So I am a bit behind on my blogging so forgive the fact that I will now retell events that
occurred two days ago…
Sunday was the official beginning of Introduction Week here at the University of Liechtenstein (Uni as I have learned to call it) for all of the International Students. The day began with a “short hike” up the mountain to
, the location of a former castle’s ruins.
Now allow me to inform you that by “short hike” the people here DO NOT
MEAN SHORT. Two hours straight uphill in my dictionary is a long, strenuous, nearly impossible hike that should only be done maybe twice a year. But since I am in a new country and came here to try new things, I put on my happiest face and vowed that I would go by their definition and this would be just a “short hike”. This attitude lasted maybe…. 10 minutes.
And after those ten minutes of just the entry road to the mountains, I reverted to my American ways and realized this would be no “short hike”! We climbed and climbed, and climbed some more, and climbed, and then climbed, oh and then climbed and as we came to a rest our lovely fellow student and tour guide announced with eagerness ” Yaya guys we’ve made it about ONE TENTH of the way!” Seriously. This was not a joke.
As I am sure any serious hiker or really even anyone who has climbed a mountain more than twice in their lives (unlike myself) knows after so long your legs eventually go numb and the climbing uphill doesn’t really phase you anymore, as happened to me. Eventually I figured what was the use in thinking about how bad my legs would be hurting
in the morning and instead think of the amount of chocolate I would be able to eat afterwards!
Enough about the journey upwards…once we reached our destination we were greeted by the lovely ruins as seen in the picture and even graced with fresh snowfall! From our location you could see the entire city of Vaduz as well as across the Rhine River into nearby Switzerland! Two countries in one view…AMAZING!
The hike downhill was much less strenuous; however, it certainly was no walk in the park either. Downhill was a very welcome change, but again after a certain point the calves begin to tense up and not exactly like walking downhill anymore. Of course this is all because I am not used to hiking or climbing mountains for that matter so judge all you like, but mountains don’t exactly exist on the MS Gulf Coast!!
Following the hike I had a quick lunch/dinner and Jennifer and I retired to a lovely power nap before we took place in the evenings activities, a trip to downtown Vaduz for a traditional “groundhog day like” event.
The “Funken Vaduz” is an old Liechtensteiner (and probably elsewhere in Europe) tradition where a giant pile of brush/sticks/trees are gathered and atop is a tree with a witch tied to it. The witch is loaded with fireworks, and the local firemen all gather witches brooms light them on fire, swirl them around their heads, and use these to light the giant pile on fire. As the pile burns, the witch catches fire and explodes (due to the fireworks), and eventually the tree will catch fire as well.
Where the “groundhog day-ness”
comes in is with the ignition of the tree. If the tree catches afire and falls over than it is thought that winter will continue and a bad summer will follow. If the tree remains erect, it is thought that winter is now over and a celebration is in order!
ocal men, women, children, and tourists were all in attendance and the night featured fireworks (both large and small), burning trees for warmth throughout the area, and overall merriment! A tent was decorated with Christmas trees and Christmas tree branches (with no decorations) and inside was a traditional band complete with an accordion and two other instruments (I don’t want to name them for fear of getting it wrong and offending those musicians out there!). Also inside the tent was beer, wine, sausages, bread, and more tasty goodies. Our buddy team leader advised me to order ein punche (basically hot Fanta) and they passed around “sweetbread”, which was very similar to a sugary donut hole!-DELICIOUS!
The entire event was literally straight from a fairy tale book or a medieval movie (whichever you prefer). Since the country of Liechtenstein is governed by a prince and his family there is an actual castle that sits above the city where the royal family lives. NO LIE. The castle is all lit up at night-time, and taking part in a “witch burning groundhog day” with a castle overlooking you, and sheep baa-ing in the background is as surreal as it gets!
After the Funken we returned to the dormitory where sleep was the first thing on the agenda! The warm, fluffy bed felt so nice after a day of strenuous (yet rewarding) activities….until the next morning. The pain in my legs and back from hiking was so severe that I almost regret telling you for fear of embarrassment! Man did I get my butt kicked! No WONDER there aren’t any obese people here…just take a “short hike” and its like going to the gym for a week!
This town is unbelievable and my experience thus far has been very difficult to fully comprehend. I still can’t get used to walking down the street, looking up and seeing the grand Swiss Alps covered in snow nuzzling Vaduz in their safety. I guess one could get used to that, but I certainly don’t want to anytime soon! With each upward glance it is like a little reminder of how grateful I am to have this opportunity!
Interesting facts I have learned so far:
1. The paper here isn’t the same size as the paper in the US. It is a little longer and less wide and certainly isn’t 8×10.
2. Liechtenstein brews their own beer called Brauhaus.
3. People here call the crosswalks “zebras”, and you can just walk across them and the drivers of cars will automatically stop. That is how nice everyone is!
4. Hungarians have a version of Hearts called “Rikiki” which is much more fun.
5. Bacon and eggs for breakfast is weird, and something people only see Americans do in movies.