Liechtenstein

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I haven’t met too many people who’ve been to this tiny country, but we stayed there for a night on our Switzerland trip and I thought I’d fire off a post about it.

There are a lot of interesting trivia facts about Liechtenstein. At 61 square miles, it’s one of the smallest countries in the world by area. It’s 36,000 inhabitants also make it one of the smallest countries population-wise (there were more students at my university than there are people in Liechtenstein). The entire country is only half of a single valley; stretching from one bank of the fast-flowing Rhine up to the ridge line a few thousand feet above. For real geography nerds, Liechtenstein has the distinction of being one of only two doubly-landlocked countries in the world.

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Wikipedia does a good job of describing Liechtenstein’s odd history and politics, so I won’t bother. My Swiss relative summed it up well: it’s a place that “nobody ever bothered to conquer”. It’s still run by a prince who has veto power over all legislation, but the people apparently like it that way.

Perhaps that’s because it’s also the world’s richest country, according to the World Bank. Liechtenstein’s GDP per capita, at $95,000, is slightly more than double the United States’. To be sure, there don’t seem to be many poor people there; it mostly just feels like any other town in Switzerland: clean, organized, and beautiful. Most of their money comes from the “wealth management” industry, which is a nice way of saying that it’s a tax haven – there are more registered corporations than people in the country.

That doesn’t make it any less pleasant to visit, though, as my picture album will attest. There’s nothing really to “see” in Liechtenstein; it’s not a tourist hot spot. That’s fine with me; we enjoyed wandering around for an afternoon in Vaduz, the capital and main “city”. We drank the local beer (excellent!), ate the local cuisine (also great), and enjoyed the view. It was nice.

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