How could I not come here??

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
Trip End Aug 15, 2008

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Flag of Liechtenstein  ,
Saturday, May 27, 2006

Probably one of the best rides I've had so far! After a couple of short lifts, a fantastic guy picked me up about 30 miles outside of Interlaken, and took me all the way to just south of Liechtenstein. I really hadn't anticipated it being quite so easy to reach the smallest country in Europe!

At a grand total of 150 square km, about 7km across at its widest point and almost 30km long, Liechtenstein barely features on most maps and shares it's postal system and currency with Switzerland, yet it is officially a country of its own. It's so small that I stayed about a third of the way down the country from the capital (with one town in between), yet could still walk to the centre in about an hour.

After investigating the "capital" for all of a couple of hours and not really discovering much of interest (aside from a couple of scupltures and a castle being renovated) I went to bed (well, tent) early with the intention of getting an early start on my cross country walk. And I mean literally cross country - I intended to hike from one side of the country to the other at its widest point. Although only 7km as the crow flies, this isn't actually as easy as it sounds. Most of the inhabited parts of the country occupy a narrow valley between the Swiss alps and those stretching into Austria, so the walk would actually take in a climb of around 1700 metres in very little horizontal distance.

As I said, this was my intention. For the first time, a hike defeated me. Starting at 6.30 in the morning, I began my climb. A fairly tedious couple of hours along a road, with no great views to make it a little more entertaining and a harsh incline to add to the irritation took me up to the mountain hut of Lawena, set in a hanging valley, and finally some views out to the Liechtenstein valley far below. A little confusion occured before I found the right path on which to continue my route, which continued my ascent with ever more impressive views. Eventually this led around the side of a mountain, high enough that I could barely even see anything of Liechtenstein onto some disturbingly narrow paths, no longer sheltered from the wind and with vertigo inducing drops to the side. After a moment or two of hesitation, I pressed on and was able to appreciate the magnificence of it all once in a while, when the path widened slightly. Then, 5 hours in, I came to a halt. Just as I was looking with scorn upon the mountain goats far beneath me, I rounded a corner and discovered snowfall covering my path. Not normally a problem, this was something different. Although it only covered the path for about 15 metres, and I could frustratingly see the path on the other side, it was the type of snow that I am quite wary of walking across - too crumbly to be sure of my footing, and lying at an angle of about 50 with nothing to break my fall beneath apart from the valley floor, 2km beneath me (or so it looked). Even more frustratingly, the snow ended all of 2 metres beneath the path. Another week or two and it wouldn't have been there at all. After investigating the possibility of crossing higher or lower, off the path, I rejected the idea as being too dangerous without any better equipment than my hiking boots. For once, common sense won out over the stupid, adventurous side, and I was forced to give up. A bird circled me as I was enjoying a consolatory cup of muesli (my staple for the past week) and mockingly flew straight over the snow and landed on the path on the other side. Bastard.

After indulging in my own version of primal scream therapy, which unfortuantely can't be reproduced here, but was actually extremely satisfying and theraputic to hear reverberating around the mountains, I turned around and began the painful descent back to camp. Just to rub it in, the heavens opened when I got back, and it didn't stop raining until sometime in the early morning. I'm not sure exactly when, because at around 12 midnight my bargain tent finally gave up and started to properly leak, and I was forced to abandon it for the only dry place I could find on the campsite for the rest of the night - the toilets.

So my Liechtenstein experience wasn't overwhelmingly positive. At least they actually stamped my passport.
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