What you always or never wanted to know about Liechtenstein
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Liechtenstein? That it is one of the smallest countries in the world? A tax paradise? Do you think of its richness? Of how people store their money there which they shouldn’t have? Or have you never even heard of it?
Like all other countries Liechtenstein has its stereotypes. However, I would like you to know some more things about my home country as there are many things which are way more interesting than its tax rate (which is around 8% by the way but let's not talk about that now). As today, on 15th August, we are celebrating Liechtenstein’s national holiday this seems a very welcome moment for me to share some facts about it.
SIZE... To clear you up about its size: Liechtenstein is 160 km2 big and has a length of 25km at its longest place (from north to south). It is therefore the 4th smallest country in Europe and 6th smallest in the world.
1. Vatican with 0,44 km2
2. Monaco with 2,03 km2
3. Nauru with 21 km2
4. Tuvalu with 26 km2
5. San Marino with 61 km2
Liechteinstein In Europe (Source: Wikipedia)
GEOGRAPHY… Together with Uzbekistan it is the only double landlocked country in the world. This means that the country itself and also its neighbour countries are surrounded by other land. So unfortunately it is a long way to go to the sea. :-(
The neighbour countries are Switzerland and Austria. The border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland is made by the river Rhine and the Austrian border is mainly covered by mountains.
Switching between the three countries is a really natural thing for us. I might go to buy my cosmetics from a shop in Buchs, Switzerland and my favourite tea from Feldkrich, Austria.
Liechtenstein is divided between the upper and the lower part of the country. The upper part is where I live. It’s the part in the south and called upper because of the direction where the river Rhine flows. Both parts have their own election circle and also the dialect varies.
LANGUAGE… The national language in Liechtenstein is German but there are three different Alemannic dialects which are spoken in daily life. In the upper part we speak a dialect which is maybe closer to the Swiss dialect whereas in the lower part it’s closer to Austrian dialect. The dialect spoken in the mountain municipality is again completely different from both because its people settled in from Valais (a Swiss canton) around 1300. Therefore their dialect is similar to the Valais dialects.
I found a good example of the different dialects on the official website of Liechtenstein, which shows how different some words can be: These are the words that we have for “slippers”: “Finka” “Tasi” “Tappa” or sometimes even “Pootscha”. I would say “Finka” I guess… or “Tasi”. :-)
NATURE…Liechtenstein is lying in the Alps and therefore really attractive for hikers and skiers. I’m not really a specialist if it comes to the local peaks but I still love our mountains a lot. Lisa, my flat mate in Bern, is also from Liechtenstein and she knows every single summit around us, I would say. If you are interested in it, I highly recommend you to check out her Instagram account. It perfectly represents Liechtenstein and its surroundings: Here it is.
CLIMATE… The climate in Liechtenstein is rather mild. Anyway, this summer has been really hot so far. Many times the thermometer went over 30°C. Something specific for our weather is the Föhn wind. Most people hate it because they get headaches and because it mostly appears whenever it shouldn’t. For example we had many Christmases with 20 °C because of the Föhn.
FLAG… Liechtensteins flag is blue and red with a small crown in the left upper corner. Fun fact: This crown was added during the Olympic Games in 1937 because otherwise the flag would have been too similar with the one from Haiti.
The flag of Liechtenstein (Source: Wikipedia)
PRINCE… Liechtenstein’s prince is the only remaining prince in Europe who has actually got some power still. He has a so called Veto right with which he can refuse laws that actually would have been accepted by the people. Also he has the power to dissolve the parliament.
STATE… The form of government is therefore the monarchy. But to be specific it is a constitutional hereditary monarchy on a democratic and parliamentary basis. This means that the legislative power is equally shared between the Prince and the 25-headed parliament (which represents the people). There are of course some people who are not happy about this situation and who would wish to have a “real” democracy but still the Prince enjoys great popularity and loyalty because of what his family has done for the country in the past.
POLITICS… Liechtenstein was the last country in Europe to allow women to vote in 1984. Finland on the other hand was the first European country to allow women’s suffrage in 1906.
