With only about 37,000 people in roughly 62 square miles, Liechtenstein is one of the smallest countries in the world. (The sixth-smallest, to be exact.) For such a pocket-sized principality, it’s got a fair number of compelling qualities. Here are just a few fascinating facts about the alpine microstate:
1. THERE’S VERY LITTLE CRIME.
Liechtenstein has one of the world’s lowest crime rates, with its last murder occurring in approximately 1997 and its prison holding very few inmates. Citizens who are given prison sentences longer than two years are transferred over to Austria. The crime rate is so low that the average Liechtenstein resident reportedly doesn’t even lock her front door.
2. SWITZERLAND ONCE ACCIDENTALLY INVADED IT.
Switzerland unintentionally invaded Liechtenstein in March 2007, when about 170 Swiss infantry soldiers wandered across the unmarked border for more than a mile into Liechtenstein before realizing their mistake. (The Swiss soldiers were armed with assault rifles but no ammo, incidentally.) Liechtenstein, which has no army of its own, admits that it didn’t notice the Swiss invasion and had to be informed that it had occurred (the country enforces no border control with Switzerland). Liechtenstein ultimately chose not to retaliate against its famously neutral neighbor.
3. ONCE A YEAR, ALL THE RESIDENTS ARE INVITED TO PARTY IN A CASTLE.
On Liechtenstein’s national holiday, His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II, the head of state, and his son, His Serene Highness Hereditary Prince Alois, invite the residents of their tiny principality to have a beer in the garden of Vaduz Castle, the princely ancestral residence.
4. THEY SPEAK GERMAN, BUT NOT EXACTLY.
Although German is the country’s official language, most residents speak an Alemannic dialect that’s very different from standard German and closer to Swiss Standard German. As such, the country is usually referred to as Liachtaschta, not Liechtenstein, by its citizens.
5. YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF ITS MOST POPULOUS CITY.
Liechtenstein’s capital city, Vaduz, has a population of around 5,425, but its largest city is the mostly unheard-of town of Schaan, barely eking out a victory with about 583 more people than Vaduz.
6. IT’S THE WORLD’S LEADING MANUFACTURER OF FALSE TEETH.
Based in the mini-metropolis of Schaan, a company called Ivoclar Vivadent leads the world in false teeth manufacturing, accounting for 20 percent of the total sales worldwide. The company is responsible for the production of 60 million sets every year, in more than 10,000 different models, thanks in part to a strong relationship with Bollywood dentists.
7. AT ONE POINT, YOU COULD RENT THE COUNTRY BY THE EVENING.
In 2011, you could rent the whole country of Liechtenstein for $70,000 a night. The scheme, which was hatched between lodging site Airbnb and Liechtenstein-based marketing firm Rent a Village by Xnet, got you accommodation for 150 guests, customized street signs, a symbolic key to the state, a wine tasting with Prince Hans-Adam II, and your own temporary currency. It doesn’t appear that anyone ever took them up on the deal, although rapper Snoop Dogg apparently made an attempt in 2010 before the official scheme was launched, hoping to shoot a video there. Sadly, he was rebuffed.
8. THE NATIONAL ANTHEM IS SURPRISINGLY FAMILIAR.
Liechtenstein’s national anthem, “Oben am jungen Rhein” (“Up above the young Rhine”), is sung to the same melody as “God Save the Queen,” which meant that the same tune was played twice in a row when Northern Ireland and Liechtenstein competed for a UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Euro 2004 qualifier game. (To be fair, “My Country, Tis of Thee” is also sung to that tune, but it’s not the U.S.’s official anthem.)
9. THANKS TO A PROPERTY DISPUTE, LIECHTENSTEIN DIDN’T RECOGNIZE THE EXISTENCE OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC OR SLOVAKIA UNTIL 2009.
In the years after World War II, Czechoslovakia—which later split into two separate nations—confiscated property belonging to Liechtenstein’s royal family, considering it the possession of the recently defeated Germany. The land seized—10 times the size of Liechtenstein’s current boundaries—mostly included forest and agricultural land in Moravia, as well as a handful of family palaces and their accompanying land parcels.
Although the Czech Republic later offered to return just the palaces (but not the land itself, interestingly), Liechtenstein rejected the deal, choosing instead to stay mad and refuse to recognize either the Czech Republic or Slovakia as independent nations. It wasn’t until a 2009 announcement from Prince Hans-Adam II stating that no further legal action would be sought by Liechtenstein over the expropriated assets that the three (formerly two) countries resumed diplomatic relations.
10. THE COUNTRY IS NOT ONLY LANDLOCKED BUT DOUBLE-LANDLOCKED.
Both of the countries that border Liechtenstein—Austria to the north and east and Switzerland to the south and west—are themselves landlocked. The only other country in this category is Uzbekistan.
11. QUIET TIMES ARE IMPORTANT.
In a pamphlet directed toward new immigrants, mowing lawns or holding “noisy festivities” during the country’s official lunch break, which runs from noon to 1:30 p.m, are strongly advised against. The same holds true after 10 p.m.
12. THE CURRENT OWNERS NEGLECTED IT FOR A WHILE.
Liechtenstein was originally purchased by the princes of Liechtenstein—the principality was christened after their family name—for its political value. The princes bought what’s now known as Liechtenstein because it was the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, and owning it meant that they could obtain a seat and a vote in the Imperial Diet in Vienna, thereby increasing their power. This plan worked great, but none of the princes bothered traveling there until a century after the place was declared a principality in 1806. The next princely visit wasn’t for decades more. The first prince of Liechtenstein to reside in Liechtenstein proper was Franz Josef II, the father of the current prince, who moved there in 1938.
13. WOMEN ONLY RECENTLY GOT THE VOTE.
After three previous referendums failed, Liechtensteinerinnen (female residents of Liechtenstein) were granted the right to vote in national elections in 1984. The referendum involved only male voters, obviously, and passed by a mere 51.3%. And despite that, women STILL couldn’t vote in local elections until 1986.
Now that we've wet your appetite, check out our self guided cycling tour here.
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