Liechtenstein … where is everybody?

Even with a population of around 37,000, it seems none of Liechtenstein’s residents – apart from HSH Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein – live in its capital, Vaduz. In fact rarely does it seem anyone born in the principality ventures into the capital of the sixth smallest country in the world unless they have a very good reason for doing so.

Vaduz, the capital city of the sixth smallest country in the world with the sixth longest country name

Vaduz, the capital city of the sixth smallest country in the world with the sixth longest country name

Vaduz from above. Plenty of buildings (mainly banks housing money from foreigners seeking a tax haven for their fortunes), but not many people

Vaduz from above. Plenty of buildings (mainly banks housing money from foreigners seeking a tax haven for their fortunes), but not many people

When I kept receiving perplexed looks from restaurant staff night after night during my three days stay in Vaduz back in June 2014, I thought that Liechtensteiners were generally not very welcoming to foreigners. But when a local bus driver asked me “why on earth have you come to Vaduz? There’s nothing to do here”, the penny finally dropped; the people of Liechtenstein (who are actually rather friendly once you find them) are simply not used to tourists choosing to come and stay in their country. Most tourists who do venture into Liechtenstein tend to be either Alpine hikers or coach-day-trippers merely passing through on their way to neighbouring Switzerland or Austria. This is a real shame as Liechtenstein is a rather lovely country and Vaduz is particularly picturesque.

Yet, it is fair to say that Liechtenstein is to blame for not enticing more tourists to stay. Liechtenstein isn’t really renowned for anything in particular (apart from being a tax haven), but it does have a few potential and unique tourist attractions if only it marketed them more effectively worldwide. It does pride itself on its breath-taking Alpine walks and the Fürstensteig trail in particular is absolutely stunning, albeit not for the faint hearted. The country is also one of the few left in Europe to have a ruling monarchy with His Serene Highness Hans-Adam II, the present ruling Prince of Liechtenstein being HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s eighth cousin. The Prince however is not entitled to take a place on the line of succession to the British throne as he and his family are devoutly Catholic and only Protestants can lawfully rule Britannia. Although very much loved and respected by his people, evident from the many royal portraits adorning practically every interior wall in the country, Liechtenstein doesn’t seem to have made the most of Prince Hans-Adam II as a tourist attraction in the way Britain has with the Windsors. As a consequence the Prince is relatively unknown beyond the country’s borders and most tourists to the country are unaware there is even a royal family in residence.

Apart from a trek up the hill to take a peak at the official royal residence of Vaduz Castle and a walk around the country’s capital city that is smaller than London’s Westminster, there isn’t really much else to see and do in Vaduz other than to sit down with a coffee and people-watch, an activity that requires some skill and a lot of patience as rarely does one spot anyone in Vaduz at all!

Äulestrasse, Liechtenstein's 'motorway' through Vaduz, looking east towards St Florin's cathedral ...

Äulestrasse, Liechtenstein’s ‘motorway’ through Vaduz, looking east towards St Florin’s cathedral …

... and looking west into the heart of the Liechtenstein capital

… and looking west into the heart of the Liechtenstein capital

The busiest junction in Liechtenstein: the main roundabout in Vaduz, during evening rush hour

The busiest junction in Liechtenstein: the main roundabout in Vaduz, during evening rush hour

The lunchtime rush in the restaurant quarter along pedestrianised Städtle

The lunchtime rush in the restaurant quarter along pedestrianised Städtle

Liechtenstein's equivalent of London's Bond Street

Liechtenstein’s equivalent of London’s Bond Street

Is there anybody in Vaduz?!

Is there anybody in Vaduz?!

A person! Ah no, it's just a bronze sculpture along Städtle. 'Phoenix' by Doris Buhler

A person! Ah no, it’s just a bronze sculpture along Städtle. ‘Phoenix’ by Doris Buhler

There seems to be more sculptures of people in Vaduz than actual people. 'Ruhende Frau' (Reclining Woman') by Fernando Botero next to the country's National Art Museum and... is that a real, live woman walking past it?

There seems to be more sculptures of people in Vaduz than actual people. ‘Ruhende Frau’ (Reclining Woman’) by Fernando Botero next to the country’s National Art Museum and… is that a real, live woman walking past it?

Another interesting piece of art along Städtle. Stand inside its doorway...

