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2019.01.16 列支敦士登,神奇的王子国

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Liechtenstein, the magic princedom
It’s one of the smallest countries in Europe and one of the richest and safest – but that doesn’t make it boring

Jan 16th 2019



By Seán Williams

“Eins, zwei, drei… los!” shouted Patrick Dünser, strapped behind me. This was my signal to run down the mountainside, pushing through the thick snow until I was treading air. Clearing the treetops, we kept to the near side of the Rhine. Beyond lay Switzerland. Behind us was Austria. Barely airborne, Patrick pointed out the western border before we turned round again to take in the overview of Liechtenstein – from a paraglider.

Suspended at altitude, I surveyed the length and breadth of the world’s sixth-smallest state. Having lived in Switzerland, holidayed in Austria and taught my students about the 19th-century unification of “German” territories – little lands similar to this one – I’d overlooked Liechtenstein, figuratively speaking. Now I could do so quite literally.

A little over 15 miles stretched out before me, the length of the country. The lowland landscape is scattered with settlements, but noticeably less densely than in neighbouring nations. Cattle graze the pastures; banks stand where there were once shepherds’ huts; factories cut the world’s false teeth. Thirty-eight percent of the employed work in industry, a surprisingly large proportion by international standards. To the south I could see much of the eight or so miles rising to the ski resort of Malbun. We flew on past the castle that stands watch over this tiny country – it does so for tradition’s sake only; Liechtenstein has long since dissolved its army. It still has a ruling prince. (Two, in fact: a head of state, and his son who performs day-to-day duties.) I trod air again – to warm up and in preparation for landing. A quarter of an hour after take-off – and having taken in the whole country – I landed back in Liechtenstein on my feet.

It’s easy to miss Liechtenstein on a map, or to lose it in the footnotes of history books. Like Britain, Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy, but with a population of around 38,000 to Britain’s 66m. The state’s story is simple. Before becoming a country in 1719, Liechtenstein consisted of just two counties, accountable to – but oddly not owned by – the Habsburgs. One of the counties, Schellenberg, was put up for sale in 1699 by the counts in charge of it because of their own exorbitant debts. Johann Adam Andreas von Liechtenstein paid 115,000 guilders for it, and another 290,000 for the second region, Vaduz, in 1712. The Liechtensteins were Austrian aristocrats who had risen to power at the Habsburg court but had no principality, or Fürstentum, which meant they lacked a seat at the ruling table of the Holy Roman Empire. Then 300 years ago, in January 1719, a sympathetic Habsburger decided that Schellenberg and Vaduz could together become the Fürstentum Liechtenstein; a country was conceived. While the rest of Europe has experienced revolution and the continuous redrawing of borders, Liechtenstein has stayed the same: politically stable, with a three-century reign by the prince’s family. In the last few decades, it has been a tax paradise with more companies than citizens.

Liechtenstein’s neighbours

Playing in the snow near Malbun
Liechtenstein has no airport or railway station, just a bus network with double deckers from which you can look over the urban rooftops to the fields beyond. I travelled from Vienna to Feldkirch on the Austrian border by night train, after spending a day in the princely archives at the Liechtenstein Garden Palace in Vienna, still owned by the family. Standing on the platform I was blurry eyed. And anxious. Friends had insisted that Liechtenstein was not worth five minutes of my time, let alone the 15 of my planned paragliding flight or the five days I was to stay in the country. Even the early Viennese overlords hadn’t been in a rush to visit: no prince set foot in Liechtenstein until 1842. It was left to a local administrator, or Landvogt, to run the country; at first he didn’t live there, either, preferring Feldkirch. So I boarded the commuter bus into Liechtenstein with trepidation, staring at a journal of blank pages and a wad of empty time. Passengers alighted at the manufacturer of dental systems, Ivoclar Vivadent, others at the many banks that serve the country’s residents and other wealthy people attracted by its minimal personal tax rates. I got off in the middle of Vaduz, the capital.

