Liechtenstein is one of the world’s easier End to Ends. The microstate (pop. 40,000, about the same as Bridlington) is only 15 miles or so from top to bottom. Or, as we did it, bottom to top. Not only that, but you can cycle it virtually all on a flat, wide, car-free, tarmac path alongside the Rhine (which forms the western border with Switzerland). Given a big enough tailwind, you could freewheel it all.
We could have done a side-to-side option in two miles, but the eastern border with Austria is all mountains, so we’d have needed mountain bikes.
There can be few countries in the world where you can arrive at three in the afternoon, cycle the entire nation, and be done for dinner.
Add to that today’s sunny weather, and it was a very pleasant way to bag another national traverse. Nigel and I arrived at the southern extremity, in the village of Balzers (castle and all), in mid-afternoon, having come down from a drizzly Mannheim by train.
From here it was straight on to the riverside path, walled in on both sides by mountains: Liechtenstein is a member of the long-thin-country club, like Chile and Norway, but rather more compact.
It may be a nanostate, but it just about qualifies as a proper country according to musician Frank Zappa’s dictum. A real nation, he said should have a beer and an airline. And a football team and nuclear weapons, but ‘at least a beer’. Well, Liechtenstein lacks an airline and army (never mind nukes); but it has a football team (currently 196th out of 211 in the FIFA world men’s rankings) and a beer. That’ll do for me.
It was glorious riding, and a curious mixture of boring (same same all the way through the entire country) and interesting (super mountain and river views all the time).
We jagged into Vaduz, the capital, for a quick look round. There’s a pedestrian street with a handful of pleasant historic buildings, but I wouldn’t call it particularly quaint or charming.
I’d call it wealthy though. Liechtenstein is one of the richest countries in the world per head of population, and it shows in the Swiss-level prices of everything (they use the Swiss Franc, as well as borrowing their army when needed).
Liechtenstein made its money in ‘finance’ (ie dodgy money) until it cleaned up its act, and now earns a healthy living from tourism (skiing etc) and upscale manufacturing such as ‘dental prosthetics’ (ie false teeth).
Anyway, our brief sightseeing done, we carried on north from Vaduz back joyfully along the river. We were barely a third of the way along, after all. Even so we only had ten miles to go.
At the northern border we passed one sign saying Tschau (or as we might say in English, ciao!), and another noting the historic frontier with Austria. One End to End had ended and another End to End had begun.
It had been an eventful day. A whole country crossed, and probably one of the cheapest End to Ends I’ll ever do. All I spent was €1.50 on a bun in Vaduz.
Miles today: 27
Miles from Balzers to Ruggell: 17