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The Liechtenstein Trail
Day three – Vaduz to Ruggell

Vaduz Castle

By Luke Waterson

Vaduz might be small, but has a very cosmopolitan air. The main pedestrian street starts my exploration at the handsome Rathaus, or Town Hall, with its motifs honouring St Urban, the patron saint of winegrowers: apt, given the town’s abundance of photogenic vineyards. This thoroughfare ushers me to Vaduz’s trio of key museums. The first, modern Kunstmuseum, is a contemporary gallery in a black, gleaming reflective cube with an impressive sculpture and art installations collection, and an attractive café. Next up, the PostMuseum delves into Liechtenstein’s singular postal history: the country is in fact something of a buzz word for stamp collectors who have long been drawn here because of the relative scarcity and historic high quality of Liechtenstein stamps. Lastly, the LandesMuseum is Liechtenstein’s national museum and houses displays on the history and traditions of the country in a wedding cake-like building with lemon yellow cornicing: great for a grounding in the country’s identity. At the far end of the pedestrian street is the spired Cathedral of St Florin, resting place of several members of the Liechtenstein Royal family.

Gallery preview

But the place I am most relishing the prospect of visiting lies a little way outside the centre. The Cellars of the Prince of Liechtenstein are for me Vaduz’s standout attraction, set amidst the few acres of flower-festooned vineyards that make the northern side of the capital so pretty. Here, extremely informative staff supervise tastings of four wines from the princely vineyards, which occupy sites both in Liechtenstein and Austria, inside an atmospheric cellar. Viticulture, it turns out, has been practiced on Liechtenstein soil for long before it ever became a country or had a prince. Known for one of the best terroirs in the entire Rhine valley, winegrowing here dates back at least six centuries. With under one hundred tonnes of wine produced per year, Liechtenstein is the world’s tiniest wine-making nation. The wine, it logically follows, should be some of the most eclectic, and I cannot fault the crisp chardonnay and berry-rich pinot noir I sample.

 

The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery

The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery

The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery

Tasting of wine from the princely vineyards

Hiking the furthest distance of any day’s stage after a session in the princely wine cellars is perhaps not the wisest idea, but in fact there is little option, since my next place to stay on the Liechtenstein Trail is in Ruggell, almost 30km along the trail. First, though, it is time to pay a visit to Liechtenstein’s big city: no, not Vaduz, but Schaan, which eclipses the population of the capital by over 500 inhabitants. After all that wine, I also need a pick-me-up, and so I detour via the notorious Demmel Kaffee, a coffee roaster and café well known for making some of the feistiest and most heart-palpitating coffee this side of the Alps. The owner tries out his latest ristretto, with about five times the strength of your average espresso, on me: suffice it to say that I depart Schaan virtually bouncing along the trail.

 

Gallery preview

The Liechtenstein Trail now sheers up through forest to Liechtenstein’s most attractive village, Planken. This time-trapped, well-kept little settlement is backed by gorgeous emerald-green meadows. Paths from here lead up also into the high peaks, including the pointy summits of the Drei Schwestern, or Three Sisters, now framed above me. As if toying with me, the trail drops again, skittering down through pine forests to reach Nendeln. Nendeln is perhaps best known for having one of Liechtenstein’s few railway stations, with direct international connections to Switzerland and Austria. But long before the railway arrived, the Romans did: establishing a fort on the edge of town, remains of which can still be seen.

 

In the woods between Planken and Nendeln

What follows is one of the flattest parts of the path, through the villages of Nendeln and Eschen. Dramatic events unfolded even here in the past though: one of the worst floods the Rhine valley had ever seen caused devastation in the 1920s, whilst a big, bizarre white monument between the two municipalities marks where Pope John-Paul II visited in 1985 and spoke to a crowd of 30,000 people, more than the total population of Liechtenstein at that time. Between Nendeln, Eschen and Schaan are located some of the country’s biggest companies, including Hilti, a power tool manufacturers, and Ivoclar Vivadent, responsible for making an astonishing 20% of the world’s quota of false teeth.

 

monument between Nendeln and Eschen

A white monument between Nendeln and Eschen marks where Pope John-Paul II visited in 1985

thyssenkrupp Presta AG

The biggest employer in Liechtenstein is thyssenkrupp Presta AG

Luke Waterson

«The Liechtenstein Trail certainly prepares you to expect the unexpected.»

Gallery preview

This part of the country was, before 1719, the Lordship of Schellenberg: united in that year with the Country of Vaduz to create the territory of present-day Liechtenstein. Its most distinguishing feature is the attractive wood-dotted massif of Eschnerberg, on the slopes of which all of this area’s main settlements are located. I walk over the western flanks of the massif to reach Ruggell, Liechtenstein’s most northerly village. The Liechtenstein Trail certainly prepares you to expect the unexpected: this country might be 100% within Alpine territory, but Ruggell is pancake-flat. I am, after 30km of walking and at the end of the day’s stage, tired and hungry, and more than ready to take advantage of another of Liechtenstein’s great eateries, Restaurant Kokon, before getting an early night.

 



Information and offers

  • Luggage Transport Service / Hotel offers

    The best way to enjoy the Liechtenstein Trail is to travel light. We therefore offer a handy luggage transport service to move your bags from hotel to hotel. Furthermore you can easily book our 2 and 5 nights hotel offers on the Liechtenstein Trail.

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  • App LIstory

    Discover the historical highlights of the Principality of Liechtenstein in a new way with the "LIstory" app.

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  • Stage planning

    We recommend breaking the Liechtenstein Trail up into several stages or choosing a section of the route for an enjoyable day hike.

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Ruggeller Riet

About Luke Waterson

Luke is a novelist and travel writer based in Wales. From approximately the first moment he could hold (and chew the end of) a pen he imagined seeing the words he had written in books on bookshop shelves (ideally front-of-shop recommended reads stands) and in newspapers (ideally where the reader would be so entranced by the content they would forget they were on a packed train full of grim-faced commuters and be transported to a better and purer place). Eighteen months travelling overland across the Americas from Canada to Tierra del Fuego soon cultivated him a bit of a reputation as a lover of extreme adventure travel. Indeed, since 2008 he has been writing almost exclusively on wildernesses – with a particular obsession for the Amazon Basin and Andes mountains – and Wales, of course. Besides two novels, Roebuck (2015) and Song Castle (2018), Luke is the co-founder of off-the-beaten-track Wales adventure travel site Undiscovered Wales. He also writes books for travel publishers Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Insight Guides and Avalon Travel Publishing, with his articles (mostly on the UK outdoors and Latin America, on extreme adventure and on culinary travel) gracing the likes of the Telegraph, the Independent, the BBC, National Geographic, Which?, N by Norwegian, Morning Calm magazine, Adventure.com and Walk magazine.

#liechtensteintrail: Impressions from the Liechtenstein Trail

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