Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cycling in Liechtenstein

So following what can only be described as an epic set of holidays to Cadiz in Spain and then Munich, I had the fortune to be taken to yet another offbeat location that shortly after my arrival into Zurich. After less than 24hours in Zurich I was whisked away to Liechtenstein. 
its not often a country map can indicate the location of individual houses


Now for those of you unaware of where and what Liechtenstein is let me break it down for you in layman terms. Liechtenstein is set between Switzerland and Austria and is not a city but a principality, what does this mean? Well it means that it is considered its own country and it could be compared to the slightly more famous Monaco and Andorra. The thing about principality's is that they have a prince! Yep that's right, and without going too much into the origins, history and controversy of this country with a population 35 thousand and length of 25 kilometres I had the luck of arriving on the day of its national holiday (birthday of the prince), and was fortunate enough to enjoy the best (and longest) set of fireworks I have seen, perhaps ever.

Following the previous nights celebrations the I had the pleasure of being granted the loan of a bicycle and along with my personal local guide proceeded to undertake a exploratory trip up to the north part of the country.

Liechtenstein topographically is a country of two contrasting parts, much like your average cheese cake one part is the crumbly crunchy biscuit base and the other is a smooth creamy topping, but they suit each other perfectly and would not be thought of alone. So it is with Liechtenstein and its sudden high mountain range which seems to appear out of nowhere from the almost perfectly flat valley which lie at their feet. While I have had the pleasure of visiting both parts before, this visit allowed me to cycle along the flat lowlands.

Seeing as I the last time I mounted a bicycle was three weeks previously I was surprise how quickly I had managed to lose what I considered to be the moderate fitness level I used to boast. Now granted maybe this was slightly exaggerated on my part as retrospectively I used to only cycle for a meagre 10-15 minutes at a time in between work and friends, so this 45- 60 minute cycle was certainly not the best example for direct comparison. 

None the less, I thoroughly enjoyed it and after leaving Schaan for a couple of miles and spinning around local fields and crops we ended up on the banks of the Rhine. This was actually a perfect cycle route due to the ban on vehicular traffic and the elevated position of the lane at the top of the artificial river bank, this coupled with the good weather made for a very enjoyable day. We cycled north as far as Gamprin to the new local hotspot, a pool. But not just any pool but a swimming pool lake hybrid, with gravelly shores and a grassy beach. Packed with local people it was not long before my guide, Luis, managed to bump into most of his childhood friends.
Following some catching up and introductions, we saw our way home, this time avoiding the fields and just giving it full throttle for the majority of the cycle home along the banks of the Rhine.

While the next day saw an excursion to the south of the country, it seemed less enjoyable and the weather was too hot for the over exposed Rhine bicycle lanes, in an attempt to stir things up a bit we took our return route through the towns and this made for at least a more interesting but not more pleasant journey. The bicycle lanes here are few and far between and we were riding with the normal traffic mostly. However it was great to be able to get an quick snapshot into goings on in Liechtenstein and on this route we passed the Mc Donald, the parliament building, the national art gallery, the palace and even the new shopping centre as well as many many banks.


As for photos. Well I’m afraid that this late shot I took from the train on the way back to Zurich was the only photographic evidence of my visit.

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