Rays of light reflected off the glass buildings and danced across the spotless street. It was peak time, a workday. No one else was about, though a stately stream of traffic processed through. I headed for the art museum with Gaia, the photographer. We were the only visitors. We walked the few steps to the postage-stamp museum, where the crispness of the Alpine air morphed into the smell of fresh paint. It was undergoing a refit. An apologetic lady advised us to try the national museum instead. There a woman was holding two audio guides at the ready. “Wonderful, you made it!” Her colleague had phoned ahead. We felt as if we’d wandered onto a film set where we were the ones being watched; “You’ve seen ‘The Truman Show’?”, Gaia quipped. We started with exhibits of stuffed animals, moving on to gold medallions that Salvador Dalí had made in honour of the previous prince. The start of my visit was properly surreal.

That evening we hit Vaduz’s bars. Both of them. They were lively establishments, if smoky: an attribute approved by national referendum. Liechtensteiners say of themselves that they’re reserved, yet they were happy to talk about their lives. In Esquire I met bankers, an artist, a music teacher. They emphasised that Liechtenstein is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, that everything works well, and how nice it would be if the national anthem were set to a work by Liechtenstein-born Josef Rheinberger – the country currently shares with Britain the tune to its national anthem, which caused great amusement when the country twice played England at football (Liechtenstein lost both times: 0-2). The clientele in Zwei Bar next door was less conspicuously affluent and had more everyday concerns. Not all citizens are rich, the owner reminded me. But because Liechtenstein is so small, most stressed their respect for others’ points of view. Chances are they know each other.

Over the next days we talked to everyone who was anyone in Liechtenstein. And the rest. At home with the Feichtingers, a successful tax-advising family, I asked Fiona, in her early 20s, whether dating is difficult in a country that’s so familiar. She smiled. You take the time to think through the consequences beforehand, she says: “When Liechtensteiners get together, they usually stay together – they’ll have known each other a good while already, or known of them.” Her mother, Caroline, laughed: “It’s true that it’s considered. Think about how many Liechtenstein number plates there must be. And you can look them all up in a directory, anyway. So if you park at someone’s house…”

The quiet life Glass sculptures in downtown Vaduz

Trophies in the National Museum

A night out in Esquire Bar
Ski instructors milled about on the main street of Malbun, a mountain resort, dressed in royal red, with crowns emblazoned across their backs. Christoph Bühler, who will soon take over the ski school from his father, cannot remember learning to ski. He was two years old. His colleagues are school friends and neighbours. They mainly teach Germans, Austrians or Swiss; day trippers who visit Liechtenstein on a bus tour do not make it this far, Christoph told me. He directed us to another family-run business for lunch, Hotel Turna. After Rösti – a light bite by Alpine standards – we wandered over to Walserhof, where we’d been tipped off that live music was playing.

Our waitress Katalin Göltl reckoned the accordions would be brought out an hour later. Liechtenstein is no Switzerland, though, and the hour turned into two and a half. She would pass by our table to pour us a glass of Liechtenstein wine on the house: Riesling-Sylvaner, and a Pinot Noir. She’d sit and briefly chat with us, as she did with all her guests. I had assumed she was a local, but she’s Hungarian. For foreign workers from elsewhere in Europe there is a lottery for residency in Liechtenstein, unless you marry a citizen. Göltl has entered the competition three times already, but wasn’t among the 28 names drawn annually. For now, she must continue living in Austria and commute. Liechtenstein is culturally open, but less so politically, in terms of rights and paperwork.

Hunting is celebrated as part of Liechtenstein’s culture. It casts a shadow over the country only in a literal sense: almost every light fitting is made from antlers, usually multiple pairs. The anti-hunting lobby is marginal, perhaps because hunting clubs are enlisted by law to ensure a sustainable mountainside and forest environment. The pastime used to be a noble privilege. Back when the princes had never seen their own country, they’d receive written descriptions of it. One five-page document from 1757 tells at length what could be tracked and found, including otters and truffles. Today, the prey is mainly deer and Alpine ibex. Markus Meier, president of Vaduz’s hunting club, explained to me that since law reforms in 1962 the sport is no longer an elite pursuit. Men and a few women from all social groups participate in Jäger parties that adhere to a national shooting plan. An annual trophy show is held as a legal obligation: officials check whether the correct species, number and sex of animals were shot. In this light, room after room of taxidermy in Vaduz’s museum speaks to a desire for organisation and national oversight rather than a bloodthirsty interest in oddities.

