A look back at the country of Liechtenstein
VADUZ, Liechtenstein — The door of the mayor’s office opened in this capital city of Liechtenstein, a tiny gem of a nation sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, and out stepped Mayor Karlheinz Ospelt.
“Welcome to Vaduz, Mr. and Mrs. Henley. We don’t get many visitors from Nevada here,” he told us.
“Nevada is one of my most favorite states in the U.S.,” said Ospelt, 46, a certified accountant by profession.
“Just a few months ago I took my father to Las Vegas for 10 days. It was his 75th birthday and we had a great time there. We stayed at the Caesar’s Palace Hotel and the weather was wonderful.”
When Ludie asked him how he did in the Las Vegas casinos, the mayor laughed and replied, “I lost a little, but my father did very well. We can’t wait to go back.”
Vaduz is just about the smallest capital city in Europe. It has only 5,200 people (Fallon is 1.7 times larger) and is one of 11 little towns comprising this ancient principality that consists of only 62 square miles, making it a bit smaller than Washington, D.C., and is totally dwarfed by Nevada, which is 110,561 square miles.
The entire country’s population is 35,000, which also is minuscule if compared to Nevada’s, which is about 2.5 million.
But don’t let Liechtenstein’s tiny size and population fool you. The nation is one of 191 members of the United Nations as well as the European Free Trade Association, the Council of Europe, the World Court and a host of other international organizations.
It has ambassadors in Washington, D.C. and several European nations, treaties with about 80 countries, a consular corps here comprised of 20 members and is one of 10 hereditary constitutional monarchies remaining in Europe. (The others are Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Monaco and Spain.)
This little city of Vaduz, then, has somewhat of an international feel, as diplomats come and go and well-dressed visitors crowd the boutiques and jewelry stores along the Stadle, the city’s main shopping promenade.
Mayor Ospelt, who has been in office 12 years and also served eight years in Liechtenstein’s 25-member Parliament, told us the City Council has 13 members and the city has only six policemen.
“The last murder in Liechtenstein occurred three years ago. Things are pretty quiet here. But we do have a national police force of about 130 who patrol the roads and investigate the occasional minor crimes.”
Liechtenstein Ambassador to the United States Claudia Fritsche said the nation’s foreign policy emphasizes international rule of law, human rights, environmental protections, religious and racial tolerance.
Neutral during World Wars I and II like neighboring Switzerland, Liechtenstein nevertheless has harbored refugees and the unfortunate, and its 11 cities have sponsored visits from the children of 9/11 victims, survivors of Hurricane Katrina and others affected by world tragedies.
“Our country abolished its army in 1868, and since then Liechtenstein has been a world force against any kind of aggression,” she added.
Liechtenstein and the U.S. are strong economic partners, although Liechtenstein’s annual exports to the U.S. total about $497 million while the U.S. exports only $49 million to Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein’s exports primarily are high-tech innovations, tools, construction equipment and other sophisticated products. Banking and the insurance business also are important to its economy.
Liechtenstein found itself in difficulty a few years ago when it and several other nations were accused of money laundering, but strict controls have since been put in place that have resulted in the nation achieving praise from the United States and international financial agencies.
Tourism also is important to its economy, and skiing, snowboarding, hiking the Alps and along the Rhine River, and visiting ancient castles, art museums (which contain works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rodin, Van Gogh and Picasso) are enjoyed by visitors.
Reigning Price Hans-Adam II is the 15th in a line of sovereigns that date back to Karl I who ruled from 1569 to 1627. The Liechtenstein family line dates to 1265.
The Prince, 61, has ruled since the death of his father, Franz Josef II in 1989, but two years ago handed over the country’s day-to-day operations to Crown Prince Alois, 38, who, like most of his fellow countrymen, speaks excellent English. The national language is German.
During our stay in Vaduz, Ludie and I slept at the Gastof Lowen Inn, the original part of which was built in 1388.
“The famous writers Alexander Dumas and Johann Goethe have been among our guests,” said owner Fritz Gantenbein who showed us his wine cellar and the vineyards which adjoin his 12-room inn.
In the distance we could hear cowbells (there are 5,000 cows in the country, one for every seven people.)
High tech alongside beautiful forests and mountains, great skiing and hiking, and a fairy tale castle inhabited by a ruling prince and his family who can trace their bloodlines back to the 13th century … Liechtenstein should be visited by everyone traveling in Western Europe.
David C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN. David is under the weather, so we present to you a column he wrote about Liechtenstein.