The Swiss Family Carlson goes to Liechtenstein!

This is turning into a 3 part series.  I just took too many pictures of Liechtenstein and St. Gallen to fit it into a single post.  Stay tuned next time to see the amazing library at St. Gallen.  But until then…

Liechtenstein!  I mean who actually goes to Liechtenstein??

This family, that’s who!

And it’s fun to say.  Liechtenstein!

It’s tiny! It’s actually the 6th smallest nation in the world! It’s only 61 square miles. Floyd County, Iowa (where I grew up) is 501 square miles.  That means my county is over 8 times larger than their entire country.  And even more awesomely, Washington, DC is 68 square miles making it almost the same size as Liechtenstein.

Just like DC, but with mountains.
Just like DC, but with mountains.

It is RICH. It’s the 2nd richest country in the world (measuring GDP per capita). The Fürst or Prince is the 5th richest monarch in the world. Most of their money comes from tourism (good skiing and hiking in a country that is mostly mountains) and being a HUGE tax haven for corporations.  Many, many companies have “letter box” offices there.

Being a tourist destination the prince and democratically elected parliament have sunk a lot of money into public art and a lovely pedestrians-only main thoroughfare.

Liechtenstein has a rich history simply through the benefit of its location.  It still bears some influences from the Greeks and Etruscans that lived there thousands of years ago.  It was also part of the Roman Empire under Julius Caesar after the Battle of Bibracte in 58BC.  After Rome fell it became part of the Alemanni’s lands and then part of the Frankish Empire and eventually part of the Holy Roman Empire around 1000AD. Then like its neighbor Switzerland  (and Lenzburg Castle) it fell under control of the Habsburgs during the rein of King Rudolph I in 1264AD.

The Red House.  Built in stages starting in the 15th century and continuing through the very early 1900s.
The Red House. Built in stages starting in the 15th century and continuing through the very early 1900s. It is the oldest house in Vaduz and shows examples of the styles and architectures of many different cultures.

In about 1140 (and then again in the 17th Century) the Liechtenstein family moved in and started taking control of some land in “feudal tenure.”  They tried really hard and eventually got to rub elbows with the Holy Roman Empire. Then in the 1600s it paid off and Karl I of Liechtenstein was finally made a prince or Fürst by Emperor Matthias after be smart enough to back His Royal Highness in some sort of political squabble.

Can I be your friend too, Your Highness?
Can I be your friend too, Your Highness?

The Fürst of Liechtenstein really likes being a prince and the country loves having a prince.  The slogan on the brochure we picked up read, Experience princely moments.  Just check out his castle.

A princely view.
A princely view.

And he still lives in the Castle Vaduz with his family (wife, son and his wife and their children), which consequently means the castle is closed to the public.  Darn it.

Liechtenstein actually has a few wineries.  Surprising for a country that size, but also sort of expected in a country with so many mountains.  The prince owns at least one winery in Liechtenstein.  The sign by the vineyard welcomes you to “the world of princely wines.”


Mark by the prince’s vineyard (some pretty pricey real estate) with Castle Vaduz in the perfect position for supervision.

There is a bust of the prince and princess near the middle of the square, just so you know them when you see them.  Also just off the main square is the Cathedral of St. Florian.

IMG_1498Archaeologists have found older foundations under the church, but St. Florian’s has been standing on that spot since 1874. (So it’s practically brand new.)

IMG_1501It is technically a cathedral. I guess since the country is small the cathedral needed to match? Don’t let the size fool you.  Like the country, the cathedral is beautiful and elegant inside.IMG_1502

The stained glass is truly wonderful and you can see it was built after the Reform and therefore it escaped the destruction that other churches experienced.

What really makes St. Florin’s Cathedral truly unique is they have a relic!

IMG_1508I couldn’t figure out what kind of relic the statue holds, but I was assured that it is, indeed, a relic.  St. Florin had the miracle of turning water into wine attributed to him which is why he is sculpted holding a cup.  After his death many other miracles are said to have happened to those who have visited his tomb in Remüs. However, I don’t think anyone who has taken a bottle of Evian to his tomb has ever walked away with a Cabernet.

Vaduz is such a lovely town to wander through.  The parliament building takes the center state of one square. And we happened to see a bride and her attendants having her photos taken there.

IMG_1495There are art museums everywhere along the square. And with so much public art everywhere any art lover should come here for a day.

I was also delighted to find out that the tourism office will actually mail postcards for you!  I sent a postcard to my niece and to one Shaun Boyd.  There were many people there taking advantage of their post.  Hordes of people from England, China, Norway, and Spain where in there along with me.  I was oddly delighted to be able to send out a card.  It felt like such a wonderful novelty.

Frankly just being in Liechtenstein was a wonderful novelty.  I would rank it as one of the top 5 highlights from our life in Switzerland so far.  I highly recommend that you take the leap and go if you happen to be in the neighborhood.  It was easy to get there from St. Gallen or even Zurich and everyone, literally everyone, speaks wonderful English.

Tune in next time for details about our visit to St. Gallen where we look for the Irish!

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