Nothing that I write will do it justice, but here goes…

I love Liechtenstein. I never thought I’d ever say that, but thanks to Sigi (Papa), Katharina (Mama) and especially Marco, I have so much love for the sixth smallest country in the world.

Liechtenstein is simply beautiful. Surrounded by mountains and the River Rhine, and with a length of just 24km and width of 9km, Liechtenstein is very small, but that’s one of its best features. The scenery is just breathtaking from any one of the 11 villages in the country, whilst being so peaceful and soul soothing. Nestled between Austria and Switzerland, Liechtenstein was never a place I thought I would visit, but now it’s my second home.

IMG_6356The view over the capital, Vaduz, and the Swiss Alps

As mentioned in an earlier post, I met Marco when I was travelling through Europe in the summer of 2013. We were roommates in a Prague hostel and immediately got along as we partied and took in the sites of the Czech capital together. When Marco introduced himself to me, he said he was from Liechtenstein, and followed that up with “You haven’t even heard of that, have you?” I like to pride myself on my geography, and I had heard of Liechtenstein before, but had no idea where in the world it was situated. I thought it was in Transylvania or a similar region. Idiot.

DSC03816Marco and I in Prague – June 2013

After three days together in Prague, I convinced Marco to travel with me to Krakow, despite being in the opposite direction that he needed to go in to return back to Liechtenstein after studying a semester in Helsinki.

I continued my travels and had a couple of days spare that coincided with Marco’s return to Liechtenstein, so I decided to visit him and stay with his family. Nothing was ever a problem and the Schwarz family welcomed me into the family like a son.  Their house in Ruggell, in the northwest tip of Liechtenstein, backs onto the River Rhine and Switzerland, whilst Austria is just a five-minute drive away. Two nights later, I sadly left Marco and the beautiful Liechtenstein, but knew I would return.

IMG_6372One foot in Liechtenstein, one in Switzerland

After quitting my job in September, I decided that Europe would be the destination I wanted to head back towards and I contacted Marco and asked whether it would be OK to stay with him over Christmas and New Years. Of course, this wasn’t a problem and Mama and Papa were happy to welcome me back.

IMG_6425Christmas Family Portrait – Papa, Mama, Ariane, Patrick, Me and Marco (L to R)

Papa is great. He speaks fluent English and is always happy to have a chat over a couple of beers or red wine. Patrick and I gave him two bottles of red wine from Australia and he was pretty happy with that as a Christmas present! I also went and played tennis with Papa and one of his colleagues just before I left and I can tell you the man has a decent serve on him!

Mama is like my second mother. She cooks the best food, and you never go hungry, even if you want to – I’ve definitely put on a couple of kilos from my time in Liechtenstein! Mama smoked Cuban cigars with us on Christmas Eve and despite only speaking broken English, we were able to have many conversations and she is going to try and learn English before my next visit so we can talk without sign language!

It was also great to have Ariane, Marco’s older sister, over for Christmas and various lunches and dinners. I think I’ve got an espresso addiction thanks to her always offering me one!

IMG_6431Marco and I wearing our Christmas presents!

I ended up staying in Liechtenstein for two weeks over Christmas and New Years and it was truly special. I experienced every tradition possible (and some that were made up!) whilst also getting to know some of the best people you could ever meet. One of my favourite things about Liechtenstein is that everyone says hello as you pass them – even the bus drivers!

IMG_6416Patrick and I at the Austrian border after crossing Liechtenstein by foot!

Travelling and in particular solo travel is all about the people you meet and not necessarily the sites you visit. Saying goodbye is the worst part because you know deep down that it is likely to be the last time you’ll see them, despite being best friends for the previous few days. Thankfully, Marco was an exception to this rule.

See you in the summer, Liechtenstein!