This was a rather odd Easter break. Flight to Switzerland, train to Austria where I stayed and a jaunt into Liechtenstein, a new place for me and one to add to the list of countries visited.
Sad person that I can inevitably be when planning travel, the longest part of it was working out how to reach the Travelodge by Heathrow's Terminal 5 by public transport... Google Maps almost showed me the closest bus stop which should have been a five-minute walk from the Travelodge so I dutifully took the train to Slough and the bus through the villages around the general area. Of course, it wasn't a five-minute walk at all and was much longer and, relieved to finally find the Travelodge, I had one of my many moments of madness which will not surprise any of my friends.
I could see the hotel but not the entrance. It was on a corner of a by then dark and windy road - without a pavement - and, saddled with a large suitcase, I didn't frankly fancy it. I walked around a path all the way around the motorway thinking perhaps that I would stumble upon the entrance. I didn't. All the way back. I had therefore to race up the dark road, rush into what seemed to be an entrance but which was blocked by a heap of rubble and promptly ran back. Facing the way from which I came, there was a sign to the Travelodge through a trading estate... Yes, I did feel a bit foolish but I suspect somewhere along this road and during this period of madness, I did something to my foot and a couple of days later it was well swollen. Difficult to walk on by the end of the trip, I saw the G.P. who administered antibiotics but wanted to see me again. I saw another G.P. who too wasn't wholly convinced by the cause of it. Infection? Possibly. To those who know that I enjoy a drink, it was inevitably gout but, whatever, as I write three weeks later, it is not now swollen but something is still bothering me and I am happy to blame the mound to what I thought was the entrance to the Travelodge... I guess the secret was to take the hotel bus...
A short night and, yes, the hotel bus to Terminal 5 the following morning at some ungodly hour, everything went smoothly on the British Airways flight to Zurich. It is just a tiny bit disappointing that British Airways have now joined the legion of other airlines to charge for food on short flights. It is understandable, even inevitable, but there was something nice about having a simple bite and a drink included. It was just a nice touch and a shame that they have changed. Anyway, the flight was on time and all arrangements went smoothly.
I had a while along the Limmatquai in the old part of Zurich close to the Hauptbahnhof before the train to Feldkirch. This area, which flows into the Zurichsee, is quite delightful and, although initially cloudy, it did perk up nicely and I enjoyed an hour and a half there. The train to Feldkirch took around an hour and a half through pleasant scenery and I fairly quickly found the Hotel Baren where I was allocated a very nice and larger room than expected. My poor hearing, though, led to unnecessary difficulties when asked, in German, whether I had come by car. Auto. Did I get it? Not remotely and, on offering some response totally unrelated to the question, the receptionist must have wondered what on earth was in front of her. I became so paranoid about Auto at the next hotel that, when asked for my Ausweiss (passport), I replied that I had come by train not car... Oh, well.
Zurich's Limmatquai


Vaduz Castle

Scenery around Vaduz


One of Bad Ragaz's curiosities
Feldkirch is a pleasant but not especially big town. From my room - in Austria, remember - overlooking a main road, maybe the main road, I could see lanes pointing to Switzerland and a sign pointing to Liechtenstein. A church and the castle were close by and the Baren was a pleasant place to stay.
I went to Bludenz to relax in the Val Blu Resort spa. At 17.50 euros, it was very good value and, in between the heat of the saunas, I caught up with some reading. The Val Blu is perhaps a fifteen-minute walk from Bludenz Railway Station but the times had changed since I had looked them up so had a wait at the station, the nearest departure being quite badly delayed.
I ate in Feldkirch Railway Station and did well other than, of course, with my ears. My German was fine but I just couldn't hear the waitress who, in the end, asked if I wished to speak in English... It was a popular if busy place and I ate well on both evenings there.
Liechtenstein, therefore, became the third country in two days and I took the bus which also took in the three countries on its short journey. I went as far as Vaduz, Liechtenstein's capital, which is probably most well-known for its castle - not open to the public as it is the official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein. Set above the town, it is impressive as is the whole of the small town.
I walked on to Schaan in just over half-an-hour. This is Liechtenstein's largest town in terms of population and also appears to be the main economic centre. Again pleasant with a pleasing backdrop of mountains, what struck me most was a vast number of beetles - predominantly dead - scattered along the pavement for quite a distance. I'm confident that, there being so few live ones, nothing did any harm to my foot as I was still walking quite comfortably at that stage, but they were a bizarre sight certainly.
Perhaps my favourite town was Eschen which I reached with my bus pass for the day. I see that it is given as being Liechtenstein's fourth largest town but its church and mountain views made it a nice place to walk around before I took the bus back to Feldkirch. It may have been a type of whistle-stop tour and, although Liechtenstein is not large, it was a most enjoyable day.
Forever living in the world of worrying about whether short bus or train connections will work, I decided to move on to Maienfeld in Switzerland for the last night rather than trust the reliable Austrian/Swiss trains and an early start back on the Monday. Sadly, it was a damp and dreary day and I was grateful that the Hirschen Hotel, where I stayed, could accommodate me much earlier than their normal check-in time. It is a simple but pleasant and convenient place to stay and, on better days, the mountain views would be very nice.
I walked to the spa town of Bad Ragaz around 3 kilometres away. It crosses the Rhine and, again, would have looked much nicer on a better day. There is a large park surrounded by hotels but with the oddest statues: some bronze and unattractive, others bizarre such as a rake-like man with large glasses reading a book whilst taking up much of one of the benches. Having walked around the area and the nearby golf course, I took to the expensive spa in the Tamina Therme.
This place was big and crowded and not a little confusing which was a shame as I thought that I had solved my problems of finding my way around, closing the lockers and using the wristband to gain entrance to the facilities. It was a bit too busy but some of the rooms were less hot than the Val Blu in Bludenz which I didn't at all mind.
I'm not afraid to say that the prices in the limited number of Maienfeld restaurants deterred me so I walked back to Bad Ragaz for a more reasonably-priced meal. There is usually some setback and my foot was beginning to cause problems which continued the following day through Zurich Airport and beyond. Anyway, it had been an interesting and enjoyable trip and, although I hope that I would not travel to a place just to "add it to the list", the number of countries visited grows and I did enjoy the scenery and walk in Liechtenstein.