CURRENCY… Because of its connection with Switzerland, Liechtenstein’s official currency is the Swiss Franc. Also Liechtenstein is not a member of the EU but of the EEA (European Economic Area) which ensures its integration in Europe still.
RELATION WITH SWITZERLAND... Not only the use of the Swiss Franc as an official currency connects Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The two countries hold some more relationships and contracts together. For example the borders between Liechtenstein and Switzerland are open. And also there is an agreement that Swiss army is protecting us if it’s needed because little Liechtenstein doesn’t have its own army anymore.
HISTORY… In 1712 a prince called Hans Adam I. von Liechtenstein bought the two principalities of Schellenberg and Vaduz because it was necessary for him that he could get a seat in the Reichsfürstenrat – some kind of parliament where he would get more power, I guess. Then in 1719 it became an Imperial principality with the name Liechtenstein, confirmed by the Emperor Karl VI. It got its independence through Napoleon in 1806 – he accepted Liechtenstein into the Rheinbund (Confederation of the Rhine) as one of the sixteen founding members. This independency was later on also confirmed at the Vienna Congress and Liechtenstein became a member of the German Confederation.
Hans Adam I. (Source: Wikipedia)
EDUCATION… In Liechtenstein there is only one public University where you can study business and architecture. Therefore many students go to study in Switzerland and Austria when they finished high school. The high school where I went, in Vaduz, is actually the only public high school in the country. All high school students from the whole country gather there.
CAPITAL… The capital of Liechtenstein is Vaduz, where also the prince castle is. Everbody who says that the capital of Liechtenstein is a “city” is lying. Even Vaduz as the capital is rather small and rural and whole Liechtenstein lies in the countryside. Still until the Second World War Liechtenstein was a poor and agrarian country. That’s why you can still see many traces from those times.
TRADITIONS… An old but still celebrated tradition (that exists also in other alpine countries ) is to decorate the cows with flowers when they come down from the mountains at the end of the summer. They walk in the middle of the street and it can be pretty annoying and scary when you have to wait there and let them pass you! But also it is a real attraction because the cows look beautiful with their decorations. There is even a prize for the most beautiful cow at the Prämienmarkt.
Alpabfahrt (Source: Tourismus Liechtenstein)
Another tradition that is maybe more alive still is the season of the carnival (Fasnacht). It is the time before the 40 days feast before Easter. People dress up in the most creative costumes and there are several events around that tradition. Parades, masquerade parties and even concerts (there are those special music groups with special costumes - you have to see it, it’s not possible to explain - Click here).
Up above the young Rhine lies Liechtenstein, resting on Alpine heights.
This beloved homeland, this dear fatherland was chosen for us by God's wise hand.
Long live Liechtenstein, blossoming on the young Rhine, fortunate and faithful!
Long live the Prince of the Land, long live our fatherland, through bonds of brotherly love united and free!
NATIONAL HOLIDAY… Also the national holiday is based on the princely family. It is taking place on 15th August partly because that day was already a public holiday (we luckily have many of those because of the connection of the catholic church and the state) and because on 16th August it was Prince Franz Josef II’s birthday. It was first celebrated in 1940 during his reign.
It is a really nice celebration and I’m somehow little bit sad not to be there this year. In the morning the official part with the State Act is taking place next to the Prince castle. The Prince is having a speech and traditional music is played. In a small parade everybody is walking to the Rose Garden of the castle, where you can enjoy some free drinks and little snacks. It’s also possible to meet the Prince there and you can talk to him and his family.
State Act on 15h August. (Source: Liechtenstein official website)
Prince Hans-Adam II. with Prime Minister Adrian Hasler on the national holiday, 15th August 2016 (Source: NZZ)
In the afternoon and evening there is a big fair in Vaduz and the whole country is gathering there to see the big firework at 10pm. There are also some smaller and bigger concerts. For example last year, I saw The Baseballs there, you might know them.
Anyway, I just realised how much I have been writing already although I really wanted to keep this short. I think it’s hard not to write a lot about the country where you have spent your whole life so far. I hope I could give you some interesting information about my home country and maybe wake the desire in you to visit there some day.
Text: Anja Kaufmann
P.S. You can find more random facts here.