The euphoria and amazement I was feeling after the first two and a half weeks of our trip slowly started to lessen after leaving Switzerland and arriving in Liechtenstein.
Our drive to Liechtenstein took five hours but included a number of stops to look at things that peaked our interest along the way, which is the bonus of traveling by car. We found a delightful café to have lunch in Sacheln and sat soaking in the peace and beauty of the surrounding area just letting the world go by.
My expectations of Liechtenstein were preconceived and expectant due to family history as my father traveled there regularly for work in the 1960s to the mid 90s, sometimes with my mother accompanying him. They frequently spoke about the charm and beauty of Liechtenstein and shared stories of the people they met. I remember receiving postcards depicting colourful flower boxes on the windowsills of wooden chalets, people dressed in national costume and cows grazing in green meadows. As this was what I’d seen in the Swiss countryside last week (well not the national costume) I assumed it would continue in Liechtenstein but this was not the case. Some traditional buildings and houses remain but the majority of people live in modern apartments. The streets are busy with traffic and it seems to be more of a service centre with lots of industry. The major tourist attractions include skiing in winter and hiking all year round.
My Dad is now 88 and he asked us to visit the Hotel Sylva where he and my mother (who passed away 8 years ago) stayed when they visited Liechtenstein. Over many years they’d become great friends with the owner Sylvie who always made their stay special. We wanted to have a drink at the Hotel Sylva bar in memory of the wonderful times my mum and dad shared. The hotel looked old and dated. We went to the door and saw a sign written in German that we later translated as meaning ‘closed indefinitely due to family illness’. I felt an overwhelming sadness for my Dad.
After the initial shadow of disappointment I vowed to enjoy our five days here. We drove up the mountain to Malbun for a 7km nature hike, which was rustic and invigorating. The sky was clear and we could see right down in to the valley. While walking along we heard cow bells ringing louder and louder and realised they were being herded down the mountain behind us. We watched in awe and they plodded past us in a line.
We drove to Feldkirch, Austria to see the farmers market that is held in the old town every first and third Saturday. There was mouth-watering fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, meats, flowers and fish to buy. A great community atmosphere was in the air with people shopping, meeting for drinks and coffee and generally enjoying their Saturday morning together.
We’ve discovered that almost everything is closed on Sundays in the places we’ve visited on our trip so far. This reminds us of Sundays 25 years ago in Melbourne, Australia when the shops were closed and the city streets were deserted.
On our last day we drove over the border to Switzerland to the mineral hot springs at Bad Ragaz to experience the healing effects of natural thermal water sprung from the Tamina Gorge since Medieval times. The 36.5°C water temperature stimulated relaxation, rest and harmony and was just what we needed after three solid weeks of traveling.
It’s difficult to explain how I feel about Liechtenstein, but I know I’m glad for the experience of visiting. It was something I wanted to do in my lifetime and I sent a silent word to my mum on the anniversary of her death,which fell during our time here, “mum I made it”.