This morning began like every other (minus the whole waking up in the SWISS ALPS thing); however, the day certainly turned out to be nothing like I expected.
I now have the privilege of adding another European country to the list of places I have been totaling three in only a few short days! The international students (of which I am one) took a short trip to nearby Feldkirch, Austria where we were greeted with cobblestone streets and a town square straight out of a middle ages movie set!
Before I get too much into things, I must first inform you of the morning’s events of course! Early on we were addressed by two members of the office of foreign affairs who informed us of an array of facts and figures about the Liechtenstein people and culture.
Did you know nearly 36,000 people inhabit the country and approximately 34,000 are employed within the country? Whoa whoa before you start thinking about child labor or something, the reason for the very close numbers is the cross border commuters of course! Nearly 17,000 people each morning cross into Liechtenstein from Austria, Switzerland, or Germany!
Or how about that Liechtenstein has only 8 diplomatic representations elsewhere, and 24 total diplomatic employees(including 12 here in Vaduz)? One of the most interesting facts was regarding the branding of the country itself. Jennifer brought up the country’s branding efforts that she had read about in a brochure, and asked why the country decided it was so important to brand itself. What was interesting is that the citizens are actually rather unhappy with the current branding (which consists of a purple border and the country’s name on all documents), because purple is nowhere to be found in the nation’s crest or flag! In order to solve this problem an international contest was held for new submissions of the country’s brand, a committee is in the process of selected the five finalists, and a popular vote will be held on the issue in the upcoming year. Talk about diplomatic!!
Following the presentation we received a guided tour of the Liechtenstein
Landsmuseum, or the Liechtenstein National Museum. Again, many interesting facts were discussed oh and most importantly they gave us chocolate. Again trying to fatten us up!!
From the museum we had just a short walk to the bus stop and the real adventure began! A short (maybe 20 minute) bus ride led us straight to Feldkirch, Austria. The history and other facts of the town I am not sure of (yet), but… I can tell you it was BEAUTIFUL! The town was centered around a lovely downtown square complete with a number of bistros/restaurants AND an outdoor flower market! How much more European can you get? The attached pictures will probably give you a much better idea of the city than I could possibly explain in words so feel free to form your own beautiful image of the town.
While Feldkirch certainly had its medieval charm, it also was very modern complete with an H & M in the middle of the square and a giant supermarket, Spar, where the afternoon’s activities took place. After lunch we dispersed to explore the city, and more importantly to gather the materials necessary for the international dinner to be held on Thursday night.
Each student is encouraged to supply a traditional dish from their home country so the grocery store was of course a must; however, such an easy task is NOT so
easy when everything is in German! Some of us (like myself) were fortunate to have some German-speaking people accompanying us which made the trip a whole lot easier, but for the most part it was fend for yourself!
I had decided to make shrimp kabobs for my dish; however, upon finding no fresh shrimp I quickly adapted my plan to steak kabobs and was a happy camper! This trip to the store was MUCH easier than the first; however, it was definitely not without its confusion. Apparently cheddar cheese is not very common in Austria, graham cracker pie crusts are unheard of, milk is ridiculously hard to decide which to buy, and barbecue grill tongs are difficult to find as well!
I somehow managed to navigate the minefields of cultural confusion, checked out, and began yet another feat. A lovely school volunteer (originally from Chicago), Kay, had driven her car, but now the task to pack 30 international student’s heavy groceries into ONE car inconspicuously (so as not to be stopped by customs) was upon my hands. It was definitely not easy, but between four of us we somehow managed, and even made it through the Austrian-Liechtenstein border with only a simple nod and a wave!
For those of you who don’t know there are rather strict tax laws about
transporting goods from Austria to Liechtenstein. Each person is only allowed a certain amount of alcohol, meat, vegetables, butter, cheese, etc. so while we were legally under the limit to have been stopped and had everything calculated for the four of us would have been a nightmare!
Fortunately the crisis was avoided and we returned safe and sound to the dormitory with all of the groceries in tow! Again who knew grocery shopping would be so complicated?! The trip to Feldkirch was followed by fellowship, a walk around the city at nightfall, and much-needed rest and relaxation. The first of many adventures to the beautiful country of Austria and certainly one for the story books!
Interesting facts I have recently learned:
1. Young people get REALLY excited when you attempt to speak German. (even if it is only a single phrase that you know)
2. Liechtensteiners have skate parks as well, and the attire of skaters is apparently universal!
3. Fresh shrimp is something to never be taken for granted.
4. The country of Liechtenstein does not have an army, and hasn’t had one since it was under Germanic rule.
5. Igel is the German word for hedgehog, and erdberre is strawberry.