A post by our "field reporter" Arjan,
As many of you may know, every year, on August 15, the Principality of Liechtenstein celebrates Staatsfeiertag: the National Day. The National Day was celebrated for the first time in 1940. The date was convenient, as August 15 was (and still is) already a Catholic holiday (Feast of the Assumption) and a day later (August 16) was the birthday of Prince Franz Joseph II, the father of the current Reigning Prince, Hans-Adam II. For more background information about the National Day, have a look here.
I've always wanted to experience the National Day myself and this year, I was able to do so. I'll give you a report about my impressions, including some recommendations for any of you who are planning to go to the National Day yourselves one day!
Me and my boyfriend made a little tour of southern Germany this summer and we made sure that a daytrip to Liechtenstein on the National Day could be planned into our schedule. So on the actual day, at 8am, we drove from the little town of Wildsteig (southern Bavaria) to Vaduz, a 2,5 hour drive. First tip: when you go by car from this direction, drive via Feldkirch, in Austria, near the border with Liechtenstein. Navigation systems lead you through a small part of Switzerland as well, which will cost you a lot of toll. Driving via Feldkirch (and thus avoiding Switzerland) won't make your journey much longer (thanks Stefan for this great piece of advice).
Our journey went very smoothly. The official website of the National Day clearly wants to deter visitors from arriving by car, and if they do, they want to dissuade people from parking in or at the outskirts of Vaduz, as parking spaces are limited. Shuttle busses would drive from designated parking spots in the area to Schloss Vaduz. When we arrived at the designated parking spot in Schaan (near Vaduz), it was totally deserted: no cars, no people on the streets. We decided that it would be ridiculous to park here: we decided to get as close to the Schloss as possible. So we drove further, to Vaduz. There, it was less deserted and cars were being led to a big parking space (free of charge), where only a few cars and busses were parked; turned out that this was the parking space of the Rheinpark Stadion. We were now at the outskirts of Vaduz (which is, of course, a very small city anyway) and while walking the short distance to the centre, we had our first view of Schloss Vaduz, which is a magnificent sight.
We didn't have much time to enjoy it unfortunately: our schedule appeared to have been a little bit too tight. It was already 10h50. At 11h30, the Official Act of State would take place at the lawn next to Schloss Vaduz (preceded by the procession of the Princely Family), so we didn't have much time to make our way all the way up to the Schloss! So here comes the next tip: make sure you have enough time! The climb to the Schloss is quite steep, and that's an inconvenience when you're in a hurry and when it's about 27 degrees Celsius! And I don't like warm weather anyway... So when we reached the Schloss, I was exhausted! We really had to rush to make it on time, but we made it! On the meadows near the Schloss, there were quite a lot of people, I guess a few hundred people. A lot of Liechtensteiners, but also many tourists: Americans, Brits, Italians and Dutch. Women in Liechtensteiner costume handed out leaflets with the National Anthem, so we could all sing along.
Not long after we arrived, the procession from the Schloss started. First there was a fanfare, the members of parliament, the government and then the Princely Family. A hostess announced everyone and welcomed everyone on the meadows in German and English. The members of the Princely Family in the procession were: Prince Hans-Adam II and Princess Marie, Hereditary Prince Alois, Hereditary Princess Sophie and their children (Prince Joseph Wenzel, Princess Marie Caroline, Prince Georg and Prince Nikolaus), Prince Constantin, Princess Marie and their children (Prince Moritz, Princess Georgina and Prince Benedikt), Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha and one of Princess Tatjana's daughters (can't remember which one).
My pictures of the Princely Family in the procession are not great, because when they approached, I was distracted by a man, who asked me: "Which one is the President?". That was the strangest question, wasn't it? After I explained that Liechtenstein doesn't have a President, but a Prince, I quickly went to another spot to make more pictures, but they were not great either.
Once the members of the Princely Family had taken their places, it was easier to take some pictures.
Left to right: Prince Nikolaus, Princess Marie Caroline, Prince Joseph Wenzel, Prince Georg, Hereditary Princess Sophie, Hereditary Prince Alois, Princess Marie, Prince Hans-Adam II, Princess Marie, Prince Moritz, a daughter of Princess Tatjana, Princess Georgina (don't know which girl is who), Prince Benedikt, Princess Margaretha and Prince Nikolaus
The sight from the meadows, looking to the Schloss, is glorious: this medieval castle, with the Alps in the background. Stunning!
After that, everyone was, by tradition, invited for an apperitif in the grounds near the Schloss and in the Rose Garden of the Schloss. There were several stands, both inside and outside the garden, where one could get soft drinks, sandwiches, fruit and, of course, beer. All complimentary. Isn't that incredibly hospitable?
We ate something outside the Rose Garden in that little piece of shadow that we could find. Did I already mention it was hot?! (Don't want to complain too much about it though: we were so lucky with this weather, so much better than rain of course.)
