By Luke Waterson
Right behind the built-up areas of Ruggell the Liechtenstein Trail strikes out across an ethereal nature reserve, the Ruggeller Riet Reserve, where the steep grassy banks of a canalised channel of the Rhine plummet to a fen-like plain of marshes, peat-rich lowland moors and pools. This 90-hectare wilderness is an important zone for much birdlife, including the stork: at its brightest in May and June when the Siberian iris carpets the ground in spectacular shades of blue. This is an enchanting and silent section of the walk, where locals ride horses or walk dogs: for a time it seems like a part of Holland has been superimposed on the Alpine landscape. This wilderness forms Liechtenstein’s northern border with Austria, separated just by a narrow gully between fields. The next small town on the Austrian side, Feldkirch, has almost as many citizens as all of Liechtenstein together. I have now journeyed across Liechtenstein from south to north, but the trail is not yet over. For the last 15km the path circles the wooded hills of Escherberg, which seem low besides the mighty 2000m peaks all around, but still exceed 600m in height, with the community of Schellenberg rising a good 200m higher than the highest village in the UK.
To begin with the path circles the base of Eschnerberg but soon starts to climb – steeply, and dramatically – up to the ruined castle of Schellenberg’s Untere Burg (lower castle). This 13th-century fortress, tracing its roots back to the days of the Lordship of Schellenberg, formed in the 9th century AD by Charlemagne himself, and is one of two castle ruins on the massif. After a wander around this ancient site it is an abrupt down-and-up to Schellenberg’s white-walled monastery.
Schellenberg’s Untere Burg (lower castle)
Schellenberg is a sprawling settlement, and I now walk through woods in an unseasonal flurry of snow along the top of the Eschnerberg to the part known as Hinter-Schellenberg. Due of the fact this charming village boasts two of the most appealing traditional restaurants in the country as well as a duet of castles, I take a strong liking to Hinter-Schellenberg. And like soon becomes love. I hurry in to Wirthschaft zum Löwen, a four century-old farmhouse, and have the finest meal of my trip so far: a mound of Käsknöpfle, pasta covered in rich, feisty cheese sauce and topped off with a crown of crispy onions. Some wine cultivated just down the road in Eschen washed all this down. The food is good, if simple, but what makes the experience is the cosy rustic environs of the restaurant with its views of the Rhine valley fleetingly visible through the clouds far below, and some of the friendliest Liechtensteiners I have come across engaged in happy, hearty dining.
Ingredients (for 8 people)
- 600g flour
- 8 eggs
- 1dl fresh water
- a pinch of pepper
- a pinch of nutmeg
- a pinch of salz
Place the ingredients in a bowl and mix them into a dough. Leave for 10-20 minutes. Then pass the dough through the special grater ('Knöpflehobel') into boiling, salted water (2 heaped tablespoons of salt). Leave the small pieces of dough in the boiling water for a couple of minutes, then place them in a bowl, add grated Appenzeller cheese and grated sour cheese, and mix together. Fry onion rings in butter until they are golden, then place these on top of the dish and serve. Traditional side dishes are green salad, potato salad and apple sauce. Tip: If the Käsknöpfle are too dry, add a little hot water before mixing in the cheese.
«I hurry in to Wirthschaft zum Löwen, a four century-old farmhouse, and have the finest meal of my trip so far: a mound of Käsknöpfle, pasta covered in rich, feisty cheese sauce and topped off with a crown of crispy onions.»
In the woods of Schellenberg
Near here, and also on the path after it loops through a swathe of woodland with steep cliffs plummeting away to Austria right below, is a second phenomenal place to eat, Gasthaus Weinlaube, in another 400 year-old farmhouse, although with a more Mediterranean approach to Liechtenstein food. By Gasthaus Weinlaube, I encounter the second and more extensive of Schellenberg area’s castle ruins, Obere Burg (upper castle), this stronghold dating from the mid-14th century.
Obere Burg (upper castle)
And now, as I descend from Obere Burg, down into first Mauren and then the final stop on the trail, Schaanwald, I reach the end of the Liechtenstein Trail. It is a surprising path: a valley and village stroll or a woodland wander as much as a mountain hike. But it does something no other long-distance trail I am aware of can do. It takes you on foot to every region of a country, to its highlights and its out-of-the-limelight sights, all in a long weekend. I feel now, having walked all across it, that I have sufficiently paid my birthday respects to Liechtenstein in the year of its tercentenary. It is time to go home.
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.
- App LIstory
- Stage planning
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). A four-time winner of the Bridport Prize in the short story category, his first foray into travel writing was on local newspapers the Western Gazette and then the Orkney Today, where he wrote on such blockbuster attractions as Somerset’s country gardens and seaweed-eating sheep on North Ronaldsay. On the non-fiction front, Luke writes books for travel publishers Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Insight Guides and Avalon Travel Publishing, with his articles (mostly on Latin America, the Caribbean and the UK outdoors, on extreme adventure and on culinary travel) gracing the likes of the Telegraph, the Independent, the BBC, Which?, N by Norwegian, Morning Calm magazine, Adventure.com and Walk magazine