around the world – part 32.6 (liechtenstein)

img_0020Liechtenstein (FL) is one of those most improbable countries (alongside the Republic of San Marino, Andorra, the Prinicipality of Monaco) – sandwiched between two larger neighbours, dominated by larger economies nearby – however it is rich, small, picturesque and undemocratic (not that this is in every case bad).    It figures in games of trivia as folks attempt to name micronations, is often misspelled and yet not so difficult to find. 

Many tourists to southern Germany might never travel much further beyond Munchen or Augsburg, perhaps extending their visit to Oberammergau – but missing out on a unique experience.   And so….

…with along with the Friends of Junior (FoJ), I zipped down the motorway towards Liechtenstein hoping to drive to the ‘top’ of the country.   Of course, at this time of year snow is to be expected, but early indications as we ascended through Triesenberg were that while it was certainly raining, perhaps we might make it as far as Malbun.    I can’t recall how many switchbacks there are on this road, but after several dozen we approached Steg through the tunnel and emerged suddenly into a very white and snowy landscape.   After a quick stop for some photography we decided to attempt a further climb.  But without snow tires it soon became apparent that while going up might not pose much of a problem, coming down could get a little hairy.  Discretion being the better part of valour we retired down through Steg to the next town where a pleasant hillside cafe (aren’t they all?) beckoned.

Fortified with food and drink we descended into Vaduz and wandered distractedly through the main tourist area – stopping to acquire trinkets,  knick knacks and passport stamps.  With early afternoon approaching and the prospect of a four hour drive from Zurich to Greding in the offing, we decided to head back.   Of course the weather began co-operating immediately upon committing to the highway, with the clouds breaking up and sunshine streaming down into the valleys above the Zuricherseee, revealing tantalising glimpses of mountain peaks off in the distance.    With FoJ deposited safely back at their lodgings, I headed for ‘home’.

a train wreck in slow motion (deliciously entertaining)

1209raeiggy3642Analogies have been made to the fate of that other great ditherer Kerensky; Dion playing the part of the honest but somewhat febrile leader, while those who detect the smell of death in the corpse circle hungrily

The more professional cadres of the Toronto Party, realizing that the enclave was only defended by the heroic Annex media, realized that Kerensky (aka Dion) had to go. Conventions take too long and appointing an interim leader who was not the Count would further weaken the Party. The only alternative open to the cadres was Red December and so, apparently, the Mensheviks (Bob Rae, Dion) are to be eliminated.

– and while I enjoy a good purge as much as the next man, these things do tend to keep on going – eliminating the dangerously competent rivals, arriving eventually at the strongman playing the Stalin figure in this mess.   I, for one, haven’t felt so giddy in a long time…..  Go Iggy Go – Go Rae Go!

around the world – part 32.4 (zurich – liechtenstein)

img_0002Dec 06 2008:

One of the more delightful aspects of international travel is that on occasion one’s travels coincide with those of your friends (Friends of Junior FoJ) – specifically in this case with two of my dearest friends.    It would seem that based on historic trends, our European adventures cross paths about every two years or so – the last being in Prague in September 2006.   So when the opportunity arose to visit them in Zurich, Switzerland I didn’t hesitate.  Of course when we noted our itineraries this time around, one of my first thoughts was to quickly determine how far it was from Greding, and secondly, how fast I might bridge the distance.  This tendency of mine to reduce distance to a function of speed, was further cemented when during our escape from Zurich into Liechtenstein, and as we were ascending a relatively steep and twisty road, all three of us simultaneously commented thusly:  (1) Mr FoJ and Old School Chum “what an interesting place for a cafe”, (2) Mrs FoJ and also Senior Executive “what a lovely view” and (3) Junior “what a road for a sports car”.  

Not that the excuse for a visit was absolutely tied to an opportunity to drive the hell out of a Mercedes C220, but it did help.  

