How Many Countries Can We See Today?

The morning after our near-campout during our quick road trip to Switzerland, we stumbled upon an utterly charming place to eat. Following this shockingly expensive but very lovely continental breakfast (read: nothing elaborate – Switzerland is just insanely pricey), we were off for exploring. Our only requirement was to be back in Colmar by dusk.

We wound our way through stunning Alpine countryside and to the tiny country of Liechtenstein. And I mean tiny. I kid you not – it has a population of just 38,000 people. [Incredibly, there are three other countries in Europe that are even smaller – San Marino, Monaco and, the world’s smallest country, Vatican City. Surrounded by Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein is only 62 square miles in area; but most of that must be mountain terrain, because it sure looked smaller. Blink and you’ve missed it. Literally.

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You’re pretty much looking at the entire country here…

As a billionaire tax haven, Liechtenstein has the world’s highest GDP per capita, which you would never know by looking at it. Oh, and it’s the world’s leading manufacturer of false teeth. Now that’s a claim to fame!

Here are more fun little facts about Liechtenstein.

We made a brief stop in the capital, Vaduz, to walk around, get our passport stamped just for fun, and also see the 130-room castle – from the outside – the ruling family still lives there. Talk about being a big fish in a small, small puddle…

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Hilltop Vaduz Castle
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This is the back side of the castle…you can see why it was once used as a prison.

Ok, been there, done that. The day was yet young, and we had more to see.

Crossing the Austrian border from Liechtenstein, we wound our way up along the Bodensee (Lake Constance, in English), just barely over the border into the southern tip of Germany and then back into Switzerland.

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The highway we followed wound through a valley surrounded by the Alps. Throughout the day we were captivated by dramatic mountain backdrops and stunning rolling green hills dotted with teeny-tiny villages, charming old houses, and ancient forests.

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By the time we got “home” to Colmar, we felt like we had been gone for a week, not a day.

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So that was five countries in one day: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany and France. Had we been ambitious, we could have dipped into Italy as well. The kids weren’t impressed, but I thought it was cool.

Oh, and there is an Epilogue to the reunion story…

My husband was so inspired by his visit to the restaurant that he tried to find one of his old buddies from there on Facebook. Tracking him down, they talked by phone. It turns out he’s still there, in that same small town!!  We could have seen him! What a shame. It just goes to show that you should never underestimate the power of social media when it comes to reconnecting with old friends. And the odds that some people will still be where you left them, even many years later. Life is beautiful.

Next Up: Finding My Roots and My Favorite Bread Rolls in Germany

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