Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
Date : 18th August, 2020
Time : 48’ 06”
Number of runners (total to date) : 1 (7047)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5432278692
I wasn’t the happiest of bunnies. We’d had our ‘looked forward to it all year; only thing that kept us sane during lock down’ holiday cut short by the @#*$!ing virus. Instead of gallivanting with friends in the south of France, I was watching it rain in London.
The rest of the family didn’t seem too bothered. The girls had immediately returned to their usual holiday lifestyles i.e. spending all their time with friends & boyfriends. (Boyfriends. There’s a word I wasn’t using when I first started writing these blogs…). And Liz was, as always, busy.
Traumatised by the boyfriends, despondent about the curtailed holiday, and depressed by the British weather’s uncanny ability to endlessly rain whenever we return to the country, I began to search for a way out.
Ideally a running way out. But where?!?
Most of the remaining 23 countries in my Run the Wold challenge were immediately ruled out on the grounds of logistics / virus / security.
But there was one relatively close and safe country I’d yet to run in : Liechtenstein. And I realised that (as a Brit) I could go there without fear of quarantine in either direction. So that was it. I was off to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.
Now, Liechtenstein doesn’t have an airport so you have to fly to Zurich. A beautiful city
that, despite my family living in Switzerland for many years, I’d only previously visited once – to see the Who play.
Who are the Who (I hear the younger readership ask)? Not to be confused with WHO, whom my father worked for in Geneva, they were a seminal rock band whose oeuvre includes ‘Baba O’Riley’, which features one of the great intros and is a Top 100 of All Time Track.
(I watched lots of versions this on YouTube before selecting the one above. Its old footage – and the videography isn’t great – but it captures the essence of why Daltrey, Townshend, Moon and Enthwistle were rock gods.)
Mind you, we were lucky to get in to the gig as some of our party had their tickets stolen as they took them out of our pockets just before the entrance. Fortunately the security guards saw the theft and let us in. Where, as my brother recently reminded me, the sound volume proceeded to do permanent damage to our hearing.*
Anyway, time to move on from Zurich and continue on our merry way to Liechtenstein. Not only is Liechtenstein missing an airport, it also doesn’t have a train station.
So you catch a train at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, spend the best part of an hour admiring Lake Zurich and Lake Walen, and then get off at Sargans. Where a bus awaits to trundle you to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.
For those not familiar with Liechtenstein, it’s located between Switzerland and Austria and is one if only two double-landlocked countries in the world i.e. it is surrounded by land locked countries. (Uzbekistan is the other.)
Basically it sits in a valley that runs north-south with the Rhine as its western border and a mountain range to the East. It is the sixth smallest country in the world and, from a geographical perspective, it’s not immediately obvious why it exists.
I got off the bus and almost immediately espied arguably it’s most famous landmark – Schloss Vaduz.
His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II lives there and invites the entire population round for parties on national holidays. As I didn’t have an invitation, and the castle was a fairly sharp climb above the valley floor, I decided to give it a miss and commence my run northwards where I soon hit the city limits.
Had I continued north I would have come to Schaan, Liechtenstein’s biggest ‘city’ and world centre of false teeth manufacturing. Yup, Liechtenstein is responsible for 20 per cent of total worldwide sales : 60 million sets every year, in more than 10,000 models. (Thanks in part to a strong relationship with Bollywood dentists.)
Instead I turned round to explore more of Vaduz and made my way west to the Rheinpark Stadion, home of the mighty FC Vaduz.
There aren’t enough teams in Liechtenstein to form a league so FC Vaduz play in Switzerland. There is, however, a cup competition in Liechtenstein which FC Vaduz win with world record breaking regularity. Thereby meaning that they qualify for the Europa League. In 2019-20 they even reached the third qualifying round where they played Eintracht Frankfurt. At the home match in Vaduz they attracted 5,908 spectators – not bad for a city with a population of 5,521
From there I ran back into the centre of Vaduz and back south along the main road ending up at St Florin’s Cathedral.