Another interesting piece of art along Städtle. Stand inside its doorway…

...and marvel at the arch of water running above you, between the panels

…and marvel at the arch of water running above you, between the panels

Opposite was the Liechtenstein Information Centre. As it was early afternoon, I thought I might find someone in here at least. Alas, it was closed, probably due of lack of interest

Opposite was the Liechtenstein Information Centre. As it was early afternoon, I thought I might find someone in here at least. Alas, it was closed, probably due of lack of interest

I did however have some joy at the Town Hall. That dog was clearly as surprised to see me as I was to spot him and his two owners

I did however have some joy at the Town Hall. That dog was clearly as surprised to see me as I was to spot him and his two owners

Surely there would be some activity in the political quarter at Peter-Kaiser-Platz, the country's Regierungsgebaude (Government building) to the right and the brick tent-like Landtagsgebaude (Parliament building) further down

Surely there would be some activity in the political quarter at Peter-Kaiser-Platz, the country’s Regierungsgebaude (Government building) to the right and the brick tent-like Landtagsgebaude (Parliament building) further down

Hang on a moment ...

Hang on a moment …

At last, life! Hello? Hello?! Hey, wait for me!

At last, life! Hello? Hello?! Hey, wait for me!

...

And then I spotted this sign at the entrance to Städtle which under the circumstances seemed more literal than it was probably meant to be

And then I spotted this sign at the entrance to Städtle which under the circumstances seemed more literal than it was probably meant to be

Resigned to the fact that people-watching wasn’t the most fruitful activity in Vaduz, I decided to visit one of the country’s museums, the Post Museum.

The Kunstraum, Liechtenstein's Post Museum (no queue to enter)

The Kunstraum, Liechtenstein’s Post Museum (no queue to enter)

A model of what a Liechtensteiner may look like (if you can find a real one to compare this model with)

A model of what a Liechtensteiner may look like (if you can find a real one to compare this model with)

The museum was small, but passed half an hour pleasantly. Entry was free, but let’s face it, even if there was an entrance fee the museum probably wouldn’t make much money from it anyway due to the lack of foot-fall through the city.

There were original post office signs on display ...

There were original post office signs on display …

... and a fine array of post boxes

… and a fine array of post boxes

...and more boxes

…and more boxes

... and even more post boxes

… and even more post boxes

Liechtenstein is a philator’s paradise with a steady business in postage stamp production specific to the country. The Post Museum has a large collection of stamps on show and blown-up reproductions of more recent prints displayed on the pavement outside the museum.

One of the square metre sized stamp reproductions outside the Post Museum along the pavement of Städtle

One of the square metre sized stamp reproductions outside the Post Museum along the pavement of Städtle

Liechtenstein stamp Hundertwasser Schwarzhutmann Black Hat Man  Liechtenstein stamp Heiligsprechung Papst Johannes Paul II Canonisation of Pope John Paul II  Liechtenstein stamp Peter Paul Rubens Clara Serena Rubens  Liechtenstein stamp Ratischer Enzian Chiltern gentian

Most tourists who do venture into Liechtenstein usually only have time to buy a postcard and stamp to prove to friends and family that they have ventured into another European country. This shop in particular along Städtle does very good business as a result.

Selling the kind of stamp most would be very happy to lick, but they may not stick very well onto a postcard and would simply melt in any kind of heat

Selling the kind of stamp most would be very happy to lick, but they may not stick very well onto a postcard and would simply melt in any kind of heat

As I left the Post Museum I heard the hoot of a horn and the hiss from the brakes of a large vehicle parking up nearby. A coach full of tourists had arrived!

People! Real people. In Vaduz!

People! Real people. In Vaduz!

But, as is the case with most coach parties to Liechtenstein, it wasn’t staying long. This party had been given an hour to stretch their legs, buy a souvenir and take a few photos, not enough time to walk up Schlossweg and visit Vaduz Castle up on the hill. A rather good scale model of the castle can be found in the centre of Vaduz which seems to satisfy tourists seeking a taste of Liechtenstein culture and consequently dissuading them from going beyond the city’s Coach Terminal to find any more.

A quick photo before getting back on the coach. I do hope they realise that is not the real Vaduz Castle

A quick photo before getting back on the coach. I do hope they realise that is not the real Vaduz Castle

...

