Lovely Liechtenstein – II

Return to Part I

We rolled into Vaduz (FL) just in time for dinner. Vaduz is the financial capitol of Liechtenstein and any charm that the town might have had at one time had been pretty well built over. The modern pedestrian area lacked character, although I must admit that having a castle looming over the town did make up for it. And it wasn’t just a castle ruin like I’ve come to expect in Europe, but an honest-to-goodness lived-in castle. The ruling family Liechtenstein not only retained their name, but also their home. Needless to say, it was not open for tours.

A quick look at Vaduz Castle

And for reference how it sits directly above the town

By now we had been on the road for nine hours and it was time to get out of our gear and into a restaurant. But first we needed to find a place to stay. We parked our bikes in front of the first hotel we found but oddly enough, it wasn’t even open (who closes their hotel/restaurant/bar for the weekends?). We left the bikes there and walked down the pedestrian area based on the suggestion from the GPS that there were more choices in that direction. It turned out that we had a choice of “one” and it was a high-end business type place that catered to the upscale clients that made Vaduz such a popular financial center. The woman at the counter brought the price down considerably but seeing that we would have been content to sleep on a couch, it was still a lot of money. She suggested two other hotels to check and we thanked her. We climbed back on the bikes and made our way to the nearest of the two hotels. The few minutes it took us to get there were increased by a few minutes more, as a small religious parade was in effect. I could see a Pope-type person walking down the sidewalk followed by important-looking religious people and others carrying musical instruments. Fortunately they didn’t take long to clear out of the way and we reached the first hotel moments later. It was closed for the weekend.

The second motel was just around the corner and open. The prices she quoted us were comparable to the discounted prices of the fancy hotel and we were tempted. But we were also far from the center of town. It was already 6pm on a Saturday and there was some concern of being able to find a place still open for dinner. We retreated back to the overpriced Residence Hotel and told the patient woman behind the desk that we’d take the rooms she had offered us. You know when you rent a car and the person behind the desk gives you a great big smile and says “I gave you a free upgrade!” and they’re so pleased? And yet you think that “upgrade” equals more gas and harder parking. That’s how I felt about this room. Yes, the rate was dropped considerably and it was a fantastically appointed room (I’ve never seen a bathroom quite as well done as this) but…it wasn’t what I needed. If Dan was here then I could have at least justified the price by splitting it in half. Oh well. He wasn’t here, I was, and the room was now on the credit card.

We left the bikes parked in a public parking lot underneath a plexiglas roof that was apparently just for that purpose. There was a chance of rain overnight (and the next day) so any protection I could get for the sheepskin on my saddle would be appreciated. We hauled our gear up to our rooms, we freshened up a bit and then headed down to source dinner. I wasn’t incredibly hungry and looked only casually at the menus as we sauntered down the pedestrian zone in front of our hotel. I let Bob and Niki chose, and they chose the hotel’s restaurant. It was a great choice.

A very clean but uninspiring pedestrian zone

A scale model of the castle

While I wasn’t impressed with the architecture, I did appreciate the number of sculptures and public artworks I saw. The Kunstmuseum was quite large and had an imposing hold on the city. The outdoor sculptures were, in a word, “weird” and due to bad lighting or no camera, I didn’t get any pictures of them.

Part of the art museum

One of many replica stamps found on the sidewalks

Dinner was superb. I know that I said that I wasn’t hungry but when I saw the steak listed I couldn’t refuse. I’m so glad I ordered it: it was tender, perfectly seasoned and served on a lovely bed of vegetables. I ate the whole thing.

By the time we finished eating we were ready for nothing more than sleep. We made plans for the morning and bid each other a good night. I went to my room, found a Moto GP race (Czech Republic) and fell asleep shortly thereafter.

The first thing on our list for Sunday morning was to visit the castle. We knew that we weren’t allowed inside but figured that we’d check out the grounds and the view. We didn’t get to do either.

On our way to Veduz Castle

The back of the castle

One last look as we head back down

And that’s about all we could see. Perhaps if we’d paid money to ride there on a tour bus we would have been allowed past the chain guarding the drive, but we hadn’t. Instead we were limited to looking at stone walls and trees. No view of the grounds nor anything beyond. Oh well. At least it hadn’t been too far out of the way. There was the surprise of seeing some really beautiful old homes on the way up and having a nice view of the town and castle on the way down.

Now that we had that out of the way we could get down to the business of getting home. Niki was being very tolerant of riding on the back of Bob’s GS but yesterday was too much for her and she was not looking for a repeat. We figured that we’d head for Andermatt and then make plans from there.

The morning was thankfully dry but cold. I was woefully unprepared for this weekend’s ride, having worn only my mesh jacket and liner with a light fleece underneath it. If it had rained I would have been soaked within minutes. I am getting lazy in my trip preparations.

