Impossible! – You said? Not when we are talking about Leichtenstein. In this tiny nation, you can become a local expert over the space of just two leisurely days.
At just 160 sq km, the lovely Liechtenstein lies between Switzerland and Austria; an easy one-hour drive or train ride from Zurich. Its population is a little over 35,000. The nation has no airport. It maintains no military.
But why would you want to go to so small a place at all?
Precisely because it is among the world’s top 5 micronations, with some of the highest living standards and the most magnificent scenery (two-thirds of the land is covered by snow-capped Alps.)
Despite its small size, Leichtenstein offers some staggering pleasures – skiing across the lovely Upper Rhine valley, cycling down a flower-laden trail, plunging into a cold-water lake, tasting the finest wine from the royal cellar. Or be, just be.
We checked hotels.com for accommodation options, and were delighted to find Hotel Meierhof, a four-star property with fabulous views for a peak-season tariff of just about Rs. 10,000 a night. We spotted some homey Bed-and-Breakfasts and Mountain Huts, enchanting and affordable.
Oh, and they even have a prince who lives in a 700-year-old castle atop a rock.
We’re already in love with this fairy tale land: aren’t you?
Shoulder Season falls between peak season and off season. So, you get many advantages. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold. The crowds have thinned out but are not absent. Airfares and hotel tariffs tend to dip slightly, so you have more money for shopping! The local tourist industry is now free from the pressure of catering to throngs, and you can expect better service.
According to Rick Steves, “Shoulder season varies by destination. Because fall and spring bring cooler temperatures in Mediterranean Europe, shoulder season in much of Italy, southern France, Spain, Croatia, and Greece can actually come with near peak-season crowds and prices. For example, except for beach resorts, Italy’s peak season is May, June, September, and October, rather than July and August. Paris is surprisingly quiet in July and August.”
We at Travel Secrets try and stay away from even the best destinations during peak season, because the crowds can be simply too overwhelming. Last year in Florence and Venice, we found ourselves jostling and gasping for the most part. Taking photos ended up being a Click-and-Move affair in places, with the next person breathing down your neck.
A shoulder season trip to Switzerland, on the other hand, was pure relaxation. Under the mild September sun, it was blissful to walk down the quiet streets of Basel, taking in the crisp cool air and lazing by the Rhine. We could feel our lungs turn pink again:)
You can always come to us for just the right advice! Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan discovered a stunning Swiss gem on her recent trip. It’s the Klosters region, quiet, lovely and relatively tourist-free, unless you count Prince Charles, who is a regular guest!
If you are taking a holiday in Switzerland, you probably have greenery and serenity in mind. Klosters ticks those boxes in bold! And if it is adventure you seek, there’s plenty of that to be had here, too.
Nestling in what has remained the rural part of the Prättigau (Graubünden), Klosters, with its romantic village-like atmosphere, stands in stark contrast to the nearby Alpine metropolis of Davos. It’s a tiny town dotted with shops selling outdoorsy sportsgear, and cosy restaurants. A silvery river streaks across the town, and big mountains gaze indulgently down upon the town.
Hotels and homes all over Klosters are laden with flowers. The combination of wood, greenery and brilliant blossoms is heady and irresistible!
The photo above shows Hotel Alpina: we stayed here and totally loved it. Not only is it beautiful, but located right across the small railway station. The cable car up to a gorgeous mountain is also across the road. The rooms have a homely touch, breakfast is delicious, and the staff warm and welcoming. This hotel is proof that you don’t need to be a five-star to be a five star experience!
See? This is a house in Klosters…one among dozens we gaped at! So much beauty, sprinkled all over, just like that!
Lazy, sunlit lunches in Klosters are a food lover’s dream come true. Our dream came true at this one:
Every delicious dish here reflects the freshness and beauty of the region.
And how can you ever leave without indulging in Switzerland’s best-loved comfort food, starring potatoes: yes, we’re talking about Rosti!
Paired with local wine and sunshine, all this good food is the perfect recipe for an afternoon snooze. We took our cue from this bovine beauty and treated ourselves to a nap, too!
The valleys of Klosters will take your breath away. It is easy to lose track of time gazing in the distance and feeling your soul heal. Far in the distance, on gleaming tracks, the bright red streak of a train passing by, is stunning against the green backdrop: quintessential Switzerland!
