Way back in September (light years ago it seems), I rambled on and on about our family adventures in Tuscany, ticking things off the bucket list. I was afraid I might have bored or inundated you, and neither was my intended goal. So, I waited and saved our pit stop stories for another time. Ladies and gentlemen, that time is now – get ready to hear a little bit about Vaduz, Liechtenstein!
Well, as it turns out, the name isn’t actually fake, only the movie character. The real Sir Ulrich was both a fighter and a writer. Once again, Google saves the day!
Liechtenstein is one of the smallest and one of the richest countries in the world. It’s completely landlocked, and it’s still ruled by a prince (more on that in a minute).
You might also guess that things in little ol’ Liechtenstein are very expensive. In fact, costs are so outrageous that Swiss prices start to look like bargains. Thanks to a tip from my friend Ann at Travel Turtle who also stopped off in Vaduz, we didn’t refuel the car or refresh ourselves at a cafe.
After twice being caught in maddening Italian Saturday traffic, we vowed to not let it get the best of us a third time. We rose at 3:30am and sailed all the way up the Italian Autostrada from Pistoia to the border near Como.
Past Lugano, the road took us east on a winding Alpine highway. The rising sun lit the peaks on fire while the sleepy valleys stayed asleep in shadow. The fuel gauge flirted with the empty line, and the game of chicken ended only a few kilometers from the Liechtenstein border at Bad Ragaz.
As Doc Sci filled the tank (at those bargain Swiss prices), I rummaged around the trunk on a desperate search for buried sweatshirts. Weren’t we just sweating it out in Italy? Now, we’re shivering in Switzerland.
We slipped into Liechtenstein without fanfare of any type – no flashing neon You Are Now in The Sixth Smallest Country on the Planet sign, no sober-faced border guards with weapons and questions, nothing. Only the license plates proclaim Dorothy, we’re not in Switzerland anymore.
Seeing as we’re self-confessed cheapskates, we searched high and low for a free parking spot in Vaduz. No dice. Only when we decided to pay for parking did we realize it’s free on the weekends!
Hands down, the best fun, family-friendly, and free thing to do in Vaduz is climb up to the castle. You could drive up to the Schloss (and fellow freeloaders – the parking is gratis up there). But, when in doubt, I always vote for the scenic route.
It’s rather easy to find the footpath if you keep a look out for the Schlossweg or Haldenweg signs. The route dead ends at Fürst-Franz-Josef-Strasse. Hang a right, and you’ll be at the castle in a jiffy. Actually, I’m informed that official name is The Princely House of Liechtenstein in case precision is your thing..
Expert Tip: Make a great effort to explain to the wee ones (especially those quite accustomed to conquering castles) that this particular palace is still in use by real royalty. Unfortunately, that means we can’t go traipsing about the yard or snooping in the cellar. Snap a few photos, inhale the crisp Alpine air, and feast on the view.
Back down the hill, it’s time for a stroll on the main pedestrian street known as the Städtle. Here you’ll find swanky hotels, pricey bistros, and several museums meant for those who aren’t in the possession of small children who can neither read nor force themselves to be interested in wine, fine art, or postage stamps.
However if I was to bribe encourage such an interest, I’d be more likely to herd said children in the direction of the Liechtenstein National Museum.
As we continued south on the Städtle, I was awed by the juxtaposition of old (Regierungsgebäude) and new (Liechtenstein Parliament building). The two architectural styles right next to each other made for some fascinating food for thought.
I entertained the thought that perhaps this was a picture of how Liechtenstein held on to its traditions (like being ruled by a prince) while embracing the future. However, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of such fanciful notions especially since our pal Wikipedia informs us that Liechtenstein was the last country in Europe to allow women to vote. Doh!
At the end of the Städtle, we continued on to see the gorgeous little Vaduz Cathedral. If you had the dough, this stately chapel would be a picture-perfect place to get married.
Right next to the cathedral stands the Royal Vault. Silly Americans – the boys thought there were crown jewels in the vaults instead of the actual contents which are a bit more, uh, morbid than that. No wonder the place was completely unguarded…
One Last Look
Not only is the bridge heavily photogenic and slightly nostalgic, it also sports an off-the-charts cool factor for travel nerds… one end of the bridge is in Liechtenstein and the other end is in Switzerland. Um yes, I will make of fool of myself by quite literally hopping the border and planting myself in two countries at once, thankyouverymuch.
Practical tip: There’s no place to park nearby the Liechtenstein side of the bridge. You’ll need to put on your polite face and break out the pretty please (uh, in German, if possible) when asking to temporarily park at one of the businesses along the Zollstrasse.
My snapshot of Vaduz, Liechtenstein: isolated, reserved, historic, and very expensive.