid-afternoon enabling us to walk a leisurely pace to the main train station.
Zurich train station has to be one of the most confusing anywhere.
The vast hub doesn’t have the best signage and the platform numbers do not appear to be laid out in a logical order.
Thankfully we allowed plenty of time, so avoided any panics.
All in all a pleasant weekend, however I won’t be rushing back!
Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan Common Denominator
So what do the tiny principality and the amazing Silk Road country have in common?
They are the only two double landlocked countries in the world.
This means that not only are they landlocked, but all the countries on their borders are landlocked too!
Switzerland & Austria in Liechtenstein’s case and Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan in Uzbekistan’s.
But what about the Caspian & the fast disappearing Aral Seas? Both are technically lakes as they are endorheic basins (a basin without outflows), enclosed by land for their entire circumference (or in the Aral Sea’s case now almost no more).
Liechtenstein & Uzbekistan – Unlikely Twin Countries?