I however, did have the luxury of time and the pleasure to visit the real Vaduz Castle and go further afield into the city.

The real Vaduz Castle watching over the city and looking like a James Bond villain's lair

The real Vaduz Castle watching over the city and looking like a James Bond villain’s lair

Vaduz Castle is the official home of the Liechtenstein royal family and is not open to the public

Vaduz Castle is the official home of the Liechtenstein royal family and is not open to the public

This is as close as a commoner can get to the castle

This is as close as a commoner can get to the castle

Walking back down Schlossweg to the city below I came across some more stunning homes against a beautiful Alpine backdrop.

...

The Rotes Haus (Red House) looking over one of the largest vineyards in the country

The Rotes Haus (Red House) looking over one of the largest vineyards in the country

Now a private residence, but still a landmark in Vaduz

Now a private residence, but still a landmark in Vaduz

Liechtenstein Rotes Haus Red House mural

A large number of dwellings in Vaduz display interesting murals often depicting historical scenes giving an insight into what the country’s first settlers were employed in.

...

Liechtenstein house with workers mural close up

Other murals pay homage to God.

...

Well if he doesn't know where everyone is, there's no hope in finding anyone in Vaduz

Well if he doesn’t know where everyone is, there’s no hope in finding anyone in Vaduz

Night life in Vaduz

Night life in Vaduz

On my final day in Vaduz the streets seemed even more eerily quiet than usual.

...

As I walked to the bus station I noticed all the shops and banks were closed and a number of shrines to the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ had been laid out on several doorsteps.

...

...

Then from seemingly nowhere, I finally spotted some people. A large group of people. A large procession of people, coming my way! It was the Christian feast day of Corpus Christi and as Liechtenstein is a devoutly Catholic country, the day was a religious holiday where the whole country came out to celebrate.

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...

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And when I say the whole country came out to celebrate the feast day, I really do mean the whole country…

Liechtenstein Corpus Christi procession above east along Aulestrasse

…including HSH Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein and his family.

His Serene Highness Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein (centre-right), his wife HSH Princess Marie (right wearing blue), his daughter HSH Princess Tatjana of Liechtenstein, her husband Philipp von Lattorff (wearing a red tie) and a bodyguard looking at me with suspicion

His Serene Highness Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein (centre-right), his wife HSH Princess Marie (right wearing blue), his daughter HSH Princess Tatjana of Liechtenstein, her husband Philipp von Lattorff (wearing a red tie) and a bodyguard looking at me with suspicion

Their Serene Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein leading the procession through Vaduz along Städtle

Their Serene Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein leading the procession through Vaduz along Städtle

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...

Trying not the think of the Wicker Man at this point

Trying not the think of the Wicker Man at this point

...

Cute!

Cute!

So, the moral to the story is, if you want to meet the people of Liechtenstein or just want to meet anyone at all in Liechtenstein, then visit the country on a religious feast day.

TLT x

 

Useful information

Liechtenstein doesn’t have an airport nor a train network, so I travelled to Liechtenstein via Zurich. I caught a train from Zurich HB to the Swiss-Liechtenstein border town of Sargans (a small number of trains depart from Zurich HB to Sargans daily). This journey took just over an hour. From Sargans I took the distinctive green Liechtenstein bus that meets the train. The journey from Sargans to Vaduz took around twenty-five minutes.

Liechtenstein bus in Vaduz

The only public transport in operation in Liechtenstein are those green buses, but they are regular, cheap (you can pay the driver when boarding) and reliable with good connections across the country. Route maps and timetables can be found here albeit in German only.


Fürst class hiking Liechtenstein Fürstensteig trail apline bulls enjoying the viewacross Liechtenstein’s stunning Fürstensteig trail 

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1 Response to Liechtenstein … where is everybody?

  1. Sherickson says:

    Nice write up…was thinking of going to do my masters program in university of Liechtenstein,unfortunately you didn’t write or capture that,am from Lagos city,and so busy in Lagos with a population of about 20million people,been to Johannesburg,quite busy too,don’t know how am gonna cope over there,it sure looks beautiful,but damn,not seeing people around can make one fall sick….don’t they go to work or offices,shopping,visiting friends….they should get out and play on the streets…lol,good job your doing.

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