Head hunter Markus Meier, president of Vaduz hunting club

The Walserhof restaurant, Malbun

There was one final Liechtensteiner left to meet: the monarch, Hans-Adam II. Vaduz castle is shut to tourists and media visits are rare. Liechtensteiners are invited into the grounds on national day, August 15th. They are received inside the Schloss for special honours, sporting achievements, good grades in apprenticeships, or passing school leaving exams. Among citizens, the Princely House is held in high esteem. The revised constitution of 2003 was passed by national vote and gave the prince a veto over referendum and parliamentary outcomes, but also handed the people the right to express no confidence in their monarchy and abolish it. A subsequent referendum campaign to remove the princely veto over directly democratic decisions failed. Pride in being a principality – as both fans and critics told me – has increased among the younger generations. One twenty-something we met had Gott, Fürst und Vaterland tattooed across his chest.

“God, Prince and the Fatherland” is the national trinity, and most people in this country are committed to all three. In two of the three guesthouses and hotels in which I stayed, princely portraits hung on the walls and rooms took their names; all had religious statues on display. Liechtenstein remains staunchly Catholic: abortion is illegal here – though same-sex partnerships are legal. Patriotism is resolute and topical. As in neighbouring Austria and Switzerland, many Liechtensteiners were opposed to the United Nation’s compact on migration in December 2018, a global agreement on migration policy. The government’s executive branch and the Princely House had been in favour. In the end, Liechtenstein abstained.

We crossed the drawbridge and passed through a latticed iron gate that opened automatically. Beyond was a Gothic courtyard, overshadowed by turrets and the tips of the Alps in between. Liechtensteiners address each other with the informal pronoun – Du – by default. Yet up here, on the hill, Durchlaucht – your Serene Highness – is the correct form of address. I was nervous I’d forget.

I needn’t have been. Fürst Hans-Adam was a great storyteller with an infectious laugh. His father was the first prince to live in Liechtenstein, moving from Vienna to Vaduz when the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. Hans-Adam was sent to the local primary school where he was the first among his peers to be caned. “That was almost a badge of honour for me as a boy,” he told us. He wanted to be one of the people. The local landscape is obviously of great significance to him: in his free time he runs through the woods. I had been told in a bar that Hans-Adam jogged barefoot, but suspected this was an urban legend. “No, it’s true,” he smiled. “Though I had to stop when the snow came.”

Starry night A view from Sücka, a guesthouse close to Steg village

Reindeer antlers at the National Museum

Hans-Adam II, the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein
He had wanted to study archaeology or perhaps physics at university. But his role was to rebuild the family business after palaces and land were confiscated following the war in what is now the Czech Republic. He told me that he was christened Hans-Adam after his ancestor who had not only bought Schellenberg and Vaduz, but also restored the family’s finances after the Thirty Years War in the mid-17th century. Hans-Adam II followed suit, with spectacular success: he’s head of a global bank, Europe’s wealthiest monarchy, and one of the world’s most prosperous states. With money has come the ability to return Vaduz castle to being a proper princely residence, and to restore his two Viennese palaces with meticulous historical accuracy. I asked him if this is due to his interest in history. Partly so, he says, but above all he was prompted by duty. “It was especially my mother who used to say: if you have enough money, and if it’s possible, you should have everything restored.”

Given the emphasis on historical continuity, I wanted to talk about what could have been. I’d read reports that Russia offered Liechtenstein Alaska before selling it to the United States in 1867. Looking out onto a snow-covered mountain-scape, the outlandish proposal almost made sense. The-then prince had been a diplomat for the Habsburgs to St Petersburg, though no written sources confirm the approach.“It was of course a marvellous story to hear growing up,” laughed Hans-Adam. Would he have taken up the offer?“That would have been a terrible idea. What are the chances that we would have been able to keep it, let alone manage it well at the time? And how would we even have got there!”

