Of Princes, Mist and Magic

Tales remembered of Ruritanian magic, of tiny kingdoms that perch mountains like mighty eagles, clinging by their talons to the moss covered rocks that nourish them. So did the tiny principality of Lichtenstein feature in my imagination, a land even smaller than Luxembourg, where I lived at the time. It scarcely seemed real, and it did not matter I suppose as I never believed I would visit. Occasionally I came across stamps in my collection, oblique references in the guide books I enjoyed browsing in search of dreams and escape. Once, and it was enough to sour the magic, I read a review of the country that described it as a one-road village of banks and petrol stations on the way to and from Austria. I came close to the borders of this tiny land once, as a hitchhiker further north in St Gallen, making my way from Germany with a handsome American stranger with thick, curly hair and eyes deep enough to drown in. A few weeks ago my spouse said “Why don’t we go to Lichtenstein?” words not uttered that often perhaps in the context of marriage. Within an hour a journey was arranged, hotels and flights booked, excitement generated. And so dreams became real. With childish excitement, two middle-aged boys boarded a green bus that would cross the river and enter the little known principality, a journey that began in our base of Sargans in Switzerland. Sheer drops of rock, forests of damp green velvet and a mighty river in infancy passed, and soon I saw signs for Furstentum  Lichtenstein. We crossed the unguarded bridge over the turquoise river, and black number plates on premium cars indicated we had arrived in this miniature country, a land so small you can see its beginning and its end if you stand on the summit of the Pizol mountain in Switzerland. The air felt cool, invigorating after the heat of a long summer. And so the imaginary becoming real at last. After a short walk on a luxuriously upmarket street, we ate our packed lunches by a baroque fountain, moss, weeds and wild roses our only companions. We ate sweet blue grapes straight from the vine, and full and rested we climbed the winding street that snaked through forests of pine and mulch, places where trolls lurk by night, gleaming eyes in a darkness as thick as treacle. Here we discovered the royal palace, a castle worthy of the Brothers Grimm, a veritable prison of Zenda. I wanted our day here to last for eternity. dsc_0098 dsc_0106 dsc_0132 dsc_0134 dsc_0142




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