Whilst visiting local attractions and seeing lovely architecture or beautiful natural scenery often provides enjoyable focus when spending time in a new destination, it is actually experiencing the particular atmosphere of the place that is for me the real pleasure of travel. However, doing so sometimes can be fairly difficult.
Before going there, I felt that finding many distinctive things in Liechtenstein could prove to be a challenge. After all, in addition to being one of the world's smallest countries, it is, perhaps more pertinently, completely surrounded by a pair of culturally similar nations that are both much larger and better known. In fact, had history turned out slightly differently, the principality could now instead be an Austrian province or a canton of Switzerland, the currency of which is the local legal tender. As it happens, the somewhat quirky independence almost definitely boosts significantly the number of tourists each year. In my opinion, the crucial question is whether there is any notable individuality in existence, which would justify such a situation and make a visit really worthwhile.
Guidebooks and suchlike frequently quote a variety of facts and figures that may potentially help to provide an answer, although some, such as it being the largest exporter of false teeth in the world, definitely do not! Nevertheless, others are actually more obvious when on the ground. For example, winter sports and viniculture are both make important contributions to the national economy, so unsurprisingly slopes set aside for skiing or growing grapes are very evident when in the countryside, but to be fair they are hardly unusual in the general vicinity. Meanwhile, the centre of Vaduz is home to numerous shiny headquarters of banks, reflecting the incredibly liberal financial regulations, whilst shops selling the renowned postage stamps, as well as a museum dedicated to the subject, are also located in the same area. In addition, the presence of the only German speaking monarchy anywhere in the world is the reason for the existence of the two main sights, the appealing royal palace that overlooks the miniature city from the mountainside, and the Liechtenstein Art Museum, which exhibits, among other pieces, parts of Prince Hans Adam's renowned collection. However, despite such things, there is still an overriding feeling that the typical regional character spans borders, although the combination of national capital and Alpine village is admittedly rather novel.
Additionally, speaking to people did not yield very much extra insight, although having arrived from Zürich it was admittedly immediately apparent that hello was no longer grüezi, but was instead grüss gott, which is primarily a very common Austrian greeting. However, meeting a shopkeeper who is a Swiss migrant worker did indicate a level of wealth found almost nowhere else, and talking with a local youth who was dressed from head to toe in a dog costume revealed that the then impending Fasnacht carnival was as popular there as in Basel or Lucerne.
In summary, by the end of my time there, it felt on balance that very few distinct things had been uncovered. However, I was only a casual visitor who stayed for just a short period of time, so the possibility of having missed many more subtle things is reasonably high. Nevertheless, even if no particularly obvious uniqueness serves to make it is a truly must see destination, Liechtenstein is still a charming spot.