Liechtenstein’s history is characterised by pragmatism and good diplomacy. The original purchase was a vote-buying exercise. Then, as the Holy Roman Empire fell apart, the Princely House kept on the right side of history. Johann I led the Habsburg’s peace negotiations with Napoleon, persuading him to include Liechtenstein in the Confederation of the Rhine. Through that move the principality became fully sovereign in 1806. After the second world war, Hans-Adam recalled, his father was approached by a politician in the Austrian Vorarlberg who wanted his region to join Liechtenstein to end France’s occupation. “I mean, even then we didn’t have an army,” he says. Hans-Adam claims that he is not a born diplomat, yet it was he who brought Liechtenstein into both the European Economic Area and the United Nations.

For years it has seemed to be rich pickings for satire, including in political works. Leonard Wibberley’s cold-war novel from 1955, “The Mouse That Roared” – later made into a film with Peter Sellers – is surely a send-up of this tiny country. Yet Liechtenstein is not as comical, antiquated or as cohesive as the fictive Duchy of Grand Fenwick. The cliché that it is a boring fairy tale is also false. It is both an ordinary modern state, and an outlier in central Europe. I departed by bus from the opposite end of the country to the one I’d entered. Taking both the long view and the bird’s eye perspective had turned the funny into the fascinating. The people along the way – from princes to barflies – were entertaining, thoughtful and saw two sides to every argument. They were pragmatic, but with a romantic penchant for tradition. In the modern world that makes Liechtenstein quite a rarity.

photographs gaia squarci

map: lloyd parker






"Eins, zwei, drei... los!"绑在我身后的帕特里克-邓瑟喊道。这是我在山坡上奔跑的信号,我穿过厚厚的积雪,直到踏上空气。穿过树梢,我们保持在莱茵河的近旁。在这之前是瑞士。在我们身后是奥地利。勉强升空后,帕特里克指出了西部边界,然后我们再次转身,从滑翔伞上看到了列支敦士登的全景。

悬浮在高空的我审视着这个世界上第六小的国家的长度和宽度。我曾在瑞士生活,在奥地利度假,并向我的学生讲授19世纪 "德国 "领土的统一--与此相似的小块土地--从形象上讲,我曾忽略了列支敦士登。现在我可以按字面意思来做了。




列支敦士登没有机场或火车站,只有一个双层巴士网络,从那里你可以看到城市屋顶上的田野。我在维也纳的列支敦士登花园宫(Liechtenstein Garden Palace)的王子档案馆呆了一天后,乘夜车从维也纳前往奥地利边境的费尔德基希(Feldkirch),该宫仍归列支敦士登家族所有。站在站台上,我眼花缭乱。也很焦急。朋友们坚持认为列支敦士登不值得我花5分钟的时间,更不用说我计划中的滑翔伞飞行的15分钟或我将在该国停留的5天。即使是早期的维也纳霸主也没有急于访问:直到1842年才有王子踏足列支敦士登。当地的行政长官,即Landvogt,负责管理这个国家;起初他也不住在那里,而是选择了费尔德基尔希。因此,我战战兢兢地登上了前往列支敦士登的通勤巴士,盯着一页页空白的日记和一叠叠空空的时间。乘客们在牙科系统制造商Ivoclar Vivadent下车,其他乘客则在为该国居民和其他被其最低个人税率吸引的富人服务的许多银行下车。我在首都瓦杜兹的市中心下了车。

光线从玻璃建筑上反射出来,在一尘不染的街道上飞舞。这是高峰期,一个工作日。没有其他人,但有一股庄严的交通流通过。我和摄影师盖亚一起向艺术博物馆走去。我们是唯一的游客。我们走了几步就到了邮票博物馆,阿尔卑斯山空气的清冽变成了新油漆的味道。它正在进行改装。一位抱歉的女士建议我们去国家博物馆看看。在那里,一位女士正拿着两本语音指南准备着。"太好了,你们来了!" 她的同事已经提前打了电话。我们觉得自己仿佛走进了一个电影片场,而我们就是被监视的对象;"你看过《杜鲁门表演》吗?"盖亚打趣道。我们从毛绒动物的展览开始,然后是萨尔瓦多-达利为纪念前任王子而制作的金质奖章。我的访问的开始是适当的超现实的。



