Skip to comments.Quirky Liechtenstein marks bicentennial
Posted on 07/10/2006 12:51:32 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
VADUZ, Liechtenstein - Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein can see almost his entire realm from the castle mountain ridge to mountain ridge and down to the capital below.
In a Europe of nations coming together in a vast continental superstate, Liechtenstein is a quirk of history that harks back to an older world of separateness, neutrality and sharp survival instincts.
Created by Napoleon in 1806, it has managed to avoid the upheaval of the past century to celebrate its bicentennial, starting Wednesday, in peace and prosperity.
This wedge of central Europe is no fairy tale kingdom, however, but a banking and tax haven which, like other constitutional anomalies such as Monaco and the Isle of Man, has done well out of the world economy.
Alois, 38, is fully aware of how differently things might have turned out.
"If Hitler had suddenly thought, 'I want Liechtenstein,' we couldn't really have defended ourselves," he tells visiting foreign correspondents.
"I think that was the most critical time in our history," says the prince, sipping a glass of his family's own white wine in one of the state rooms of his castle. "Luckily, the vast majority of the population was independent-minded."
And Hitler, say historians, was preoccupied with bigger things.
Today the population numbers 34,000 on a Washington, D.C.-sized patch of the upper Rhine River sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. In Vaduz, the capital of 5,000 inhabitants, the bicentennial is being celebrated in traditional dress, with street music and a 220-yard-long bar running along Staedtle, the main street.
Alois' controversial father, Hans-Adam II, remains head of state, but has passed most of his sweeping powers including the right to dismiss governments, veto new laws and cast the deciding vote on the appointment of new judges to his son.
Hans-Adam gained those powers in 2003, much to the disapproval of human rights groups, when he won a referendum to change the constitution, effectively giving him more power than any other monarch in Europe.
An impoverished farming community until well into the 20th century, Liechtenstein suffered economically during the world wars despite its neutrality, and "was very lucky not to become a battleground," says Swiss historian Peter Geiger.
It oriented itself toward fellow-neutral Switzerland, with which it shares a currency and customs union, and after World War II concentrated on developing its financial services industry, rapidly becoming one of the richest states in the world.
Like other tax havens, Liechtenstein has come under international financial scrutiny and has sought to clean up its image, passing new laws to curb money-laundering and launching a national brand in an attempt to raise its international profile.
"A few years ago, Liechtenstein was seen as a place where you can launder your money and that's about it," says Gerlinde Manz-Christ, head of the country's press office.
The new brand consists of a crown and symbols representing "dialogue, finance, nature, industry and rootedness," government spokeswoman Daniela Clavadetscher explained.
On the Net:
Digital Liechtenstein: http://www.liechtenstein.li/en
Undated picture of Liechtenstein's Prince Castle in Vaduz that is undergoing complete renovation. Ruling Prince Alois von und zu Liechtensteine can see almost his entire realm from the castle, from mountain ridge to mountain ridge, encompassing a fast flowing river and eagle eye views of the capital far below. It sounds like make believe, but it's no fairy tale kingdom that Prince Alois rules. (AP Photo/Tomasz Surdel)
Hitler didn't bother to invade because the territory was completely unstrategic, and the entire populace would easily have fled over the Swiss border in a few hours.
Inspired The Dutchey of Grand Fenwick.
I was in Vaduz in 2004 when Prince Alois formally took (most) of his father's power, on their national holiday. It was a wild time. Other than the palace on the hill and the alps around, Vaduz isn't much of a place ...ugly modern architecture mostly. Chur, Switzerland, about 20 minutes away is a gorgeous little medieval town, where most of the streets wind around and are about 10 feet wide, and you could picture William Tell appearing at any time. I have friends who live there.
The celebration in Vaduz was crazy though (I witnessed a drunken fight)...and its fireworks were the best I've ever seen (and I'm a native of Washington DC, and have seen the 4th there many times...) shot off from right behind the palace immediately over the crowd.
The Swiss, one of the richest nations on earth, consider the Lichtensteiners filthy rich....and yes, all the cabs are either Mercedes or BMW there.
One of the most eerie things I saw there though, was a sign at the finale of the fireworks, lit up in fireworks at the base of the palace, saying "Fur Gott, ein Furst und der Vaterland!" this with a bunch of drunken German speakers singing their national anthem (to the tune of "My Country tis of Thee") was quite an experience.
("Fur Gott, ein Furst und der Vaterland!" translated is: For God, the Prince, and the Fatherland!)
Harkens back the Hapsburgs I suppose. I had never seen patriotic German speakers before...and it was a bit startling.
No, you don't fill it with pepper.
I've used both, BTW.
And what, pray tell, do these machines do?
The first one is a Balzers vacuum deposition chamber.
The second one is a Curta handheld mechanical calcuator.
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