Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 5 (February 2017)
If you’ve noticed, this trip was dubbed “Maybe Liechtenstein” (you can search the #maybeliechtenstein hashtag on Instagram to see more fun photos) because we were never really quite sure if we’d make it to the small land locked country. But we packed up and left our Airbnb in Zurich and once again hopped on the train. We started with a train ride through Switzerland to Sargens, the main stop closest to the border. Once you get to this station, you can either take a bus directly to Vaduz, the capital, or take a local train one stop north and then a short bus ride across to the city. We opted for the bus since we had to transfer to a second bus in order to make it to our hotel, Hotel Kulm, located in the mountains just above the city.
I stumbled across this hotel while doing some research about Liechtenstein. It’s not in the city, so it was a bit cheaper than some of the alternatives. We had a “valley view” room, which actually has a great view of the valley below and the mountains across in Switzerland. The “mountain view” rooms face up the mountain, so I would highly recommend the former!
We arrived at the hotel to find what seemed like most of the town coming down in a parade. We found out this was yet another version of the Carnival we had experienced in Switzerland. There was a small festival in the square with treats and vin chaud (which we of course had to try.) After settling in to our room, we discovered that all the bands that were in the parade were playing their own sets in the hall under the hotel in the afternoon and evening. We managed to catch a few of them perform and it was great fun! They played a lot of well known hits, although sometimes it took a little while to figure out exactly what the song was supposed to be. It was a great thing to experience and made me wish there were more events like that in North America. There are very few events where whole towns or communities are expected to, and want to, participate. After the last of the bands performed we decided to grab a snack from the restaurant and call it an early evening.
The next morning I was determined to add another country to my skiing list, so we stored our luggage at the hotel and grabbed the bus heading further up the mountain. We soon arrived at the end of the line, a tiny ski town named Malbun. As luck would have it, it had snowed the night before! I quickly grabbed a half day rental and ski pass (yes, in most of Europe you can do half day passes for the morning) and spent the first half of the day exploring the runs that made up the ski field. My friend, not a huge fan of skiing, opted to sit in one of the local cafes with some coffee and a picturesque view.
The afternoon was dedicated for exploring Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. Since it seemed to be a quasi holiday, there were quite a few stores that were closed, but we were on a mission: passport stamps. Since there is no hard border for Liechtenstein there is no where you can get your passport stamped. But there are a few places where for 3€ they will put and official Liechtenstein stamp in your passport.
In addition to our passport mission we attempted to get up to the castle. After walking all the way up a fairly steep walking path to the base of the structure we found out that you couldn’t actually get inside since the Prince and his family still lives there. Oops. That was a bit of a bummer. On the plus side, there is a fantastic view of the valley over the town. Heading back down the mountain side, we made our way to the winery (yes, Liechenstein has a royal winery) for some much needed wine tasting. While they do import a lot of their grapes from Austria, there are quite a few that are solely grown in Lichtenstein.
Sadly our brief time in this small county was coming to an end, but we made one last stop on the way back to Zurich. One of the original crossings, an old wooden covered bridge, is now closed to all but pedestrian and bicycle traffic. In the middle of the bridge, over the middle of the river, is the official sign demarcating the two countries. Two places at once!
We made our way to the train station, opting to try taking the train to Sargens, and made our connection to Zurich. Enjoying our first class seats (purchased by accident) we made plans for a quick stop to grab dinner and swiss chocolate from the Migros at the train station before taking our last Swiss train to the airport.