It is, of course, impossible to see anything more than just a fraction of a large city like Zurich in just over 24 hours but I think I did my best to gain a sense of the area.  Immediately following check-in around 1100hrs, I hiked into town under an overcast sky.  I wanted first to get the lay of the land, finding various districts of interest in relation to my hotel and then secondly, using Tyler Cowen‘s ethnic dining guide as a rule of thumb – particularly useful for finding interesting eateries in foreign cities, to find a suitable restaurant for lunch.    Fortunately I spied a mexican restaurant just as the skies opened and it began pouring down rain.  A couple of beers and an enchilada later, the rain had stopped and it was time to work off the calories with the march back up hill and a quiet rest. 

Later I met up with FoJ and we wandered somewhat aimlessly through town (to be fair Mrs FoJ likely knew not only where we were,  but where we were going to eat all along) arriving a delightful Italian restaurant.  Much pleasant conversation, food and drinks followed by more wandering throughout the old town, culminating in several attempts to capture the very pretty christmas displays in pixels – not entirely successfully though.    We parted ways agreeing to meet up on Sunday morning to make a quick dash down to Liechtenstein.

I stayed at the Hotel Rex, listed as a three star hotel on hrs.de, but whilst the room was modern,  I found it be quite small, and with very little soundproofing.   It has a decent location being about 1.5km from the old town and thus clearly within walking range. 

 How to get there:

By road from Greding:  join Autobahn A9 south towards Munich approximately 70km.  At Kreuz Neufahrn, take A92 SW towards the A99.  Join the A99 SW following signs for Stuttgart, noting also the signs for “A” (Austria) and “CH” (Switzerland).  Exit the A99 onto the A96 towards Bregenz – note that there is a break in the Autobahn of about 8km in length in the vicinity of Gebrazhofen, where traffic is slow as it is moved onto a two lane road – the completion of the Autobahn in this area is likely to be completed in a couple of years.    Before the Austrian border ensure that you purchase the motorway tax sticker or ‘vignette’ and while you are at it, you may as well pick up the Swiss motorway tax sticker.  Follow signs for St Gallen and the A1 towards Zurich.  Have your GPS handy, as Zurich is full of one-way streets, streets which are not through roads, and junctions where it is impossible to turn.

around the world – part 32.1 (in which I help reverse the cooling trend and discover a thingplatz)

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Dec 01 2008

Once again in Bavaria, and imagine my shock and horror to discover that it had snowed.  Clearly something was amiss.  I scratched my head in puzzelment attempting to sort through the flood of information I knew to be true.  According to the Goracle (respectful genuflections) snow could only be a figment of my imagination as it had been banished forever by the evil ways of western man, yet here, plain for all to see was a couple of inches of snow, with more (gasp!) on the way.  This was clearly not what I was expecting, lead to believe that the world was irrevocably headed towards becoming a burnt over desert,  I had only packed shorts and t-shirts – falsely believing that Germany in December would give the French Riviera a run for its money.  Who to blame?  Apparently all of those selfish North Americans, busy not driving their SUVs had spawned a freak cooling trend, one so unexpected that even the prophets could hardly acknowledge it.  And then it struck me – I had the divine duty to reverse this cooling trend, this affront to the gospel and so…..

I embarked on my very own warming crusade –  namely a needless, entirely gratuitious and deliciously delightful CO2 burning tour of the countryside.  Believe me, equipped with a Mercedes C220 and a handy autobahn I figure I have personally reversed the global cooling trend by about two or three hours.  You can thank me later….

img_0135And so this time my excursion took me towards Eichstatt in search of the ruins of an elusive ThingPlatz.  Inspired by recent timewasting sojourn on the interwebs thingy, I determined to find abandoned evidence of Germanys recent past.   Getting close to the ruined amphitheatre took almost no effort, however finding it did require a little more trouble – its not like there are signs pointing to relics of an embarrasing history.  

Just southwest of Winterhof, overlooking Eichstatt is the ruin – and what a creepy feeling to be standing on the site.  I tramped around the place taking a few photographs and the entire time I could not shake the feeling of horror.  I have no idea if the place was ever actually used for party functions, however that was clearly the intent.  At any rate the whole place carries an unsettled feeling…