April 21st, 2023
Liechtenstein officially the Principality of Liechtenstein is a German-speaking and doubly landlocked microstate located in the Alps between Austria and Switzerland. It is the sixth smallest nation worldwide and is also the smallest country to border two countries. Liechtenstein is a semi-constitutional monarchy headed by the prince of Liechtenstei – it’s about the size of Washington DC. It is Europe’s fourth-smallest country, with an area of just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and its capital is Vaduz.
The country has a strong financial sector centred in Vaduz. It was once known as a billionaire tax haven, but is no longer on any official blacklists of uncooperative tax haven countries. An Alpine country, Liechtenstein is mountainous, making it a winter sport destination.
Liechtenstein is a member of the United Nations but not a member of the EU although it participates in both the Schengen Area and the European Economic Area. It has a customs union and a monetary union with Switzerland.
The oldest traces of human existence in the area of present-day Liechtenstein date back to the Middle Paleolithic era. Neolithic farming settlements appeared in the valleys around 5300 BC.
On 23 January 1719, after the lands had been purchased, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that Vaduz and Schellenberg were united and elevated the newly formed territory to the dignity of Fürstentum (‘principality’) with the name “Liechtenstein” in honour of “[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein”. On this date, Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire.
By the early 19th century, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the Holy Roman Empire came under the effective control of France, following the crushing defeat by Napoleon in 1805. In 1806 Emperor Francis II abdicated and dissolved the Holy Roman Empire, ending more than 960 years of feudal government. Napoleon reorganized much of the Empire into the Confederation of the Rhine. This political restructuring had broad consequences for Liechtenstein: the historical imperial, legal, and political institutions had been dissolved. The state ceased to owe an obligation to any feudal lord beyond its borders.Soon afterward, Liechtenstein joined the German Confederation which was presided over by the Emperor of Austria.
Liechtenstein was in dire financial straits following the end of World War II. The Liechtenstein dynasty often resorted to selling family artistic treasures, including the portrait Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci, which was purchased by the National Gallery of Art of the United States in 1967for US$5 million, then a record price for a painting.
By the late 1970s, Liechtenstein used its low corporate tax rates to draw many companies and became one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in Europe (along with Monaco and San Marino) not to have a tax treaty with the United States and efforts toward one seem to have stalled.
As of September 2019 the Prince of Liechtenstein is the world’s sixth wealthiest monarch, with an estimated wealth of US$5 billion.
Liechtenstein has a monarch as head of state, and an elected parliament that enacts the law. It is a direct democracy, where voters can propose and enact constitutional amendments and legislation independently of the legislature.
Liechtenstein’s flag consists of two horizontal bands, one blue and one red, charged with a gold crown in the canton. In use since 1764 and officially enshrined into the nation’s constitution in 1921, it has been the flag of the principality since that year. The crown was added to the flag in 1937 after the country found out at the Summer Olympics held the previous year that their flag was identical to the civil flag of Haiti.
Diesel price: 2.10 CHF per litre which is about $8.73 USD a gallon!
Currency: The Swiss Franc CHF – 1 CHF is $1.12 USD and $1.49 CAD
License plate (non EU): FL
We arrived in the small town of Balzers in southern Liechtenstein right across the border from Switzerland (which border is the Rhine River) and parked in a paved lot outside a small wetlands park which was free. After having some breakfast, we both went for walks into town to take a boo. It is super clean and most of it is newish looking, with some homes looking alpine and others not.
The big attraction here is the Burg Gutenberg – a castle on the hill in the town.
We did not want to visit it but seeing it from the outside, is enough for us most times anyway. There is a large rock church with a very recent modern cemetery around it. It was not open but we liked the build itself.
The homes have driveways and garages and there are sidewalks and bike paths all over the place; a sure sign of an affluent society. Then you see this in the middle of a residential area:
We chilled all afternoon and plan to head into the capital city tomorrow when on weekends, parking is free.
That night it got super windy; our weather apps said like 19kmph but it felt more like 45! Luckily it died down just after we went to bed, as at times, Minou was being rocked (and not by us)!
Here in Liechtenstein, we are up at 47º north and the mornings are starting earlier; starts to get light after 6 not after 7 like in the south of France and of course, the days are longer.
