Saturday, July 23, 2016

(Unintentionally) Fooling the Lichtensteiners

I don't actually know what this is. I saw this from the bus window after I finally caught the 11 going to Sargans. 

The view from my unexpected detour. 

An interesting place for a bench 

My side trip may not have been planned, but it was totally worth it for the views. 

Grapes are an important crop in Lichtenstein. They produce quite a bit of wine. 

On Wednesday I took a day trip to Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe and with a population of 37,000 it has no freeway, airport or train station. Lichtenstein also uses the Swiss Franc and has always used someone else's money (they used the Austrian money until World War II). As a result in many ways Lichtenstein feels like an extension of Switzerland, but their official language is high German.
I took a train from Zurich to Sargans which is in Switzerland, but very close to the border. At the bus station where a number of Lichtenstein buses including the one that took me to Valduz, the capital. Neither country is in the EU, but they have a close relationship and therefore no border control (I read somewhere that there is border control on the Austrian side; a fact I find quite interesting because Lichtenstein became Lichtenstein when two regions were purchased by an Austrian prince).
I had booked my ticket to the Vaduz post, which was the last stop on the bus, but when we got to the stop I really didn't know where to go so I just started walking. I hadn't walked far when I saw a pedestrian detour sign because the sidewalk was torn up. I followed the sign and was quite suddenly in front of the National Museum, a place I wanted to visit. I looked around and saw I was right in the middle of things and there was a tourist center right in front of me as well.
In the tourism center I quickly read some brochures including one for a museum and adventure pass. I was really interested because this pass was only 23 Swiss Francs and seemed to cover everything. I went up to the counter and this is the first time I unintentionally fooled a Lichtensteiner. In German I asked for a pass and answered her related questions. She was training someone on how to sell the passes as she completed my transaction. Apparently in the book she had to fill out there was a line for country. I heard her tell the other woman this is where you put in the country. Then she turned to me and said, "Germany, right?" To say they were shocked when I replied, "No, USA" would be an understatement. It was rather funny, but also a really good thing that they asked me what country I came from because then I was able to get a Lichtenstein stamp (as I was writing this sentence I was thinking a German would have traveled on a ID card rather than a passport, but since they aren't in the EU I don't know if that's true).  Next I went to the National museum where I used my museums and Adventure pass to get a ticket for the National Museum and a token for the treasure chamber. There the woman asked if she could get my country and when I told her the USA she was also shocked replying that I didn't have any accent at all (not a true statement, but since I have also been mistaken for a German in Switzerland I guess they can't hear my American accent over my German one). Later in the day, I used my pass to gain entry to this little train that takes you through Valduz with recorded narration. There are three cars and each one is a different language. I heard a group of German speakers ask about getting on and being sent to the last car. Then a family got in the middle car and were asked if they spoke English. They did and were then informed that they were in the correct car (actually only the parents spoke English, but none of them spoke German). The back car was really full. The middle car had only this one family and I assume the front car was for French. Since English is my native language and it was less full I got in the middle car (although even knowing I was an American the woman at the national museum thought I should use the German audio guide because my German was so good). As I was sitting on the little train waiting for it to depart, I heard the man I had checked in with talking to the driver. Apparently they were trying to make sure everyone was in the correct car because I heard him tell the driver that I was German speaking. I told them (in German) that English is my native language - again they were surprised.
As I write this I'm actually in Germany visiting a really good friend. When I told her and her son about this they were especially confused by the no accent comment, because of course I have a (presumably rather strong) accent. We decided this must somehow be the result of the people here (and in Switzerland where I had a similar encounter) speaking a dialect whereas I speak high German.
I had a great day in Valduz, but I had wanted to see some of the other towns. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like that was all that possible so I made plans to depart at 17:59. At about 17:55 I arrived at the correct bus stop. At 17:58 a bus that was labeled 12E Sargans (the route I was looking for and the destination I needed) arrived and I got on. On the bus was a display that listed the upcoming stops and showed the final destination. It showed the Sargans train station as the last stop. A moment later I heard the driver tell someone there was some time. That struck me as odd because according to Google maps we should have been leaving right away. We sat for a while and then the woman across the aisle got up and spoke to the driver (who at this point was outside). She came back and told her son we'd leave soon. More time passed. I was growing concerned I was going to miss the train in Sargans. I asked the woman if she knew when the bus was leaving. She told me the driver had said 17:12. We both thought this was strange because it didn't match the schedule, but we went with it anyway. Sure enough we departed at 17:12. At first I really wasn't paying attention, I may have been playing Pokemon Go (I don't remember). Then I noticed that the view was far more excellent than I remembered. However, I was sitting on the same side as my trip in in order to see the view from the opposite side so I thought, "hmm..., I must have missed this on the way in. Shortly thereafter I realized we were really going up the hills and I was sure we had stayed on relatively flat ground on our way to Valduz. At this point I looked at the display screen. It no longer said 12E Sargans. Now it said 21 Malbun. Somehow the bus had changed routes! The mother and son clearly had also been surprised by this and a few minutes later they got off. The views were stunning and my first thought was to ride all the way to Malbun, but a check on Google maps convinced be that that wasn't a good idea. I already knew the last train left Sargans around 10 pm and the buses were running less and less frequently as the evening progressed. So I got off at the next stop. There was a gorgeous view, a bathroom, a picnic table, a fountain and a hundred yards away (or so) an random bench looking out at the view. There wasn't much else (there was also one random house). I had a twenty minute wait until the bus going the opposite direction came, so I filled my water bottle, took pictures and waited. I followed my directions on Google maps and got off at the stop listed to change buses, but unfortunately didn't realize I would have a 30 minute wait there (I saw that right after I got off). I was  waiting for bus 11 to Sargans. The first to bus 11s simply didn't go all the way to Sargans. Finally at 19:43 came the bus and I continued on my way. My mistake caused my journey to be nearly two hours longer, but actually I rather enjoyed it.

Unfortunately using my phone I can't move the photos around nor add captions. I'll fix this up when I can.
Lichtenstein had never had its own money - this money dates back to the 1300s. 
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