Schloss Vaduz

Trip Start May 28, 2008
Trip End Aug 26, 2008

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Flag of Liechtenstein  ,
Monday, August 4, 2008


We hadn't planned on a visit to Lichtenstein, but the great train system in Switzerland made a day trip to Vaduz possible. Swiss trains run on time, run almost everywhere, run often, and the first class compartments are spotless. Swiss-German culture is highly precise, and that is reflected in their rail system. I'd read that the Swiss insist ('demand' was the word the author used) on some concessions and/or extra cooperation from the Italian side of the border to keep Switzerland-Italy international trains running on schedule. We've been on a lot of trains at this point, and I give the Swiss top marks for the best of them.

With a few trains per hour at our disposal, I just couldn't resist a quick trip to nearby Lichtenstein. This small principality, wedged between Switzerland and Austria, has experienced financial success as a banking and business center under the leadership of the royal family (who purchased it a very long time ago). Today there is an elected government, which works in cooperation with the royal family. There was a movement for further democratic reform a few years ago, but the reining prince threatened to leave if things were changed and most people backed the current system.

The Rhine river separates Switzerland from Lichtenstein, and in this high river valley you can see six different towns nestled against the surrounding mountains. The town of Vaduz is the capital of Lichtenstein, located just across the river from Buchs, Switzerland.

There is not a great deal to do in Vaduz, although several small towns are also a few minutes away and offer different activities. Hiking and mountaineering are popular, as there are many challenging trails including some along mountains with just rope handholds between you and the steep drop below. Stamp collectors used to seek out Liechtenstein stamps from their tiny postal system, so there is a small stamp museum and tourist office. The main street is pleasant, having been closed to traffic to create a nice pedestrian walkway with cafes in the tradition of many European city centers.

The typical visitors to Vaduz will check out the castle Schloss Vaduz (did that), stroll the main street (did that), send a postcard (did that), and get their passports stamped (did that too). What to do with the rest of afternoon?

If you are interested in a low-tax business climate, then perhaps incorporating a new firm would be a good choice. There are actually 1.5 companies per resident here, due to the favorable banking and business laws. We didn't have a new business idea or a need for a holding company, so we kept ourselves content with some nice and easy hiking above Vaduz and enjoyed the beautiful views of Switzerland over the Rhine.

The royal family here is reportedly richer than England's royal family, but seem a bit more low-key (or at least less visible and well known). The royals here and the country were not rich following WWII, and the family had to sell art treatures at various times until the new Lichtenstein was slowly developed for business and financial services.

You can climb the hill above Vaduz to view the small castle that serves as royal residence, but you can't visit. We strolled up to the gate and had a look around, but if we'd been here two weeks later the castle is opened one time per year for Liechtenstein's National Day, when the prince invites the whole country over for drinks. Fortunately for the prince, there are only 34,000 people in Liechtenstein. Still quite a bar tab, nonetheless.

- Demian
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