David in the mountains of Liechtenstein.
The Prince's castle.
Eating lunch with a view to kill.
It has everything for a picture-perfect European stay: glorious mountains, cows with bells, edelweiss, streams and chalets it's delightful.
The principality of Liechtenstein is just 161 square kilometres and has a population of around 32,000. It is divided into 11 communes and its capital is the hamlet of Vaduz. Prince Hans-Adam II is the head of state, ruling this tiny country, which was colonised by the Thaetians after 800 BC and conquered by the Romans in 15 BC. The present dynasty took control in 1699.
The prince is Europe's wealthiest monarch and is highly regarded by his citizens. He invites them to his castle on their 18th birthday, and also welcomes guests on Liechtenstein's national day.
It has close ties with Switzerland, which represents Liechtenstein abroad, and the Swiss franc is Liechtenstein's legal currency. Their borders are open, but there are regulations on the border shared with Austria.
Vaduz is the geographical and political centre and its two main streets contain everything of importance.
The 12th-century Valduz Castle is home to the royal family, and while not open to the public, does photograph well from the outside. It's worth climbing the hill for the view as you get to look towards Austria on one side, Switzerland on the other and Germany just down the valley. The Prince's private art collection is one of the world's most valuable and is housed in the Kunstmuseum, a black basalt building. One floor has exhibits of modern and contemporary art. The other floor is most impressive with exhibits of mythologically themed works, bronze sculptures and pagan paintings. There are works by Reubens, van Dyck and Rembrandt.
Despite being very small, the areas differ from each other and the higher you go, the more noticeable the changes are. The roads wind up the mountainsides to tiny villages such as Triesenberg and Malbun, giving spectacular views of the Alps and Rhine Valley.
Triesenberg was founded by a group of Swiss immigrants in the 13th century. They were forced to flee their home because of over-population, religious intolerance and natural disaster. Buses run to the village from Vaduz, and walking through low Alpine trees and meadows is a lovely way to spend a day.
On the other side of the mountain is Malbun. It is secluded and has plenty of hiking options, and in winter, offers affordable skiing and snowboarding.
There are good restaurants serving food typical of the area; the national dish is kase knopfler, which is made of cheese, eggs, flour and milk.
The Hotel Garni Saga in Triesen is a great place to stay. It has everything to make the perfect picture: wonderful mountains, cows with bells, white edelweiss, streams and chalets and extremely pleasant locals.
Between Switzerland and Austria.
The Hotel Garni Saga has rooms starting at around $180 per double per night, including breakfast.
Qantas flies daily to London with British Airways connections to Zurich starting at $2181 from Perth, $2254 from Melbourne, $2263 from Brisbane, $2264 from Darwin, $2269 from Adelaide and $2274 from Sydney, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of recording but may vary at time of writing. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Hotel Garni Saga
Alte Landstrasse 17 FL9495 Triesen
Ph: 0011 423 392 4377
Fax: 0011 423 392 3441
Switzerland Tourism: www.switzerlandtourism.ch
Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13