No, no, not the “don’t pay any money” kind of free; we’re talking here FREE LIECHTENSTEIN! in the sense of a tongue-in-cheek hommage to movement slogans such as FREE PALESTINE! and FREE TIBET! —
(both of which are flashpoints in this year’s WHS nominations, interestingly, but those are actually serious issues we’ll discuss some time later)
— that we, today, are adopting as The Official Crusade For Justice™ of everywhs.com!
Now, unless you actually are one of the 37,666 Liechtensteiners, Dear Reader, we imagine you have no idea whatsoever what we’re going on about here … and there’s a good chance that never mind “what,” you’re going “the 37,666 who?”
Well, let us explain.
See, while we’re pulling together our Sitelist-generating resources, it struck us again as a notable omission that Fürstentum Liechtenstein is the one and only state that is a member of the UN General Assembly but not a signatory to UNESCO, which makes it a glaringly obvious rejoinder to our assertion that the number of “countries” in the world is defined by “UNESCO signatories”.
So we thought that maybe we’d make a scoring exception for Liechtenstein if we could find an appropriate WHS, the model for that being that most people would count visiting the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo as a visit to Kosovo, which is de facto an independent country (and a surprisingly nice place to visit, even at high speed, thank you Dear Kosovar Police Friends for letting us off with a warning, repeatedly!) despite it being neither a UN nor UNESCO member.
And wow, did we find a doozy.
First off, the fascinating (to us history nerds) medievality: Leichtenstein is, in fact, the last vestige of the Holy Roman Empire!
It’s only 60 or so square miles—which is the size of Easter Island—and has only 35,000 people. It’s also the last vestige of the Holy Roman Empire, a once-sprawling conglomeration of nations and territories that had covered much Europe.
The whole history of the Holy Roman Empire is complicated, confusing, and really long. It started when Charlemagne was crowned in 800 and was dissolved after Francis II lost to Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1806.
And when that happened, all the other feudal entities that Liechtenstein owed allegiance to evaporated, and today it alone remains.
But the principality now known as Liechtenstein was a political convenience only, House Liechtenstein’s main holdings were elsewhere in the Empire, and they were stolen — twice! — in World War II:
During the 20th century the region became part of new Czechoslovakia.
The Liechtenstein family opposed the annexation of Czech territory in the fascist Sudetenland by Nazi Germany, and as a consequence their properties were confiscated by the Nazis, and the family then relocated to Vaduz in 1939.
After World War II the family made several legal attempts for restitution of the properties. However, they had passed post-war into ownership by the new Soviet Czechoslovakia. Of course its Communist government did not support returning large estates to exiled aristocratic landowners.
After the Czechoslovakian Velvet Revolution in 1989, the Liechtenstein descendants again renewed legal attempts for restitution, which were denied by the Czech state, the present day owner of the properties…
Which is in fact nearly ten times the 62 sq mi of today’s Liechtenstein.
And, more importantly, those expropriated Liechtenstein lands are a World Heritage Site!
The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is an exceptional example of a designed cultural landscape, which is made particularly impressive by the number and variety of cultural and natural elements that it contains.
Criterion (i): The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is an outstanding artistic creation that succeeds in bringing together in harmony cultural monuments from successive periods and both indigenous and exotic natural elements to create an outstanding work of human creativity.
Criterion (ii): By combining the Baroque, Classical and Neo-Gothic architectural styles and by transforming the landscape according to the English romantic principles, Lednice-Valtice estate served as a model throughout the Danube region.
Criterion (iv): The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape designed and created intentionally by a single family during the century of Enlightenment, the Romantic period and later on.
The property includes the territory of the former estate of the Liechtenstein family…
We, Dear Reader, consider this “former” bit to be complicity in unlawful occupation, and we will definitely be counting your visit to Czech-occupied Leichtenstein as having, in fact, visited that fine nation directly.
And since Leichtenstein has had no military of its own since 1868, it’s up to us the Internet Justice Warriors to do battle to liberate occupied Leichtenstein on their behalf, don’t you think?
Yes, I think we need some T-shirts. And a catchy name. “Liechtenstein Liberation Legion,” how about that? Yes, yes, that would be some good fun, wouldn’t it?