Most right-thinking people know that if you're going on a pub crawl, whether to Liverpool Street or to Liechtenstein, the only sensible place to start is in Cooper's, on the concourse of King's Cross station. So that's where I found myself on the morning of Friday 4 May 2001, greeted by Simon real name Peter Krait and Pad, who were looking distinctly bitter about having to drink coffee due to the unavailability of beer prior to 11 a.m.
Despite the fact that it was a bank holiday weekend, we had perversely decided to depart for Liechtenstein on the Friday and return on the Sunday, rather than taking advantage of the public holiday on the Monday. But that's the kind of bright and sassy joined-up thinking which makes us London's premier male transport-related pub crawl group.
In some ways, Liechtenstein 2001 was our least honest pub crawl to date: it didn't centre on public transport, and it wasn't even in London. But on the other hand, it was perhaps our most ambitious: the complex journey there demanded a major research and intelligence-gathering operation, and we had to contend with a country in which the default glass size for beer is called a "Lady".
You could be forgiven for not knowing who or what Liechtenstein is, so I'd better clarify matters. It's a tiny principality about 25 km north to south and about 6 km east to west sandwiched in between Switzerland and Austria, where the Eastern and Western Alps meet. The Lonely Planet website has some useful information and a map, so I'll let you read up on all the fascinating facts there, rather than waste my time repeating them here. If you want to see exactly what's going down right now, there's a live webcam run by the Fachhochschule (if the link is working, which often it isn't).
To get there, in the first instance we had to fly with EasyJet from Luton to Zurich, which is why we convened on the platform of King's Cross Thameslink but only after Simon and I had dashed to Parnaz off-licence on Pentonville Road to stock up for the train ride.
There were six of us for this expedition: Pad, Alan (henceforth referred to as "Al"), Tim, Simon (who cannot be named for legal reasons) and Ian. And of course me (henceforth referred to as "I"). Unfortunately the remaining London Men's Self-Help Pub Crawl Group member, Alex, was unable to join us, due to Liechtenstein's stringent quarantine laws.
Eventually the train arrived, and a few cans of Stella later we got to the deceptively named Luton Parkway station, a recent construction which means you no longer have to get off the train in Luton itself. However, you still have to catch that crappy "courtesy" bus to the airport, so I can't quite see why they bothered building an entirely new station. Maybe the residents of Luton were fed up with constantly being hit in the face by tourists' rucksacks.
After a smooth
Finally, the time came to get on the plane, which meant some quick drinking-up for those of us who had cracked into another Stella at the airport, including Simon, who by this point already appeared to be losing the ability to construct sentences.
I, however, chose to open my remaining can on the plane, whereupon the stewardess busted my balls because the idea is that you're supposed to buy their beers at captive-market prices. Still, I managed to get away with a "well, just this once"-style reprimand.
A couple of hours later we touched down at Zurich airport, and after Ian had exercised some smooth-talking German skills, we found that it was possible to get a train direct to the Swiss town of Sargans, just across the border from Liechtenstein a country which doesn't have any railway stations. Time was short so we jumped on the train without any Swiss currency. However, that didn't stop Tim using his credit card to buy us a round of Löwenbräu from the buffet car. (Due to a technicality involving the final destination of the train, he was in fact charged in Austrian Schillings.)
The train journey to Sargans featured some fantastic scenery, travelling alongside the Zürichsee (a.k.a. Lake Zurich) and then the Walensee (a.k.a. Lake Walenstadt), which has a really distinctive turquoise colour not dissimilar to that of a Löwenbräu can. Unfortunately my ham-fisted photographic skills failed to do justice to the sights.
After about an hour's train ride, we got off and began the final phase of our outward journey: catching the legendary Postbus to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. We'd long imagined what form the Postbus might take I think the general feeling was that we would be shoved into the back of a dilapidated Ford Transit along with a few sacks of mail, several bales of hay, a pile of firewood and one or two uncaged chickens. We were therefore mildly disappointed in Simon's case, very disappointed to find that it was much like any other bus, except that apparently it does take the mail to and from Vaduz (though we didn't see any evidence of this).
We were all looking forward to a resounding cheer as we crossed the border out of Switzerland, but unfortunately when we went over the Rhine, which forms the western boundary of Liechtenstein, we weren't quite sure if it actually was the Rhine (which is comparatively small at this point) and it took us about ten minutes before we were certain that we were now inside Liechtenstein. During the bus ride we spotted two establishments whose names oozed pure class: Roxy Disco and Coco Loco Bar. I think it's fair to say that we were pretty impressed by this country.
At last we arrived in Vaduz, tired and emotional. After a journey involving
we were left wondering: is anywhere really worth this much effort? Follow our adventures and you'll find out.