When the electronic board that usually reads "Welcome to Vaduz" changed its message to say "Oldie Night, August 20, 20:00" we knew we had that evening's plans settled. The small square outside city hall, where the farmer's market took place a week later, was transformed into a beer garden/discotheque/summer party. We had dinner at an outdoor cafe table across from the tent beforehand and watched as dolled up women and men with firm handshakes met up to begin the festivities together. The crowd was mostly post-collegiate and up, with a few youngsters brought along by parents.
We'd both assumed live music would be involved, but I figured "oldie" meant big band or Elvis or early Beach Boys the latest. Merlin had the less American-centric idea of polka and folk music. It wound up being 70s, 80s and early 90s material ranging from Abba to Sade, performed by a series of cover bands. We stayed through two sets and while the first group was great, the second was on fire. People danced and clapped and the energy was contagious. You really can't go wrong with a free concert that includes a 10 instrument band, more than one disco ball, a wurst grill and beer in big, plastic cups.
In Liechtenstein, there's been no shortage of concerts and fests. Each town is posted with fliers for the upcoming happenings, which makes it easy for transients like us to feel in-the-know. Some event names are more straightforward than others. 'Chiliheads 2011' intrigued us until we found out it was a chili eating contest with a cover charge. 'Weinfest Trieson' was more our speed. It was originally to take place outside the church in Trieson, but the rain moved it into the town's meeting hall (something we learned, once again, from an electronic board on the roadside).
What made this fest particularly exciting was that we'd camped in Trieson for over a week and now had a chance to feel a part of the community. Right through the doorway were the numbered wine bottles and people standing around tall, round tables tasting them. Some people didn't bother with purchasing tastes and simply went to the other bar for a beer or glass of whatever wine was open. This boy hung out at the third bar, the one for desserts, chatting up three teenaged girls in charge. Our plum tart was delicious, as were our three tastes of white wine from Trieson (and a fourth taste of red, thrown in for free by the man who produced it).
Communal tables and live music can pretty much be expected at Liechtensteinische fetes. Two men played some ditties on their accordion and lap guitar while a larger, folk costumed group set up onstage. When their set was done, the couple of musicians went outside for a smoke, each with an opened bottle of wine in their hands. Payment for the gig? It was a warm familiar - familial, even - atmosphere in which one could easily have spent the entire afternoon, but which made us somewhat crestfallen about our inability to make casual conversation.
Sommernachtsfest in Eschen was advertised by a pretty white and green flyer which boasted live music, food and drink. We don't know much German, but we at least got that far. It also had a ticket fee, which convinced us that it must be awesome. We purchased tickets from a nice lady behind a grocery store bakery counter and made a reservation at an inn so that we'd be nearby at the end of the night (though a free taxi was included in the cover, we think). Three police officers stood outside the meeting hall, mint-filled welcome drinks sat on a table by coat check and people in fancy clothes made us feel under-dressed. "What is Sommernachtsfest exactly?" we asked someone our age who was working the event. "It's just like a town party. There is a band and food and a bar inside for shots."
It felt like walking into an auditorium for prom at a school you didn't attend. Better yet, a school at which you're a foreign exchange student. One woman twirled the long red straw in her Hugo (said welcome drink) waiting for a date that never came. Groups of similarly attired adults sat together while more dressed down couples sat alone. We hovered near the bar with its happy, smiling bartendress and little bowls of pretzels. It was like a classier Oldie Night, with white tablecloths and votive candles on the communal tables, waiters taking your order for beer and wurst and a playlist that was more KD Lang than Kool and the Gang. Again, we wished we could chit chat with someone, but were content enough with being flies on the wall for one more night. We didn't dance or mingle - or do shots - at any of the fests, but left each later than expected and downright giddy. Liechtensteiners know how to throw a party.