Thursday, May 19, 2022
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Monday, April 25, 2022
I needed a drink after that climb and, most conveniently, at the bottom of the hill was a converted old American yellow school bus, serving burgers and local beer. I didn’t hesitate…
Vaduz has one of those slightly absurd land trains. But it was free, and I was intrigued to see what treats it might include. There was a lot of alpine music, and quite a lot of history, but little to lead you to believe that Vaduz is the sort of place that excites much. If you’ve got forty-five minutes to kill, it’s no worse than walking, but I wouldn’t suggest building your day of touristic activity around it.
I needed dinner and, for all of Vaduz’s charm, it isn’t price conscious. Ros had mentioned that she’d rather liked Feldkirch, across the Austrian border. And I just had time to get to Switzerland to catch the train… The somewhat occasional Buchs to Feldkirch service supplies Liechtenstein with its only scheduled train service and so I can now authoritatively claim that I have ridden the entire Liechtenstein rail network.
And Feldkirch did seem quite nice, at least what I got to see of it. The schnitzel was certainly worth the journey, although I deeply suspect that serving bad schnitzel is a criminal offence in Austria…
That left me with the task of getting back to my hotel, which is where the tri-national route 11 bus comes in. This leaves Feldkirch and runs the full length of Liechtenstein, via Schaan, Vaduz and Balzers, before ending its journey in Sargans, over the border in Switzerland, where you can connect to trains further into the country. And it’s a pretty ride too…
I got an early night, for I had an early start the next morning…
Friday, April 22, 2022
It was a relatively gentle start, which was welcome after I’d arrived in Zurich just in time to catch the last shuttle to my hotel the previous evening. And it’s funny, isn’t it, how after a period travelling anywhere new, your confidence over what, prior to the pandemic, had been a relatively straightforward journey, is slightly, if not shaken, then not quite what it had been. Arriving at an airport after 10.30 in the evening felt a bit “edge of the seat”, even if I would have thought nothing of it a few years ago.
But everything had worked, and the adventure was underway.
Yes, I’d never been to Liechtenstein before, which comes almost as much of a surprise to me as it does to anyone else. But the mountains were snow-capped, and Vaduz seemed quiet and unhurried. My hotel was another new experience, a self check-in one - part of a small Swiss chain - but it all seemed to work and I found myself with time to explore.
It turned out that the National Treasure was self check-in too, as you placed the coin in a slot machine at the entrance which triggered the door to get inside, thus saving on the cost of a member of staff. And the National Treasure is a bit quirky, with everything from a Fabergé egg to one hand painted by one of the Princesses. But it’s quite impressive, all things considered. And the State Museum isn’t bad either, offering a potted history of what is a very small country. For example, I learned that, whilst Liechtenstein became a free nation in 1719, its rulers only took up permanent residence in 1938, after Anschluss. And, given what it is known for now, it was considered a bit rural and poverty-stricken until fairly recently.
I headed back to the relative warmth of Vaduz, before heading to Schaan, Liechtenstein’s transport hub, for a gentle stroll. For, not only does Schaan have a bus station, but also one of the country’s very few railway stations, immaculately kept and in an unusual shade of pink. There aren’t many trains, but neither the Swiss mainline station at Buchs, nor the Austrian mainline station at Feldkirch, are very far away.
I needed dinner though, so back to Vaduz for food and an early night. And now that I was paying attention, I realised what was puzzling me about the announcements. Vaduz is pronounced with an extra ‘t’ before the ‘z’, which I’d not appreciated. Now, I live in Suffolk, where we like to include letters that aren’t pronounced, so being somewhere where letters are pronounced but not written was a twist. I wonder what else I’ve been missing all these years…
Wednesday, April 06, 2022
Sunday, April 03, 2022
Saturday, April 02, 2022
Whilst Creeting St Peter has had its own planning issues over the past few years, the one thing we haven't had is an application for a solar farm. But now, whilst we don't, the parish across the River Gipping, Badley, does.
There is a dilemma here. The proposed site requires the loss of prime agricultural land - we've got a lot of that here on the East Anglian prairie - and at a time when self-sufficiency in food is a live topic of discussion, one does wonder how the loss of farmland helps that. But the war in Ukraine reminds us that dependency on hydrocarbons from authoritarian states who aren't necessarily our friends is problematic too, before you even start on climate change mitigation.
And, whilst the gently rolling fields of Suffolk are superb for wheat, barley and other grains, they also make for easy to maintain solar arrays. If you're a farmer, with the prospects of a downward squeeze on agricultural support payments and the knowledge that selling land for development is likely to be lucrative, especially if your land is near a town or village earmarked for housing development, point you in one direction and one direction only.
The rural economy is changing and whilst people may want farmers to produce food as cheaply as possible and in sufficient quantity, farmers aren't altruists - they need to make a living too, otherwise why do it?
My perspective is a fairly neutral one but I do find myself wondering how, at a time when fuel poverty is becoming a big thing in this country, we can carry on resisting renewables development in our localities. Wind turbines are apparently too big, solar arrays too ugly, and whilst offshore wind is growing nicely, the Government has failed to support tidal energy and encourages rural communities to object to anything that might impact on their local countryside.
There needs to be one of two things, a plan for renewables which goes beyond simple targets to discuss what is needed and where it might go, or investment in renewable facilities in other countries where the revenue generated might help build stronger economies and communities.
Of course, the optimal answer would be smaller, more effective solar arrays and wind turbines, but we may just have to accept that, if we want to maintain our current lifestyles, we're going to have to make some concessions in terms of how our countryside looks going forward