Dreaming of snow in this sweltering heat? Head for the mountains! Discover Davos Klosters in the Swiss Alps and enjoy their year-round events and activities. Here’s what you can look forward to in the coming months.
At Davos in Switzerland, a sports eldorado, health resort, business city, and cultural metropolis merge together to transform Europe’s highest-altitude Alpine town into a destination of a thousand possibilities. Located on the Landwasser River, in the Swiss Alps, between the Plessur and Albula Range, Davos could be your ideal summer getaway. It is also home to one of Switzerland’s biggest ski resorts and hosts the annual Spengler Cupice hockey tournament. The high valley town also offers 97 kilometers of pistes for cross country skiing and the largest natural ice skating field in Europe. Summer transport in the six main ski areas to the peaks are available from mid May until end of October.
Events and activities in Davos Klosters
GWunderwald Heidboden Davos: Explore Davos through its vibrant flora, fauna, forestry, hunting and landscapes. The natural adventure trail has 30 different stations along the route and is equally interesting for both the young and the young-at-heart.
Biking in Davos Klosters: Explore Davos on two-wheels with Hotel Grischa’s guided bike tours. Trained mountain bike guides are available for groups of four to eight. Get to know Davos Klosters as a biking destinations and learn a few handy tips to stay safe on two-wheels.
AlpenFieber Davos: Open air concerts and hiking around town – AlpenFiber is all about experiencing Davos culture. Tune into some folk music during the day at special locations like Sertig, the Schatzalp, Lake Schwarzsee and the Seehofseeli. Get cozy within the walls of your hotel for the evening concerts, after a long day of walking around the Davos countryside.
10 Years of Sculpture Symposium: A massive exhibition to celebrate the anniversary will feature about 100 sculptures, guided tours on the arts on the Stafelalp, moonlit walks and artists‘ workshops at the resort. Discover the local art and crafts.
Ah! Lovely Lucerne – good choice! Travel Secrets editor-in-chief Shubhra Krishan was there recently and has fallen in love with the Swiss city. Here’s how she describes it:
“Take a blank canvas and a lavish palette of paint. Dip your brush in blue, mix with a little white, and create a lovely lake. Float some fluffy white ducks into the lake. In the background, paint tall, stunning mountains draped in snow. In the foreground, a few brushstrokes depicting people walking by. You have just painted Lucerne!”
Now, about your itinerary – here are a few suggestions from Shubhra. Let’s start with where to stay.
Grand Hotel National:
Shubhra says: “I have stayed in some seriously lovely hotels, but this one swept me away.”
Founded in 1870, the hotel is built in French Renaissance style and has witnessed some powerful moments in history. During the later years of Word War 1, for instance, the ground floor and cellar of the hotel served as a warehouse. And in 1920, British Prime Minister Lloyd George met Italian President Giolitti at this hotel—this was where the foundation of the Treaty of Versailles was laid! But walking down the ornate corridors of the hotel, history would be far from your mind; luxury uppermost. Framed in the large glass windows of the beautiful suites are stunning snow-clad peaks. And to help see them right up close, you will find a pair of binoculars on the desk. In the foreground, the lake ripples—in all its blue beauty, complete with bobbing ducks and boats. The hotel’s elegant restaurants ‘Le Trianon,’ ‘Il Padrino’ and “Thai Lotus”, will keep your taste buds busy too.
What to see:
The Lake: Lucerne’s liquid centrepiece is said to have inspired Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata.’ While you are in Lucerne, the Lake will simply relax and romance you. Those ducks! And swans! And boats! And the painterly sunlight falling on them all, setting them afire in golden glow tinged with mouthwash blue…
Chapel Bridge: The wooden structure is arched artistically across the lake, complete with bright red geraniums and begonia lining its sides, to get that effortless painted effect. It is to Lucerne what the Palais des Festivals is to Cannes—you have to get a picture taken here!
The Old Town: Quintessentially an European affair – the narrow alleys off this Weinmarkt Square are lined with tall houses, some with colourfully painted shutters. Dotted with houses converted into hotels, boutiques and restaurants, this part of Lucerne is perhaps even more laid-back and leisurely than the rest of the city. Just bask in the sun, enjoy some coffee or indulge in a spot of shopping!
