Liechtenstein – big things come in small packages

We had our coldest night yet on our Europe Roadtrip with the temperature dropping below zero. It was so cold that the condensation on our ceiling froze solid and the metal bars had mini icicles hanging down. When we went to open the door to watch the sunrise over the lake and mountains we realised we were locked in. The door seals had totally frozen closed and we were basically trapped. We turned Pablo’s heaters on, put on a brew, and scraped the thick ice off the inside of our windows.

Eventually it eased up and we were free! And what a view we had; the sky had a few pink clouds above the snowy peaks and fog hovered in patches over the lake.

We had a long day ahead of us and planned to drive west over at least two passes in an attempt to beat the snow. Before we set off though, we drove back to a snowy area we’d spotted yesterday which was between the forest and looked ideal for more table sledging. Once there we realised it was groomed for cross country skiing, perfect! We had no problems with the front sinking in this time and flew down the hill. It was all fun and games till an actual skier came by and looked rather disapprovingly at us big kids so we headed off and thawed our hands in Pablo.

We set off towards Flim’s, but as we took the steep road up we saw a sign saying a pass was closed ahead. I was frantically flapping through my map to see if it was one we needed and Craig was plying uphill till we finally found a pullout. As soon as we did, a police car appeared behind us and asked to see our documents. Our second police encounter in less than 12 hours. We asked them about the pass and they actually said it was open, so I questioned this and one got on his walky-talky and revealed that yes it was closed and our route was rather fucked.

Back to the drawing board, we had a choice of heading in a big V, south and back north, which involved a 2000m pass, probably not a wise choice due to it potentially being closed. Or head north west, much safer in terms of the roads being open but probably less scenic. We opted for the later option and realised it went within a few kilometres of Liechtenstein so decided to detour to the pint sized country.

We were really gutted that we couldn’t drive the pass and were going to miss out on snowy summits. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the views were incredible. We passed beautiful vineyards and four pyramid like mountains rose ahead of us.

The border into Liechtenstein was rather uneventful and just had a flag for each country. We drove up to Vaduz, the so called Capitol. I don’t quite understand Liechtenstein, it’s a country, but it’s also called a principality. It’s tiny whatever it is, just 24km long by 12km wide (at its widest point). The current Prince, Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein and the Princess Marie reside in a beautiful 700 year old turreted castle above Vaduz. The town itself was ugly and modern, not what we’d expected. But on such a beautiful day we wanted to be hiking in the mountains instead of walking around a town so drove up a steep road and did a loop walk. It wasn’t a very interesting trail and followed the road for quite a chunk, but it was a nice mix of pastures, forest, steep mountains and wooden alpine houses.

After the steep drive back down and into Switzerland Pablo’s squeaking was driving us mad. We poured water over the wheel to cool the brakes down and it steamed. So we decided we best revisit a garage and get her seen to before the weekend. We found a Toyota mechanics and they said they’d take a look but we’d have to pay, which was frustrating as we knew the part that needed fixing. Anyway, they found nothing wrong and said it all looked fine, which was even more annoying as we had to pay for an inspection yet we were back at square one. We’ve done all we can, we’ve taken her to two mechanics, all we can do now is take it easy and enquire in the next Nissan we find. We paid €15 this time – on the plus side we were given a free creamy coffee each and that’s probably the price a coffee costs in Switzerland.

The next day we made it to Lucerne without hardly touching the brakes and Pablo was doing great! The city was in a beautiful location on the shores of a clear lake and backed by impressive alps. We wondered along cobbled lanes and admired the many 15th century buildings painted in murals. The River Reuss was lined with pastel coloured buildings and cafΓ©s spilled out towards the waterfront. The city is best known for its two covered bridges that cross the river and date back to the 14th century. It was a really pretty city and a joy to walk around as everything was festive with Christmas decorations everywhere.

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