After a cow stop near Triesenberg, the bus continues its zigzag up the winding road. At 1 600 metres altitude, the landscape here is less jagged than many other places in the Alps. The mountains seem rounder, gentler somehow. But no worries, this is still excellent skiing terrain. Liechtenstein has had several Olympic champions. Also, Prince Charles learned to ski here in Malbun. I hear he isn’t half bad.
I get off the bus, gawk at the absurdly pretty landscape, buy an ice cream, amble along, and soon spot a chair lift going up to Mount Sareiserjoch, 400 metres higher up. For one insane moment, I forget I loathe the rickety contraptions and buy a return-ticket. Thirty seconds later, I hold on for dear life. Don’t know why such an irrational fear have come over me lately. Between deep, deliberate breaths, I wonder if it’s a question of age.
The German couple sharing my 4-seater sends that theory right out the window. Mid-80s, they’re giggling, touching, flirting; eagerly pointing here and there. With every gleeful “look over there!”, the chair rattles perilously. Or so it seems.
Happy to be on solid ground, I take off along one of the many trails. The mountains seem so near, as if I can hop on to the nearest one and waltz to the top. Had I only the agility of the average goat, that is.
Afterwards, the terrace of Bergrestaurant Saris offers idyllic views of Malbun: small clusters of alpine homes on green meadows look adorable from above.
I could stay here all day long, enjoying the view, letting my thoughts flow.
But time waits for no one. I have places to go, things to do. Also, two black crows on a ledge above are gazing rather menacingly at me and my packet of crisps. Can’t help but wonder whether they’re discussing lunch or thinking of using my head for a toilet.
I contemplate braving the lift once again. Hm… a brisk walk down instead, perhaps? It’s much healthier, after all…
Then I see a man hopping off the chair lift, casually carrying a tiny baby, wrapped in a pink blanket, on one arm.
Going down is even worse! My eyes remain closed all the way down, except for the occasional peek now and again – to reinforce the fear, you understand.
I feel very lonely in chair 34. It’s not that I’m afraid of heights, exactly. Cable cars are fine, but in that wobbly chair lift, the vagaries of nature – and of man-made machinery – feel uncomfortably close. The thought of being stuck up here for any length of time… well, I know I look white as a vampire at the mere thought.
Back in Malbun
Back on solid ground once again, I’m annoyed at this ridiculous angst. Then I re-think: Damn it all, you ain’t brave if you ain’t scared. There, feels much better. For a wacky minute, I even consider taking a lift up the other side of the valley. Nah! Enough stomach-churning for one day. Time to move on.
From the bus stop, I spot a pretty mountain chapel on top of a steep hill. The last bus back to Vaduz leaves in six minutes. Plenty of time to sprint up for a quick look-see. Halfway up, I’m breathless. The breath-taking views have nothing to do with it; my heart actually feels as if it’s about to jump through my ribcage. Two sturdy old women with walking sticks tramp past, slowly, steadily. They know better than to run in thin mountain air.
At the top, the Friedenskapelle Malbun beckons. I revel in the pleasantly cool stone interior.
Outside, an attractive wellspring is thoughtfully provided for mindless hikers like me, who walk the hills without carrying water.
As I gorge myself at the well, I see the Vaduz-bus about to leave. Rushing back down the hill, I shout like a madwoman for the bus to wait and barely manage to stumble on board. The driver and a group of preschoolers on an outing stare at me as if I’ve escaped from a mountain spa for the terminally deranged.
Have you ever behaved foolishly in nature – or perhaps you suffer from irrational fears? Please say you do.