Clouds hugged the top of the mountains on either side of the valley that split Liechtenstein from Switzerland and we shivered our way south (I wasn’t the only one who was unprepared for the cold weather). I’m sure that the mountains are stunning on a clear, sunny day but even now they held their own, shrouded in a graceful mist with the sun struggling to break through. The sun was losing.

Mystery castle!

Is that sunshine on the back of Niki’s jacket?

We hammered down the motorway until we reached the city of Chur. It was cold at those speeds so I was glad for more than one reason to finally get off the main road and head west. The road climbed and cut its way through various ski resort towns, newly built structures a testament to the popularity of the region during other times of the year. This was a long road that didn’t really cross any passes nor follow the ridges. Instead, off to the left were wide green fields dotted with small villages. Our road passed through many villages as well, none of them terribly interesting. Judging from the names on the signs I saw, we were now in the Italian-speaking portion of Switzerland. I was hoping that we wouldn’t have to stop, as I still haven’t learned any Italian.

At one small village the cars in front of us came to a complete stop. At first I couldn’t understand why, as the village wasn’t big enough to warrant a traffic light or even a roundabout. But eventually the traffic oozed forward enough for me to catch a glimpse of costumed characters filing out of a building. To my American eye they appeared to be Revolutionary War re-enactors, but Bob suggested (more accurately, I presume) something to do with Napoleon. Either way, I was intrigued but couldn’t manage to snap any useful pictures.

Like I mentioned, it was a long valley. At least the sun was coming out and the threat of rain had diminished. But I was still damn cold.

The reward for taking this route instead of a slightly northern route that went over Klausen Pass was that instead we’d hit Oberalpass, which would drop us directly into Andermatt. The approach to Oberalp Pass was somewhat gradual, while the descent on the other side much more extreme. The road would have been a lot more fun if we hadn’t been stuck behind a tour bus. Grrrrr.

Approaching Overalp Pass

Always people milling around at the top of a pass

Just beyond the building above I saw a lighthouse on the side of the road, its warning light flashing in the weak sunlight. It seemed incongruous that a lighthouse would be perched on the summit of a Swiss alpine pass, but I later read that this lighthouse marks the beginning of the Rhine river. I could have followed it home to Basel!

Image borrow from the internet

Working our way down from the pass and out of the clouds. Oh look! A bus!

Not all traffic on the road was bad

Still behind the bus in Andermatt

Everyone was relieved to park our bikes behind our favorite Falafel house (Toutoune) in Andermatt. I immediately ordered a hot chocolate while coffee was requested from Bob and Niki. While we waited for our lunch to arrive the restaurant owner caught our attention “Motorrad! Motorradfahrer!” Apparently the spot we had parked our bikes in was a pay space and we hadn’t paid. Bob and I ran outside to plead our case. The officer was standing by our motorcycles when Bob reached him, calling out frantically in English to please not give us a ticket. The officer was a little cryptic in his reply, at first indicating that we needed a ticket and we could leave our bikes there if we bought one. But then I mentioned to Bob that the restaurant owner said (as I ran past him) that we could parking in one of his spots. The officer indicated that sure, we could move the bikes if we wanted to. The end result was no parking ticket, which worked out just fine for me. I also realized that it was still pretty cold outside as I came back inside to enjoy my lunch.

Niki was ready to be home, so the route from Andermatt wouldn’t be very excessive. We agreed that Sustenpass was not to be missed but we’d review our options at the other end.

I think I take this same picture every time I’m on this road

Low clouds coming over the mountain

We had been using the Senas throughout the trip off and on, usually discussing routing, whether or not a particular set of cars should be passed or just commenting something interesting along the way. As I cleared the last car in front of me going up Sustenpass I lost Bob and Niki behind me. We agreed that we’d just meet at the top but as I exited the tunnel to the other side of the pass, they had caught up. Based on the weather conditions there, I suggested that we not stop at the viewpoint.

View on the other side of Sustenpass

I eventually dropped below the clouds and as the elevation dropped, the temperature went up. I was feeling warm for the first time that day (barring our stop for lunch, of course).

We made our way to the town of Meiringen and made a final stop. Bob and Niki were going to head directly home and I was free to join them or make my own way home. I looked at the clock and figured that it might be nice to just get home and enjoy the afternoon with Dan. We set our GPSs for “home” and hit the autobahn.

But it wouldn’t be that easy to finish the day. As we rolled into Basel I waved goodbye to Bob and Niki when my exit came up. Unfortunately there was a football game that afternoon and traffic was backed up and roads had been detoured. I don’t know the city well enough to know the “back way” home and it ended up taking me an additional 15 minutes to get home. As anyone who’s ridden for any length of time knows, no matter what you’ve just done, as soon as you’re within sight of home you want nothing more than to just get there. Needless to say, it was frustrating to extend my trip at this point, even though it was a nice tour of Basel.


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