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The Principality of Liechtenstein is probably the least-known country in Europe. One of the reasons is the size of its area that is almost three times smaller than Vienna, while the other reason might be the fact that this stable and neutral country is hidden deep in the Alps. However, being small doesn`t equal to being boring. I guess that not so many people know that in Lichtenstein the last Romans live, that their land is one of the world's two doubly landlocked countries and that it is the home of the Curta calculator. Stay tuned to find out more about this interesting piece of Europe.
Lichtenstein area is just 160 square kilometres, making it the fourth smallest country in Europe and the sixth smallest in the world. At the widest points, the country is just about 24 km long and 12 km wide. In Liechtenstein live around 38 000 people, and more than one-third of its inhabitants are foreigners that belong to 90 different nationalities. Almost 60 percent of foreign residents come from other German-speaking countries. The capital city Vaduz, together with two neighbouring towns - Schaan and Triesen, forms an agglomeration where more than half of population lives.
Lichtenstein has two types of terrain - very high mountains and the Rhine River valley. About half of Liechtenstein's territory consists of mountains, and in total, there are 32 mountains with a height of at least 2000 meters. The lowest point of principality lies at 430 m above the sea level. Due to its terrain, Liechtenstein offers great hiking, road biking, and mountain biking opportunities in summer. In winter, skiing and snowboarding are available at a reasonable price, compared to neighbouring Austria and Switzerland.
Being the last land of the Holy Roman Empire, that became a sovereign member state, and that still exists in its borders, it can be said that the Principality is the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire.
Not so many people remember the legendary Curta calculator, that was widely considered the smallest mass-produced calculator in the world. It had an extremely compact design: a small cylinder with a crank on the top, that fits in the palm of the hand. The first model consisted of 571 individual parts and the second one of 719. Until its replacement by the electronic calculators in the 1970s, it was regarded as the best portable calculator available. This cleverly engineered and precise mechanical marvel was widely used in all areas, and it was produced in Liechtenstein from 1947 to 1970, in a total quantity of about 140,000 pieces. Today, it is a very valuable collector item.
Through history, it wasn't easy to be a woman in Lichtenstein. Firstly, the principality was known for its witch hunts during the 17th century, when hundreds of women were convicted for practicing witchery and were burnt as the witches. Lichtenstein was the last country in Europe to deny women's right to vote. Only after the fourth referendum, the introduction of women's suffrage took place in 1984. This referendum was limited to male voters, and a vote in favour of the change was only by the narrow margin of 119 votes. However, only in 1986, the right to vote in all elections, including the local ones, was introduced in whole Lichtenstein.
From its establishment until the end of the World War II, Liechtenstein was experiencing dire financial straits. Because it was a poor, rural principality, even the dynasty was resorted to selling family artistic treasures in order to pay the debts. However, the tide changed after the World War II, when Liechtenstein by using its financial politics became a safe haven for extremely wealthy individuals and businesses attempting to avoid or evade taxes in their home countries, and the time of people bringing the suitcases of money started. Since then, Liechtenstein rapidly transformed into a prosperous, highly industrialized free-enterprise economy. Nowadays, its population enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living. Liechtenstein has more registered companies than citizens, due to the very low corporate taxes.
The aim of this story was to do justice to Liechtenstein and show how small, less-known country can be very interesting for its visitors, even for the sake of visiting the country where the last Romans live.
Cover picture © Credits to iStock / RossHelen
Each month. Our best stories. Zero effort.