Liechtenstein’s diminutive size and landlocked features lead to an exciting history of conquests. Even though much of Liechtenstein culture derives from other surrounding countries, there is still a unique, rural atmosphere and laid-back ambiance throughout the tiny nation.
During the Middle Ages, the area now known as the Principality of Liechtenstein was part of the Raetia region in the Holy Roman Empire. This was subdivided into numerous land lots and controlled by a variety of wealthy families, including the counts of von Hohenems and Montfont. Vaduz County was established in 1342, becoming a vassal for the Holy Roman Empire in 1396. Schellenberg came into effect in 1434.
Local families in the region began having financial difficulties in the 17th century, largely as a result of regional conflicts. The Liechtenstein family of Lower Austria decided to purchase Schellenberg in the year 1699, followed by the County of Vaduz in 1712. In 1719, Charles VI of the Holy Roman Empire gave a decree that Saduz and Schellenberg were to become part of the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein was invaded by the French during the Napoleonic Wars, and after the signing of the Treaty of Pressburg in 1805 became part of the Confederation of the Rhine. After the demise of Napoleon in 1815, Liechtenstein joined a fresh coalition called the German Confederation. In 1866, a short, but devastating war took place, dissolving the confederation and seeing Liechtenstein stop its military industry. Up until the First World War, the country enjoyed a thriving economic relationship with Austria. A drop in Austrian currency value and economic hardships led to a new customs agreement with Switzerland in 1923, introducing the Swiss Franc.
Liechtenstein has been a neutral country during both World Wars of the 20th century. Valuable family heirlooms from surrounding warring nations were held inside the country for safe-keeping, but after the demise of Nazi Germany, much of Liechtenstein’s territories were taken by Poland and Czechoslovakia. The country’s economy suffered until low corporate tax benefits lured foreign investors into Liechtenstein from the 1960’s onwards.
Even though there have been recent power-struggles between the royal family and the government, Liechtenstein has enjoyed vast stability and wealth over the last few decades. Low taxes and high living standards are the norm within this alpine country, making it one of the wealthiest nations in Europe. Head to the National Museum of Liechtenstein (Stadtle 43, Vaduz 9490, Liechtenstein) for more information.
Much of Liechtenstein’s culture is directly derived from surrounding European influences. This includes the language, spirituality and art, but locals get somewhat insulted if travelers called them Swiss, Austrian or German as they are proud of their independent nation. The country is a tremendously religious state. Catholicism is the main practice so don’t be surprised if Sunday’s in Vaduz or Balzers are quiet. Many shops and businesses are closed for the Sabbath.