By now I was running short of landmarks to visit in Vaduz so I decided to keep running south along the main road back towards Sargans.
At this stage I realised 3 things:
– it was bloody hot
– my legs hurt despite having only run about 4 km
– I didn’t know where the Liechtenstein-Switzerland border was. And I didn’t want to end up having to run extra kms to make up for any I mistakenly ran in Switzerland. Not least because it was bloody hot and my legs hurt.
This last point may seem trivial to you. Surely if you reach the border you just turn round? However its notoriously tricky to know when you’ve reached the Switzerland-Liechtenstein border.
To put that in context, neutral Switzerland has invaded its neighbour three times. By mistake.
In 1985 they erroneously fired rockets into Liechtenstein, sparking a forest fire.
In 1992, following written orders, Swiss soldiers established an observation post at Triesen. Regrettably, the officers who gave the order had forgotten that Triesen is in Liechtenstein.
And in March 2007, 170 Swiss infantrymen marched across the border – wandering about a mile into Liechtenstein before realising the error of their ways. The Liechtenstein authorities didn’t notice the invasion until they received an apology from the Swiss.
Fortunately, Liechtenstein has taken these occasional violations of its national sovereignty with good nature and regional peace has been maintained. A spokesman said, “It’s not like they invaded with attack helicopters. No problem, these things happen.”
Determined to do better than the Swiss Army, I consulted Google maps and calculated that I could run as far as Balzers before venturing into Switzerland. I gritted my teeth (I know its not advisable to grit teeth but there were plenty of false replacements available just up the road) and set off.
I ran through Triesen – third largest of Liechtenstein’s municipalities and apparently home to a weaving kiln that dates from 1863 and is considered a historical monument. (This is all Wikipedia has to say about Triesen which, given how good the Swiss observation post story is, seems like an oversight.)
With only dosing cows
– and nowhere enough shade – for company, I struggled onto Balzers where I thankfully reached the end of the most painful 10 km I’ve run in years. No idea what the problem was. Unfit? The heat? New running shoes? Anyway, it took me 3 days before I could walk properly again.
But that was all secondary because, more than 9 months after my last run in Afghanistan, Run the World was up and running again. And it was ‘kin fantastic!
If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
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Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Liechtenstein is a German-speaking microstate situated in the Alps and in the southwest of Central Europe. The principality is a semi-constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein; the Prince’s extensive powers are equivalent to those of a President in a semi-presidential system.
Liechtenstein is bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. It is Europe’s fourth-smallest country, with an area of just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and a population of 38,749. Divided into 11 municipalities, its capital is Vaduz, and its largest municipality is Schaan. It is also the smallest country to border two countries. Liechtenstein is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world, along with Uzbekistan.
Economically, Liechtenstein has one of the highest gross domestic products per person in the world when adjusted for purchasing power parity.The country has a strong financial sector centered in Vaduz. It was once known as a billionaire tax haven, but is no longer on any blacklists of uncooperative tax haven countries. An Alpine country, Liechtenstein is mountainous, making it a winter sport destination.
Liechtenstein is a member of the United Nations, the European Free Trade Association, and the Council of Europe. Although not a member of the European Union, it participates in both the Schengen Area and the European Economic Area. It also has a customs union and a monetary union with Switzerland.
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Liechtenstein – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
|GDP||$6.55 bn||2017||$2.48 bn||2002|
|Population||38 019||2019||33 184||2000|
|Primary school enrolment*||105 %||2017||106 %||2003|
|% below poverty line***||NA||NA|
|Life expectancy at birth||83.0 yrs||2018||76.8 yrs||2000|
|GNI per capita||$116 430||2019||$78 870||2000|
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
** Metric tons per capita
***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While much of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Liechtenstein performed in the global sporting arena in 2019:
Global Cup – 117th
Per Capita Cup – NA
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.