The local markets: As farmer’s markets go, the Sunday morning market in Lucerne is not huge, but about 80 local vendors sell all sorts of fresh fruit, jams, preserves, cheese, baked goods, flowers, plants, spices and herbs. Lucerne also has a fish market, a flea market, crafts market, Christmas market and a monthly market…whenever you go, there’s sure to be something on!
Shop at the Railway Station: The transparent entrance hall of the railway station was designed by a Spanish architect. After the fire of 1971, it was rebuilt, and looks quite unlike a railway station from the outside. Inside, too, it does double duty as a shopping mall!
Lucerne is in the German speaking canton of Switzerland, so you will encounter the German word ‘Banhof’ which means station. The only downer is that Switzerland is an expensive country to shop in. Stuck to the two big department store chains: Migros and Coop, and invest in chocolates and Caotina cocoa mix as recommended by locals.
Food and wine: A blogger described Lucerne as the ‘Swissest city in Switzerland’. But when it comes to food, Lucerne goes cheerily beyond its Swissness and embraces the cuisines of all the world! Be it simple coffee and cake, a tiny, taverny sort of affair, or a grand restaurant offering elaborate Provencal spread, Lucerne has them all. There are nearly 250 restaurants packed into the 15 square kilometres! Try dinner at Kanchi, a famous Indian restaurant in Lucerne – a good bet if you are craving a touch of home.
At night, the somnolent pubs and bars take centrestage. Many of them are perched high above city roofs, letting you soak in the jewelled beauty of Lucerne. For the gaming inclined, there is the Grand Casino, with 140 slot machines, poker, roulette, blackjack, the works!
Ready for some history ?
Lucerne is also a city of palaces, churches, and squares. The squares Kapellplatz, Hirschenplatz, Mühleplatz and Franziskanerplatz retain vestiges of their past history. The Hof Church, the Town Hall and the Rittersche Palace are important monuments dating from the late Renaissance, while the Jesuit Church is one of Switzerland’s finest baroque churches. The Franciscan Church is considered to be the finest Gothic church in Central Switzerland.
The Lion of Glacier Garden: It was hewn out of natural sandstone cliff, in a form of a dying lion pierced by a spear, in memory of the heroic death of the Swiss mercenaries at the Tuileries in 1792. Globetrotter
Mark Twain described the Lion of Lucerne as ‘the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world’.
The glass factory at Hergiswil: Located approximately 8 km south of Lucerne, the Hergiswiler Glass Factory was established in 1817 and is Switzerland’s only glassworks; where glassmakers work in the most traditional methods. Look over their shoulders and in the Museum “shaped by fire” you are shown the history of glass and of the Glasi-Hergiswil. The admission to the Glasi is free and can be booked with a guided tour. There is a factory shop, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and a playground for children, with a large tube slide.
Know Before You Go
www.livinginluzern.info: a blog for the locals, but very helpful for you, the visitor. Tips you off on where to buy
shoe-shaped chocolates, pluck the best pumpkins and see the best of cheesemaking. Want to try an offbeat hotel stay? Check into Luzern’s most interesting hotel, the Jailhotel Löwengraben —
converted from an actual prison. Stay in a simple cell with a tiny barred window, thick door, and institutional
sink. Farmer’s Market: Every Tuesday and Saturday morning. Every year from 6.00 to 13.00 hours at the Rauthaus Quai, very close to the Railway Station and right by the Chapel Bridge. You can’t miss it, actually!.
A Word about the Weather
Lucerne is bustling during winter, when the Alps come alive with snow sports. The lake is all fluffed up with snow.
In February, the driest month, there is a vibrant Carnival. Lucerne gets about 138 days of rain during the year.
The Grand Hotel National
Haldenstrasse 4, 6006 Luzern,
Phone: +41 (0)41 419 09 09
firstname.lastname@example.org, www.national-luzern.ch Kanchi Indian Restaurant
Zürichstrasse 4, 6004 Luzern,
Phone: +41 (0)41 410 67 08, www.kanchi.ch
Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein is one of the world’s top 5 micro-nations. At just 160 sq km, this tiny nation is only 1/57th the size of Yellow Stone National Park in the US.
Liechtenstein has just 35,000 people, no airport and no military. So why would you want to go there? Because it has the magnificent snow capped Alps, ski-fields across the lovely Upper Rhine valley, flower laden biking trails, and fine wine cellars.
It’s easy to reach- only a one hour drive or train ride from Zurich.