Remember George Dubya? Here in Europe he is still revered as a remarkable pioneer in “alphabetical tourism.”
After all, during his first-ever visit to Europe in June 2001, the presidential itinerary featured Spain, Sweden and Slovenia – or perhaps it was Slovakia. Even Dubya himself was a shade uncertain, but he did a grand job in covering up his doubts.
From Vaduz to Vilnius
In any case, given the fact that most visitors to Europe have only the haziest notion about their intended destinations, alphabetical tourism makes perfect sense. The Netherlands and Norway one year, Poland and Portugal the next.
For urban types, the principal of alphabetical tourism can be extended to capital cities. Tallinn and Tirana find themselves nicely allied as travel partners. And the letter V throws up an improbable handful of desirable spots: Vaduz, Valletta, Vatican City, Vienna, and Vilnius (which if visited in a single long trip, would reveal a peculiarly Catholic Europe).
Think L: Liechtenstein and Luxembourg
Latvia and Lithuania are an object lesson in just how different neighbouring states can be. And Liechtenstein and Luxembourg are among the most perfect countries on the entire continent, both heaving with interest, yet each small enough that the visitor can have a sense of coming to grips with the issues of culture, identity, and language that make up nationhood.
We happen to be great fans of both Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, and were in both countries only last month. If there were an award for the countries on the planet with the finest public transport, it would be shared by Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. Amazing bus services, and in both countries you can travel for a pittance across the entire national bus network (in each case it is just €4 for a one-day ticket).
And both countries have trains, too. Who ever would have thought that Luxembourg could boast more than sixty train stations? Tiny Liechtenstein packs a punch with four train stations, including at Schaanwald, one of the most handsome little station buildings in the Alps. And, what’s more, it’s a border station–the first stop on the line from Austria after the train crosses the Liechtenstein border.
It is too easy to write off Europe’s small countries as undeserving of a visit. We beg to differ. Liechtenstein and Luxembourg are both perfectly formed, and each country deserves a thorough exploration. There are few better European days than listening to cowbells in the Liechtenstein Alps above Vaduz or cruising up the River Moselle in Luxembourg on the Princesse Marie-Astrid.
So if you don’t know Europe from A to Z, think L. It’s as good a place as any to embark on alphabetical tourism. And from there it is an easy hop to M for next year’s tour, with a neat fivesome: Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, and Montenegro.