Liechtenstein is the smallest German speaking country, sixth smallest country in the world. It is a constitutional monarchy which is 300 years old this year. Its royal family cooperate with a democratic system but retain the power to veto. Blink and you would miss it, it shares the stunning scenery of its Swiss and Austrian neighbours, but boasts medieval castles.
I was tagging along with Dad as he made his way there for work meetings, but whilst he talked windows and doors, I set off to discover. With 40,000 inhabitants, there is little more than small villages, and the first on the list was Schellenburg with its ruins of two castles. The upper and the the lower castles stood surrounded by the residences of the town, overlooking breathtakingly lush valleys, with silence ringing out. The Monarchy of Liechtenstein has ruled since the county was founded in January 1719 and lives in Vaduz Castle. The castles which were built originally in 1200, no longer serve a function and are in tumbledown state since they were no longer used for defence, however the thick walls and medieval style are an amazing place for an amble.
It doesn’t take long to circumnavigate the country by car, and before long I was climbing switchback after switchback until the drizzle turned to snow in the ski area of Malbun. Wooden houses perched on the hillside waited expectantly for the promise of snow and ski tourists. Descending the mountain again I skipped through the second city of Schaan and into the capital of Vaduz. The royal families residence overlooks the Hauptstadt and with a short but steep climb you can get up to it, a feat too tempting for Amanda and I as we made our way closer to royalty. From the top, the lookout over lush green countryside, mountains and the twinkle of houses down below, was a stunning reason to visit this European gem.
The next day, Friday 29th November, was one that had been in the diary for a while as a big movement in Fridays for Future. I was keen to join one of the Greta Thunberg inspired marches, and the one leading up to the Madrid Climate Change conference happened to coincide with my stay in the city. The youth from a school in Vaduz had organised the march which met, under drizzle, in the bus stop ready to parade through the pedestrianised centre and reconvene outside parliament. I joined along at the back, trying to make out the sing song sounds of Hoch Schweizer Deutsch from the 200 or so strong collection of youth.
That night, Dad was having his work Christmas party with all his European colleagues on the banks of Lake Constance, just across the bridge in Switzerland. I was an uninvited guest to the party, pleased to be able to cease any opportunity to practice my developing German, particularly on the Tirolians, as this was where I would be heading for winter.
The next morning bright and early, dad headed for Zurich airport, and I drove on to Stuttgart, on the way stumbling across the beautiful Rhinefall, Europe’s biggest waterfall. Situated in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, this powerful body of water moves at astonishing rate, enough to blow away the cobwebs of the night before, around 600,000 litres per second in Summer.
One more German stop, Baden Wuttenburg.