Saturday morning, the weather had definitely warmed up from previous mornings and after tea, we drove into Vaduz and got parked. The sky was still a little overcast but the sun was really trying to come out. The forecast was for 23C / 73F today! We wandered the main drag and the pedestrian street but hardly anything was open as yet. The prince of Liechtenstein lives above the town in a private castle that is not open to visitors except on the national holiday – to the citizens of the principality.
We did find one shop where we bought our usual country souvenir and then returned to Minou to wait until 10 when the museum we wanted to see was going to open. It turns out the Calculator and Typewriter Museum is not in Vaduz but in a nearby town and is only open on the last weekend of the month (not this one) and you must book ahead, so that was a bust.
As it was still mid-morning and we’d already run out of things to see, we wandered through a local market and then made our way to a grocery store to get some Brauhaus bottled beer to enjoy later in the day to spend some of our remaining Swiss francs. We put the rest in the tank before leaving the country just to use it up – was about 5 litres of diesel.
We were out of Liechtenstein before eleven and had travelled a whopping 22 km / 13 mi in total!
Fun facts about Liechtenstein
- Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens!
- It is the smallest nation ever to win a medal in any Olympics.
- The entire police force of the country consists of 125 employees.
- The country has a policy of neutrality and maintains no military.
- The two neighboring countries Austria and Switzerland do not border on a sea themselves, which makes Liechtenstein a double landlocked country. This phenomenon exists only twice in the world. The only other country is Uzbekistan. Although the sea is far away, the paradisiacal Alps are right under your nose.
- According to Forbes, Christoph Zeller is the country’s only billionaire. He made his fortune in dental products, running a company called Ivoclar Vivadent. Interestingly, the company’s roaring successes means Liechtenstein is also the world’s largest manufacture of false teeth, accounting for 20 per cent of sales worldwide.
- Liechtenstein is one of the world’s richest country per capita, thanks to a comparatively low 12.5% corporate tax rate and holding companies in the capital, Vaduz.
- It’s the second-least visited country in Europe.
- It doesn’t have its own airport. The closest major airport is in Zurich, which is around an hour-and-a-half drive away from Vaduz.
- It has an official 90-minute lunch break. Residents are also discouraged from making loud noises during the official 90-minute break from noon until 1.30 pm. Don’t try to make any noise after 10 pm either.
- You’ll recognize the national anthem. Liechtenstein’s national anthem, “Oben am jungen Rhein” (“Up above the young Rhine”) uses the same melody as the British anthem “God Save the Queen”. In the 19th century there were a handful of German-speaking nations using the same melody, including Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Switzerland. Liechtenstein is the only remaining country still using it.
- Women only got the vote in Liechtenstein in 1984. It was the last country in Europe to give women the vote.
(The blurb for Austria was done last year when we entered the eastern part of the country last August)
Immediately upon crossing the border, Fran spotted a shop that sells the toll road vignette and we pulled over to get one. For €9.90 you have access to all the motorways for ten days. What it didn’t seem to cover, we learned after we passed through a 13.9 km / 8 mi tunnel, was a few of the larger tunnels. That toll was a surprising €11.50.
The sun came out and the Tyrol mountains began to show themselves on our drive to Innsbruck.
We stopped about 60 km / 40 mi into Austria in a small town to get petrol; the highway rest stops were ridiculously priced – as much as €2.19 a litre! The town of Landeck sold it for €1.58 so we filled up as much as could fit in the tank! – that’s the lowest we’ve seen in the entire EU so far this year! It was €1.85 back in August of last year when we visited Vienna and the eastern part of the country.
Parking in the city looked dismal for overnighting but Fran found a parking lot at the university a few kilometres before the city that others had stayed in for €14 for 24 hours. We got parked near the back to be further from the street and settled in. When we park in such place, we never pull out chairs or look like “campers” as this is frowned upon and can spoil it for others. We just get parked and go for walks or stay inside depending on the weather, where we are and what’s around us. The only amenity offered here is garbage cans but it we have everything else we need including a 4G cell signal.
Fran saw this poster near the university – is our son performing here? :
Today was a 22 tunnel day including that long 13.9 km and a few other longish ones as well. We have to say as nice as it is to travel on good toll roads that we’ve already paid for, we do miss out on scenery with tunnels that long.
Innsbruck is a hopping off point for many winter sports.
