Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Liechtenstein: Small But Mighty

Named after the family who purchased it, Liechtenstein is Europe’s fourth-smallest country behind the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino. The tiny principality on the Swiss/Austrian border, widely parodied in fiction and films like The Prisoner of Zenda and The Mouse That Roared, was part of the “Great Country Tour” to Heidiland.

German nobles sold their land to Austrian prince Johann Adam Von Liechtenstein in the early 18th century and the small country gained independence in 1866. In the early 20th century, Prince Franz Joseph became the first monarch to live in the country and began transforming the poor rural nation into today’s rich banking state.

One of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world (a landlocked country entirely surrounded by other landlocked countries), Liechtenstein feels so small because most of it is mountainous.

A thin plain -- basically the basin of the Rhine River -- separates Liechtenstein from Switzerland on the west. It is the only European nation to lie entirely within the Alps.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its limited natural resources, Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens.

It has developed a prosperous and highly industrialized free enterprise economy with a prosperous financial service sector and high standard of living among its citizens.

The country has had a customs union with Switzerland for nearly 100 years.

Walking the streets of Vaduz, it’s clear that Liechtenstein is affluent, with a well-designed center of government and a sophisticated cultural focus.  The Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein is an international museum of modern art with a world renowned collection.

Here’s a fun fact from Lonely Planet: Switzerland. In its last military engagement in 1866, Liechtenstein lost none of its 80 soldiers. In fact, 81 returned including a new Italian “friend.” The army was disbanded shortly afterward.


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