As you might know, the really great thing about the apperitif in the Rose Garden is the fact that members of the Princely Family mingle with the public, while having a drink. All very low key and relaxed. One of my goals of the day was, of course, to meet a member (or members) of the Princely Family: that would be amazing. But what should I say to them? I'd probably get very nervous. Some time ago, I came up with this idea: I could bring my copy of Uve Harder's book The Fürstliche Familie von Liechtenstein and I could ask members of the Family whether they would like to sign the book for me. That would give me a reason to approach them, without the need to have an extensive conversation.
So with the book and a pen (it's all about the details, leave nothing up to chance!) in my bag, I went into the Rose Garden on my own, while my boyfriend would relax in the meadows (it was so nice of him anyhow that he wanted to join me on this day, because royalty isn't really his thing).
First, I just walked around a little bit. The atmosphere was very relaxed and I got the impression that a lot of locals were there and less tourists (but I could be mistaken).
First, I saw Prince Constantin and Princess Marie talking to some people.
A little further stood Prince Hans-Adam II. There were a lot of people around him and he was in a very animated conversation. Sweat was literally dripping from his head: he swept the sweat with a handkerchief.
Next, I saw the Hereditary Prince and Hereditary Princess. Both had a lot of people around them. They both had umbrellas protecting them from the sun.
A little further I saw Princess Margaretha. She seemed to be in deep conversation with some people. No other people around her waiting to get in touch with her. I really wanted to meet her: she's as royal as it gets, right? (As you probably know, she is, besides the sister-in-law of the Prince of Liechtenstein, also a sister of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and a first cousin of the King of the Belgians) I was lingering for a while, waiting for the moment her conversation would be over, but that moment didn't come naturally.
Luckily, the woman in the party noticed me and she draw me to the Princess's attention, who hadn't seen me yet. Princess Margaretha turned to me with a big smile. I apologized for disturbing her, shook her hand and I said what an honour it was for me to meet her. She said I didn't bother her at all. Then I asked her to sign the book, which she was very willing to do. She laughed and apologized for the shaky signature (it's not easy writing while standing). She asked where I came from and then she agreed to pose for a picture of her and me, which was taken by the woman who brought me to her attention. After that we shook hands again and she wished me a great day.
I was so happy! I was so nervous, but she was so friendly, that I felt at ease very quickly.
Alright: next royal! A little further in the garden was Princess Margaretha's husband, Prince Nikolaus. Once I got his attention, I held on to the same routine as I did with his wife: handshake, signature in the book and a picture. The Prince was also very friendly and he also asked where I came from (logical question of course). I was less nervous this time.
Then suddenly, a man approached me. He pointed at my book and said: "That's my book!" It was Mr Harder, the author! He also signed the book and asked me whether I liked it. Nice to have met him as well!
Feeling quite relaxed, I decided to approach Hereditary Princess Sophie. She wasn't surrounded by that many people anymore and after a little waiting, I met her. Again: handshake and signing of the book. She had a little trouble holding the book, so I helped her. While signing, she said: "I'm so glad I put my glasses on today!". I got very nervous though when I wanted to start the camera on my phone so that a woman who was standing there could take a picture of me and the Hereditary Princess: my phone has touch ID to unlock, but as my hands were sweaty because of the weather, my phone didn't recognize my fingerprint. So I had to punch in the access code, which went wrong because I got nervous. Nerve wrecking! It seemed to take ages to start the camera, but in the end, it all worked out!
After that, I decided to go back to my boyfriend; he had been waiting long enough now and I was very satisfied with having met a prince and two princesses. I saw Prince Joseph Wenzel in a corner of the garden, I saw Princess Marie Caroline passing by with some beers and I saw Princess Maria-Anunciata chatting, but it was enough for me. Mission accomplished!
We walked down the hill, into Vaduz, where the fair was in full swing. We could have explored Vaduz, but we only wanted to get in our airconditioned car and drive the 2,5 hours route back to our holiday address in Bavaria! I'm sure I'll get back to Liechtenstein one day to see more of the country!
My last piece of advice: think carefully about what you're wearing. Although it's a very low key, non-official and relaxed event without a dress code, many people (mainly Liechtensteiners) were dressed in a more or less formal way. On the other hand, many other people were very casually dressed in accordance with the very hot weather. I was wearing a shirt, but I also wore shorts. One could say that this was a bit too informal when you'd like to meet members of the Princely Family. I must say that I was a bit misled by watching pictures of previous years, in which it seemed like most people were dressed in a very casual way in case it was hot; that was not entirely the case.
Summarizing, I think it would have been better if I had worn trousers, notwithstanding the hot weather. But I must say that, despite of my possible faux pas, I think the Princely Family doesn't really care; their only interest that day seems to be able to have contact with their people and all the interested people who show up.
I hope you've enjoyed my report! It was great experience and I'm very grateful to the Prince of Liechtenstein for his hospitality.
I think Liechtenstein's National Day is a unique event and I advice every Luxarazzi reader to go to the National Day if you get the chance. Can you think of any other event where you can visit a unique country, can get invited to the gardens of a reigning Prince's castle in a breathtaking environment, can get complimentary drinks and sandwiches and, most importantly, can get easy access to royalty? The answer is 'no', right?!
Thank you, lovely ladies of Luxarazzi for giving me the opportunity to publish my report on your wonderful blog! And make sure you follow me on Twitter: @houseoflemon