12 September 2012

Vaduz highlights

The train from Zurich to Salzburg passes through (or near, it's hard to tell) Liechtenstein so I grabbed the opportunity to add another European country to my collection.

I guessed that there would not be that much to do there other than look at pretty Alpine cottages so I arranged to stay for just two nights giving me only one day to see the sights.

That was not difficult.

Liechtenstein has the population of a small English town, around 35,000, and the capital, Vaduz, has a mere 5,000 residents. It's a village.

It is, however, a village with a castle, albeit one placed precariously on the cliffs above it.

So the obvious thing to do in Vaduz is climb up to the castle. Even if it is raining.

The footpath snakes up the cliff taking you past some houses that make you wonder why anybody would want to live there when a simple trip out to get bread involves a steep climb down the cliff. It must be a fun place to live in Winter.

The castle looks much less impressive once you get up to it than it does from below. It presents its best face to the village and the back and side of it are little more than lumps of rock. High marks for defence but not many for decoration.

Having made it up to the castle and seen all that I wanted to see of it in much less than an hour I headed back down along an alternative path, uncertain of where it would lead but certain that I could not get lost in such a small place.

One the way down I found the Red House, Vaduz's other main attraction. It is cure enough but not really worth the effort of walking there.

Back in the centre is was hard to avoid the new parliament square and the works of art that adorn the edges.

I chose this example today for the colours. There is a nice Art Nouveau feel to the green.

I went in to the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts) only to find it mid-exhibition so only a small part of it was open and what I could see of that through the open door was not enough to tempt me with 8 CHF for the privilege of seeing the rest.

So I went in to their cafe instead and paid about the same amount for a latte.

The Postage Stamp Museum did not begin to tempt me either but I did make it to the Tourist Information office to help myself to a map of the area because I like maps and I wanted to find somewhere else to go.

I also bought some postcards; remember them?

The map confirmed that I had covered all of the main sights of Vaduz in the morning so I was left with the option of heading away from the tourist trail. 

I headed away from the centre north-west towards a little canal that follows the Rhine which is about  another 100m to the west. The Rhine forms the border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein at this point.

It took a few minutes to leave Vaduz behind and to be in splendid isolation.

Frequent bridges kept the possibility of a return to civilisation open and once I had had enough of the canal I turned right (east) back towards the main road and the vineyard region.

I ventured up the slope a little and found myself approaching the Red House again, this time from the other side. Vaduz really is that small.

That is probably the prettiest quarter of Vaduz and there are many signs that wine making has a long tradition there. There are wooden huts, grand houses and narrow lanes. In contrast the centre of Vaduz looks like one of the town planning disasters that were made in the UK when repairing sites destroyed in the last war. It is ugly.

The new parliament plaza seems to be a recognition of the mistakes made in the past.

The light brick is undeniably attractive and the wide open space gives a welcome sense of calm. The many works of art add interest as you pass through.

And that brings us back to the castle.

By the evening the rain had eased off and the caste lights were switched on so that the grey building from the morning was transformed in to something bright, colourful and quite lovely.

The grey rain was clearly a disappointment but it actually did nothing to hinder my one day in Vaduz.

I was able to climb up to the castle and to walk all over the village, parts of it several times. I saw the highs and the lows of the buildings and had a little walk in the countryside too.

I would not go as far as to recommend Vaduz as a holiday destination but it served my purpose in providing something a little different between two longer stays in larger places.

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