I am a big fan of budget travel. Apart from meeting new people, you also travel cheap. Having undertaken a number of such trips since I came to the Netherlands about eighteen months ago, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands when one of the student trips organization announced an excursion to Vaduz and Innsbruck.
To those who are not aware of Vaduz, it is the capital of Liechtenstein-the sixth smallest country in the world. Starting from Utrecht in the heart of the Netherlands on a cold evening, about eighty people (some students, some expats) arrived in Vaduz the next morning. We were immediately captivated by the place-the hills, the signs in German and not a soul out on the streets. Coming from India and living in the Netherlands (two of the most densely populated countries in the world), you become accustomed to seeing people wherever you go. But not in Vaduz. However, we were told that while the shops would open much later, the tourist information center would open before time for us. After a quick snack, we went about exploring the city.
Since this was a one-day trip and we had to reach Austria around lunchtime, we had about two hours to see what the city had to offer. One of the most remarkable sites of the city is the Vaduz Castle-home of the Prince. Sitting on top of a hill, it is visible from anywhere in the city and is like a symbolic watchtower-with the Prince watching over the city’s inhabitants and acting like a guardian angel. Since the city center would be deserted in the early morning, we decided to climb the hill and see the castle. A road near the parking depot led to the path towards our destination. After walking for about 20 minutes, we reached the castle. Made of stone, it is a site to behold. Although not very big, it is still very impressive. One of the lucky members of the group even managed to meet the Prince.
After seeing our share of the castle, we headed back down towards the main street. Here, the tourist information center, the museum, parliament and the main church are all in the same line, with the garden in front of them. The four most important buildings on one street gave us an idea of the size of this city. Especially for me, coming from a big city in India where travelling from one end to the other takes about three hours, it was a bit surprising to see that entire city could be crossed in about fifteen minutes. With our time in Vaduz over, we headed towards Innsbruck in Austria.
Innsbruck (the name meaning Inn bridge in German) is a popular winter sports destination of the country. Located in the state of Tyrol, I was immediately struck as to how similar the city looked to the hill stations like Manali in India, with a rapidly flowing river fed by the melting glaciers amidst snow covered peaks. Since we were about a month away from Christmas, there were Christmas markets all around the city-in total six of them. We went about these markets, trying out the local delicacies, especially “Currywurst met pommes” (Sausages in curry with French fries) and Gluhwein (hot wine mixed with honey and spices).
Apart from all the Christmas festivities, Innsbruck also has a lot of cultural history. We visited one of its most famous landmarks-Goldenes Dachl, loosely translated as the Golden Roof. In ancient times, the Emperor of the land could watch tournaments and other performances going on in the square below from his position. We were lucky to witness a performance of an orchestra from this roof while doing some Christmas shopping.
All things must come to an end, and this happened with us too. Soon we realized that it was time to leave and go back to our hectic lives in the Netherlands. All in all, it was a good trip and one that we all deserved given the amount of work we had put in the last few months.