A hiker’s paradise - that’s Liechtenstein. It nestles cozily between Austria and Switzerland, a principality that, in 2006, celebrated 200 years of sovereignty. It is one of the smallest countries in Europe comprised of just 11 regions and 5,000 inhabitants. Perhaps you have a hidden desire to visit this small country with its astonishing landscape of mountains, gorges, Alpine forests, crystal streams surging down craggy hillsides and peaceful valleys below.
The Hike was Reward Enough
One special hike was from Vaduz, the country’s capital, to Malbun from the flat tracks along the banks of the Rhine through marked trails with thick pine forests and wild landscapes peppered with rare orchids. Do stop for lunch at the Galina Falconry Center whose specialty was a delicious Tyrolean dish called kasknopfle, a kind of spatzle made with flour, butter and cheese. Memorable. After lunch, the performance! A no-nonsense looking peregrine falcon takes off, circles majestically and returned, swooping just a few feet over your head at 185 mph to land on the glove of the falconer and happily enjoy his very own lunch. Back on the trail you’ll find out that the tourist board rewards walkers with bronze, silver or gold pins as they clock up miles on these paths. As you complete your hike down the mountain to Triesenberg, you may keep watching for someone to hop out from the trees and pin one on you. No? Oh well….
This Castle is a Home
Another day hike up to Vaduz Castle, which is actually a 12th-century medieval fortress and has been the residence of its Princely Family since 1938. The castle is the most prominent landmark of the town, a legendary pile that can be seen from all vantage points and certainly one of the few castles where a real prince actually resides.
A world of High Finance
Liechtenstein is, of course, known for superb hiking, but there’s much more to the country. It is an attractive business location and over the course of the last 60 years, it has become a modern, innovative state. In the services sector, it is largely the country’s banks and trusts that have helped it to achieve a high standard of living; when it comes to manufacturing and industry, it specializes in high-tech products. There’s also a vibrant cultural scene in the center of Vaduz - impressive modern and traditional architecture as well as fine works of art and museums worthy of note.
Modern Art and Two Powerful Women
Be sure to visit the Kunstmuseum with a world-class collection of art from the nineteenth century to the present. Particularly outstanding is its sculpture collection. Wander the museum’s garden to see the work artists, Fernando Botero and his bronze Reclining Woman. Known for his monumental-sized works meant to be displayed outdoors, this beauty is the epitome of sensuality and fertility. In a shaded alcove, there’s Herbert Albrecht’s bronze Standing Figure, a commanding female form and a virtual corporal landscape in this pretty garden.
Each December Vaduz hosts a splendid Christmas Market. It’s held in the main square in front of town hall and the distinctive Parliament building designed in 2008 by the renowned Munich-based architect Hansjörg Göritz. This market is one of the largest in Europe with over 100 booths giving visitors the chance to stroll through pictursque Old Town and select from novel hand-made goods. And what Christmas Market would be complete without warmed mulled wine and traditional snacks, the cherry on top of this fun holiday festival!
New Yorkers, are you anxious to get started hiking on your own turf? Wild Earth Adventures offers guided hiking and walking trips year-round -- as well as wilderness camping, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing trips -- visiting some of the wildest and most beautiful parks and natural areas in New York. Along with hiking near NYC and visiting many easily-accessible locations, and hiking frequently on famous trails like the Appalachian Trail, their huge repertory of locations and often unique hiking trip itineraries include a number of little-known areas that are well-off-the-beaten-path. On their hikes, walks, and other excursions they explore many of the region’s most spectacular mountain ranges, enjoying (and letting ourselves be inspired by) lovely scenery that includes splendid mountain vistas, pristine lakes, rushing streams, wild rivers, and roaring waterfalls, www.wildearthadventures.com
Fact or Fable
Liechtenstein has a long tradition of legends and fables which were passed on from generation to generation before being written down in the mid 19th Century. Based on themes traditional to Alpine countries, some dating back to the time when gnomes and witches roamed the land, I was told a particular favorite tale of the Guschg Herdsmen’s Doll. It begins very sweetly but the ending is, er....jarring to say the least. I’ll leave that for you to find out from a local when you visit. And visit you shall because the kind and welcoming folks of Liechtenstein are waiting to introduce you to their charmed and captivating land.
If You Go:
Liechtenstein Tourist Board