Around the world in 32 days: Country number 5
There are places in the world that have a sort of innate romance to them. Take Paris, for example. Just hearing the name conjures images of the Eiffel tower, people walking hand in hand along the Seine with a bottle of wine, mimes eating baguettes while trapped in invisible boxes. There are also places that bring to mind less flattering emotions, like Manila. Every hear anyone say anything nice about Manila? No? Exactly. These images and feeling are culturally imprinted and collectively reinforced, even if the reputation isn’t entirely deserved.
Then there are places like Liechtenstein, which don’t conjure images of anything, really. Kind of like Delaware; you know it’s there, but unless you’ve been, you probably don’t have an opinion one way or the other. Before I started traveling more frequently, I would have been hard pressed to find it on a map. Can you? No? Google it, I’ll wait.
It’s tiny, right? It’s also rarely in the news for anything, though I did read that it’s the number one manufacturer of false teeth, so it has that going for it. You also may win a trivia question one day if you remember that it’s one of two countries in the world that are doubly landlocked (the other is Uzbekistan- thanks wikipedia!). It’s one of the wealthiest countries in the world, ruled by a constitutionally monarchy that the people seem happy with (maybe because of the former part). It’s not a major tourist destination, though tourism is an important part of its economy. So…why am I here? Well, I’m trying to visit one hundred countries by the time I’m forty (just a few years left on that, sadly) and Liechtenstein is a fairly easy one to add to the list. Microstates can usually be visited in a day and, in Europe, it’s a usually a short train ride in and out. That’s especially the case with Liechtenstein, as it doesn’t have an airport.
There are a couple ways to get into the country; I chose to land in Zurich, ride the train to the border town of Sargans and catch a bus the rest of the way. I spent the day walking around the capital city, Vaduz, shivering in the freezing rain, which did little to soothe my lobster red, sunburned back. Coming from oven-baked Sri Lanka to the chill of the Swiss Alps had sounded refreshing, and maybe it would have been if I weren’t so ill prepared. Seeing as I didn’t have a hat, gloves, umbrella, thick socks, or anything but a light puff jacket, it was less than pleasant. I spent an inordinate amount of time at the postal stamp museum, not for the love of stamps, but because it was warm and I’m an enthusiast when it comes to retaining body parts and avoiding frostbite. Art instillations dot the public spaces, which were nice and pleasant without being profligate. Overall, it’s a lovely little town in lovely little country.
In the evening I took the bus/train back to Zurich where, much to the dismay of an elderly saturnine woman, I thawed my bare toes on the floorboard heater. Tomorrow, I head to Italy to visit another microstate, San Marino.
How I got there: Train from Zurich HB to Sargans, about $60 dollars round trip. The bus from Sargans to Vaduz should have been a few Swiss Franks, but the bus driver just waved me through when I boarded and tried to pay, so that part was free!
What I did:
Postal Stamp Museum
Shivered some more
Vaduz Castle – Admired the castle and private home of the Prince and royal family from the town, as I was to0 frozen to hike up to the trail