宁静的生活 瓦杜兹市中心的玻璃雕塑


滑雪教练在山地度假区马尔本的主要街道上熙熙攘攘,他们身着皇家红色的衣服,背上印着皇冠的图案。即将从父亲手中接过滑雪学校的克里斯托夫-比勒(Christoph Bühler)不记得自己学会了滑雪。他当时只有两岁。他的同事是学校的朋友和邻居。他们主要教德国人、奥地利人或瑞士人;乘坐巴士游览列支敦士登的一日游游客不会走这么远,克里斯托夫告诉我。他指引我们到另一家家族企业Turna酒店吃午饭。吃完Rösti--按阿尔卑斯山的标准来说是很清淡的--我们漫步到Walserhof,我们得到消息说那里正在播放现场音乐。

我们的女服务员卡塔林-戈尔特尔(Katalin Göltl)估计,手风琴会在一小时后被拿出来。不过,列支敦士登不是瑞士,一个小时变成了两个半小时。她会路过我们的桌子,给我们倒一杯列支敦士登的葡萄酒。雷司令-西凡纳,还有黑皮诺。她会坐下来和我们简短地交谈,就像她对所有客人一样。我曾以为她是当地人,但她是匈牙利人。对于来自欧洲其他地方的外国工人,除非你与公民结婚,否则在列支敦士登的居住权是要抽签的。戈尔特已经参加了三次抽签,但没有在每年抽出的28个名字中。目前,她必须继续在奥地利生活,并进行通勤。列支敦士登在文化上是开放的,但在政治上,在权利和文书工作方面却不那么开放。

狩猎被当作列支敦士登文化的一部分加以庆祝。它只在字面上给这个国家投下了阴影:几乎每个灯具都是用鹿角制成的,通常是多对。反对狩猎的游说团体很少,也许是因为法律规定狩猎俱乐部要确保可持续的山坡和森林环境。这种消遣曾经是一种高贵的特权。早在王子们从未见过自己的国家时,他们就会收到关于它的书面描述。一份1757年的五页文件详细介绍了可以追踪和发现的东西,包括水獭和松露。今天,猎物主要是鹿和阿尔卑斯山羊。瓦杜兹狩猎俱乐部主席马库斯-迈尔(Markus Meier)向我解释说,自从1962年法律改革以来,这项运动已不再是精英的追求。来自各个社会群体的男性和少数女性参加了遵守国家射击计划的耶格尔聚会。作为一项法律义务,每年举行一次奖杯展:官员们检查是否射中了正确的动物种类、数量和性别。在这种情况下,瓦杜兹博物馆里一室又一室的动物标本说明了人们对组织和国家监督的渴望,而不是对怪异事物的嗜血兴趣。



还剩下最后一位列支敦士登人要见:君主汉斯-亚当二世。瓦杜兹城堡不对游客开放,媒体访问也很少。列支敦士登人在8月15日的国庆日被邀请进入城堡。他们因获得特别荣誉、体育成就、学徒期的良好成绩或通过学校毕业考试而被接到城堡内。在公民中,公爵府受到高度尊重。2003年修订后的宪法由全国投票通过,并赋予王子对公投和议会结果的否决权,但也交给了人民对其君主制表示不信任和废除的权利。随后,一场旨在取消王子对直接民主决策的否决权的公投运动失败了。作为一个公国的自豪感--正如粉丝和批评者告诉我的那样--在年轻一代中有所增加。我们遇到的一个20多岁的人在胸前纹上了Gott, Fürst und Vaterland。

"上帝、王子和祖国 "是国家的三位一体,这个国家的大多数人对这三者都很忠诚。在我住过的三家宾馆和酒店中,有两家的墙上挂着王子的画像,房间也用了他们的名字;所有的房间都陈列着宗教雕像。列支敦士登仍然是坚定的天主教徒:堕胎在这里是非法的--尽管同性伴侣关系是合法的。爱国主义是坚定不移的,也是热门话题。与邻国奥地利和瑞士一样,许多列支敦士登人在2018年12月反对联合国的移民契约,这是一项关于移民政策的全球协议。政府的行政部门和公爵府则一直表示赞成。最后,列支敦士登投了弃权票。



星光灿烂的夜晚 从靠近斯泰格村的旅店Sücka看出去的风景






照片:Gaia Squarci

地图:Lloyd Parker
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