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CAPITAL IDEA: Vaduz: A quick guide

Welcome to another “Capital Ideas”—our somewhat idiosyncratic, ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek guide to various world cities, perfect for the ever discerning readership of this blog.

We know our readers are always visitors, never tourists (an important distinction). Do feel free to contribute your own ideas or suggestions in the comments section, we’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

Capital: Vaduz.

Umm . . . I think I’m going to be saying this quite a bit, but why?  Because great things come in small packages.

No really, why? Why not?

No seriously, why? The element of surprise is wonderful, isn’t it?

It is? Oh, most certainly. Did you expect me to suggest Vaduz?

I have no idea what Vaduz is or if it’s real. Precisely. What a surprise that is!

I was rather hoping that you might do Rio this month. I’ve been watching the Confederations Cup and, civil strife to one side for a moment, my appetite is very much whetted for next year’s World Cup. I’ll bear it in mind, but today I thought we could discuss Vaduz.

Venezuela? Ha! That’s Caracas. You’re not even close continent wise.

Okay, clearly I have no idea. Just tell me where it is. It’s in Liechtenstein. Isn’t that exciting?

Not particularly, no! Oh, come on, it is a little bit.

Little seems to be the operative word. Vaduz must be one of the smallest capitals in the world. It’s certainly not large. It has a population of under 6,000.

So a pulsating nightlife must be on offer, then? Apparently, you could try a Club Z, Liechtenstein’s premier nightclubI’m sure it’s wild! But be warned: it does not have a dance ring.

Hmm. Was there any ulterior motive in your choosing Vaduz? Ulterior motive? Me? Why the very idea! Of course not!

Apologies for impugning your good name. That’s okay, you’re forgiven. I can assure you that there are no ulterior motives here. I absolutely was not struggling with a deadline and thought that a small city would mean that I could quicker meet that deadline.

A-ha, the plot thickens. Are you trying to shortchange me by fobbing Vaduz off me. Smaller city means less work for you. Unfortunately, it’s not true. A smaller city does not mean less work. There’s enough reason to visit Vaduz to more than fill up a post here. There’s charm and history aplenty. Who doesn’t want to stroll around a small town filled with medieval and baroque architecture?

Please, never ever use the word “aplenty” again. So how do I even get there? I’m assuming that there isn’t a direct flight from Heathrow or JFK. And you’d be right, but you can get a flight to Zurich and from there get the train from Zurich to Sargans where you can then hop on to a bus to Vaduz. More information can be found here.

And once there, do I need to worry about getting round town? No, this isn’t one of those entries where I tell you about how to navigate the local subway system. This is a town of five and a half thousand, after all.

What is there to see in Vaduz? Well, wherever you are in town you can’t really help but see Vaduz Castle. (You can see it in the above photo.) Set in a hilltop overlooking the town it really is picture postcard pretty. It’s the home to the reigning Price of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II. Unlike other European monarchies, the Prince of Liechtenstein has an extremely large amount of political power – he has, for instance, veto power over the government.

So I can’t visit the castle? No, and as the Prince of Liechtenstein is Europe’s wealthiest monarch with an estimated fortune of $4 billion, there’s no pressing need for him to open the castle up to get those tourist coffers in. But given that its presence in the city is all pervading, you’ll be able to take some wonderful shots of it from every street corner; and if you were to take a tour of the city – you know how much we love our walking tours here on The Displaced Nation – you’ll learn lots about the castle’s history.  Some more information can be found here.

What else can I do. Under six thousand residents? Sounds like it’s really a village in name only. Well even if he’s not letting you into his castle, you could always go and visit the wine cellars of the Prince.

I’m always up for some wine tasting, but I don’t recall ever having wine from Liechtenstein before. Is it any good? Liechtenstein actually has an ideal climate for wine. They’ve been growing wine in that region for over 2,000 years so it’s not entirely surprising that a bunch of grapes can be found on Vaduz’s coat of arms.  If you’re traveling by car, take a trip into the countryside and visit one of the many wineries. Sit back and have a refreshing glass of gewürztraminer – it’s a favorite of mine. Plenty of information can be found here.

And for a more cultural suggestion? Hey, I would contend that you can’t get more cultural than a wine tasting, but if you’re after something more artistic then you should visit the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (Liechtenstein Museum of Fine Arts). An interesting piece of architecture in itself (an intriguing black cube, it has been voted one of the world’s ugliest buildings, but I absolutely don’t agree with that assessment), it houses an extensive collection of modern art from around the world as well as Liechtenstein’s national art collection. So to your earlier suggestion that Vaduz was a village in name only, this is precisely the sort of thing one would not expect to find in your local village. Vaduz offer more than a duck pond and a Spar shop. You could also visit the National Museum (Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum). This is rather less imposing than the Kunstmuseum. Unlike that with all it’s modern architectural pizzazz, the National Museum is housed in a former tavern and customhouse. Covering the folklore and history of the principality, it’s well worth your time, particularly if you aren’t planning on doing an historical walking tour. Finally, if – like me – you are a sucker for visiting old churches, then you should pop into the neo-Gothic Cathedral of St. Florin.

What should I read? Normally I use this part of a Capital Ideas post to expand from merely writing about whichever featured city we’re looking at so that I can highlight a larger national literature. This month that isn’t quite so easy. For why that’s the case I refer you to an interview with the Liechtenstein writer Stefan Sprenger, who was featured in the 2011 edition of Dalkey Archive Press‘s acclaimed Best European Fiction anthology series. In an interview translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman, Sprenger declares: “There is no Liechtenstein literature, and never has been.” Also worth a read is this interesting blog post on the subject.

What should I watch?  Again, I’m cheating a bit but as it’s about a small European nation still far too enthralled to a crusty almost farcical form of government that combines absolute and constitutional monarchy, but as it may be somewhat relevant, I’d suggest The Mouse That Roared, starring Peter Sellers, who plays both the Grand Duchess and Prime Minister of the fictional Duchy of Grand Fenwick. It’s a fun little British comedy from the late 1950s, which was based on a 1955 Cold War satirical novel by Irish-American writer Leonard Wibberley.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another installment in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

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