Saturday, February 4, 2012

King of Liechtenstein

"I feel like the king of Liechtenstein".

I don't recall who coined this phrase for the first time, I wished it was me but it wasn't. It came up at work, a fertile soil to have your frustrations validated to a high degree. It must have been one of those cases when you work your ass off and you get the job done well and everybody appreciates you, boss included, and the next day the project is cancelled.

... And the castle's crumbled and you're left with just a name

I found that hilarious at the time. I even imagined other scenarios in which you'd be "the king of Liechtenstein", like trying to get closer to a woman who's been roaming your night and day dreams. And then she agrees to go out with you and she's telling you how much she likes you and she'd like to be with you. You're the king! But "you know, I have a boyfriend and I want to give our relationship a second chance". ... of Liechtenstein.

For years I thought that was a funny yet accurate description of being on top of something petty, so that no one will even notice. Let's be honest, what was known about the country? We knew it existed from the football qualifications for Euro/World championships. It's the only game in which not only that your goalkeeper scores, but he's also caught offside a few times. What else do you know about it? If you have kids of 10-11, you also learn that the capital is not called the same as the country itself, as they rub it in your face for a week that you didn't get Vaduz at first.

Of course, ignorance is bliss, and making fun of things you've never seen, solely based on shallow judgement is the easiest to do. In the end, what's so funny about this? Is it the size of the country? If so, does size actually matter?  Anyway, I got to find out what the deal with Liechtenstein was. It happened a few years ago, in one of the holidays in which we wanted to get rid of the flat chested landscape and went to the mountains of Austria. Of course our intentions were to enjoy the nature exclusively, but as the forecast scared us one day with some temperatures of about 9-10 degrees centigrade  (in the middle of July!) we decided to use the opportunity to do a city trip.  What chance could be more appropriate for visiting the neighbouring state?

So there we were, driving carefully not to miss the country. At one moment we kind of started to see some particular number plates, FL - 1234, or something like that. Nice, I thought, they are from Flobits' land, greater can't be. No idea what the F meant actually and we were a few years shy of possessing a smart phone with Wikipedia on it, so no check on internet either.

You know, when you talk about a country, you have at least a vague impression of some self sufficiency of it. You'd expect to find some signs of industry in there. Didn't quite expect to see some huge furnaces sticking into the sky or pass along power plants the size of a medium town, but at least some hints of ordinary industry, like some bakeries, warehouses, a timid sign to an industrial area or so. Nothing! But when we arrived in Vaduz, a very cosy city by the way, in an instant we deciphered not only the secret of the self-sufficiency, but also the secret of its neutrality in any war by then (and in the future too). A few restaurants aside, the streets were aesthetically garnished exclusively with buildings of the following use: bank, jewelry, chocolate store. And again, bank, jewelry, chocolate store. They had more banks there than we have shoe stores here and our city won prizes on that!

I concluded that every family owned something there. The rich ones a bank, the middle class a jewelry store, and the poor had the chocolate business. And of course, the workers must have been the immigrants coming from the poor neighbours: Austria and Switzerland.

If the ordinary people lived like that, how would the king fare? Feeling like the king of Liechtenstein suddenly brings another perspective in your life. And her boyfriend doesn't bother you that much anymore :)

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