It didn’t have a lot of things that interested us to see except the Golden Roof building in old town. We tried to get parking Sunday morning after showering etc. but had not luck. We caught a glimpse of the “golden roof” as we drove nearby – the streets around it are only pedestrian. Here’s a Google shot of it:
So we carried on eastward under partly cloudy skies, to Wattens where the Swarovski museum and gardens are located. They sit in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains:
They want €23 to go in and see some art installations made of crystal but that was not so interesting to us. We read that there is nothing mentioned about the history of the crystals or the making of them. We walked around the garden instead, part of which was free and saw these:
Before leaving, Fran wanted to check out the shop but it appeared you needed a ticket to get in there too! Passing by the ticket booth on our way out, Doug noticed you could get a “free” ticket to go into the shop so we did that via this entrance:
While they were many pretty things inside, we bought nothing but did notice these unusual creations:
When they were renovating the grounds here a few years back, some Roman ruins were found including 270 coins and some small ornaments:
We needed groceries but in Austria, like some parts of Germany, no supermarkets were open.
We had hoped to visit a few outdoor attractions:
1) the Krimml Waterfalls next but it didn’t look good for hiking – far too muddy with all the recent rain;
2) next was supposed to be the most beautiful alpine drive in Europe near Heiligenblut but the road does not open till May 3rd so that didn’t pan out either and
3) the world’s largest ice cave does not open for at least another week so we struck out again.
Okay change of plans; we’ll head to Salzburg; from where we were in Wattens, the quickest way was north to Germany and then east so that’s what we did, stopping nowhere in Germany.
It seems lately that the countries are flying by: France to Switzerland to Liechtenstein to Austria to Germany!
We had a couple of free street parking spots in mind to park (being Sunday) but none of them had space so we ended up in a parking lot a bit further away than we had planned but it all worked out. The weather improved steadily and we had a pleasant walk to and from.
Here we visited:
Stopped for a late lunch at Café Tommesli on their second floor balcony with a view of the old market square:
Then we moved on to explore more:
Sidebar: as you al know, The Sound of Music, was filmed and in reality the Von Trapps lived in Austria. There are a few locations you can visit where the filming took place. We saw the fortress and the castle from a distance, as well as the cathedral and the above fountain but did not venture out of the city to see others.
Over the past few times we’ve needed umbrellas, the one Fran got back in Budapest was detiorating. Time for a new one so we’d been watching for another nice souvenir one (of better quality) for a while and today in Salzburg we found one. Our children were asking Doug for Mother’s Day ideas, so this one, which was pricier than we’d normally pay, will be one of her gifts:
We were back to Minou around 4 and decided to push on a bit further back into Germany to a free aire – there are few places in and around Salzburg )and no free aires in Austria). It was only about 60 km / 40 mi to drive. Enroute we passed through the town of Eggelsberg with its huge yellow church:
The aire had room for us and we got settled for the night. Shortly after dinner it began raining and it rained all night long. It was a three tunnel day.
We awoke on the early side to rain on Monday – it hadn’t stopped at all. Doug bravely went outside and dumped our tanks and refilled our water and we began the drive to the Czech Republic.
We crossed the Danube River at one point:
By 9:30 we were at the border and it was still raining. We drove a total of 376 km / 233 mi then a total of 113 km / 70 mi across a corner of German to the border.
Fun facts about Austria:
- The sewing machine was invented by Austrian Josef Madersperger.
- Vienna has the oldest zoo in the world which was founded in 1752.
- Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of the German sports car company ‘Porsche’, was from Austria.
- Former Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up in Austria.
- 62% of Austria is covered by the Austrian Alps.
- The first postcardsused were in Austria.
- Austria is one of the world’s most eco-friendly countries – about63% of waste is recycled and most of the electricity comes through the use of renewable energy sources.
- Austria has 13 peakswith a height of 3,000 meters and 34 peaks that exceed 2,000 meters.
- The Austrian flag dates from 1191, which makes it one of the oldest national flags in the world.
- In 1818, the Austrian Joseph Madersperger invented the sewing machine.
- The single highest-selling energy drink on the planet “Red Bull” was created in Austria.
- The Vienna Boys Choiris one of the most famous choirs in the world and was founded in 1498.
- The founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud was born in Vienna.
- Every Austrian has a minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year.