Reflections on international living and travel
 

 

 

Mountainside with town far below
 Mountainside view of town about a kilometer and a half (about a mile) below


 

How I discovered spirituality on a mountain in Lichtenstein

Liechtenstein - October 2017   -  recalled January 2022 - by Jeffrey


 

I had driven to Liechtenstein for business, to give a talk to be specific.

Liechtenstein is a tiny country wedged in between a bit of Switzerland and a smidgeon of Austria. It's pretty, clean and calm. Very calm. You get the feeling nothing much happens in Liechtenstein and that's probably because nothing much does happen in the country, though I suspect bankers get up to some wild partying behind close doors. Bankers have a tendency to do that. The capital city of Liechtenstein is Valduz. Often described as 'sleepy', Valduz has a population somewhat over 5000 people - not much larger than my village in Belgium. So, 'sleepy' is good.

While I had planned the trip rather well up to my talk -- including a stop to visit an old friend in Zurich on the way -- I had failed to plan anything for afterwards. So, after I had enlightened the good people at Hilti (my client at the time) on the connection between diversity and innovation, I headed back to my hotel and did some Google-work. I wanted to go on a nice Alpine walk the next day.

My searches kept bringing me to the Fürstensteig trail, a supposedly stunning mountain walk starting at 1400 metres and climbing another 560 metres in a compact, circular walk of a mere six kilometres (3.7 miles). But, along with the raves about the walk, I also came across warnings to wear appropriate shoes, be careful in the colder months and not do the walk if you suffer from vertigo. The thing was, I had not brought my hiking shoes (and to this day, I wonder what was wrong with me that I went into Alpine country without hiking shoes). Would I dare take a snowy mountain walk in tennis shoes, a medium weight jacket, no gloves and not even a hat?

Yeah, I would. But, I made a compromise. If, at any time during the walk, I was unsure of my ability to continue safely, I would simply turn around and walk back to the starting point. I also let a friend know about the walk and planned to message her at the start and the end. If she did not get the end message after a reasonable amount of time, she would contact the Liechtenstein authorities - assuming there were authorities in Lichtenstein.

The next morning, I checked out of the hotel and drove to the starting point, three quarters of the way up Gaflei mountain. It was a delightful road that almost seemed to be made for the sporty little Subaru I was driving.

Icy footpath on mountainside
That snow covered bit on the right is an icy footpath.

The Walk

As I began walking up the mountain, I realised two things. Firstly, my tennis shoes (sneakers to Americans) were absolutely not the right shoes for this hike. Before long, snow had seeped inside them and my feet were soaking wet. Secondly, this walk was absolutely, stunningly, mind-blowingly, incredibly awesome. I'd like to say it was 'fucking awesome' but I've not yet decided on whether to use such words in this blog. In six short kilometers, I passed ever changing views. I clung to rope railings mounted to rocky mountainside while looking down a kilometre or more. I walked narrow paths carved into the sheer side of the mountain. I stepped through snow covered fields where I sank up to me knees at one point (further filling my tennis shoes with snow). I walked through woods and across the barren near mountain top. During the entire walk, I believe I passed only a pair of hikers going the opposite direction. For the most part, though, as far as I could feel, I had an entire mountain to myself.

Just me and the mountain. It was overwhelming.

Now, I will confess here that I am not a spiritual chap. If I am in a church, you can be sure it is out of historical interest rather than for prayer. When seemingly magical stuff happens, I look for logical explanation. The big bang works for me. A magical creator or creators do not. If you feel differently, that's cool with me. I have no desire to change your beliefs or convert you to my lack of beliefs; and I trust you will treat me with the same respect. I just want to make it clear that I was not and am not a spiritual guy.

Nevertheless, walking along the Fürstensteig trail, with its awesome views in all directions and not a soul in sight, I felt something stir inside me and I am pretty sure it was a sense of spirituality. I was overwhelmed with wonder and love; not love to anyone or anything in particular. Love of this fucking awesome world we live in. Love for everyone including you. I wanted to cry, I was so overwhelmed with the natural beauty as it embraced me along on that mountain and caressed me with the clean breeze that cleared my head, my lungs, my heart.

And now I am a Jehovah's Witness.

No, of course that's not true. There was no conversion at all. I am still the logical, unspiritual guy I always have been, except for a couple of hours on that mountain when I felt at one with the mountain, life, the skies, you. Everything.

Epilogue

In July of 2018, my sons and I went on a road trip to Zurich, East Switzerland and Lake Como in Italy. Realising we were not far from Liechtenstein, I decided to take my sons there and share my favourite walk with them. I'm glad to say they loved it.

So, if you ever find yourself in Leichtenstein looking for something to do, I highly recommend the Fürstensteig trail. But, do bring proper hiking shoes, be prepared to be spiritually moved and only give it a go if you are not scared by heights.

 

Note: some of the pictures here are from my solo walk in 2017 and others from the walk with my sons in 2018.

 

Path up mountainside
Path up the mountain

 

 

Mountain toilet (I believe)
I believe this was a toilet on the mountain. I didn't actuallygive it a try.

 

 

Path down the mountain
The path down the mountain, at the end of the walk, was easy.

 

 

My son on mountain path
My son on mountain path.

 

 

My sons on mountain path, waiting for me
My sons on trail, waiting for me to catch up.

 

 

My sons and I stting on outcrop
My sons and I proving we don't suffer from vertigo

 

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