Balzers is a small town in Liechtenstein that is located in the south-west portion of the country, across the border (and the Rhein River, which is the border) from the Swiss town of Sargans. Balzers (like all places in Liechtenstein) is a small town a few thousand inhabitants. What sets it apart is the castle, Gutenberg Castle (Burg Gutenberg), which sits atop a large, steep hill in the centre of the town. This is the only one of five castles in Liechtenstein that is both well-preserved and open to the general public.
The castle itself has a long history. People have lived in this area since the early stone age. The Romans also erected a fortification on this site to control the road running from Milan (modern day Italy) to Bregenz (modern-day Austria). A castle was then built in the 12th century due to the hills strategic position as well as proximity and overlook to the river. Originally, a church should have stood on the hill, but further construction of towers and a curtain wall converted this religious project into one of defence.
The castle went through some rough times during the next few hundred years due to the fact that it was part of several wars in the region, wherein it suffered significant damage. In 1795, there was a fire in the town; the locales used materials from the castle to repair homes and buildings, leaving it little more than a ruin. In the early 20th century, a painter, builder and architect bought the castle and restored it to its former glory. The castle found a new owner again in 1951 and eventually came into the state’s hands in 1979. Residents could live there during that time. 2001 was the last time that someone lived in the castle.
The new church
At the time of the castle restoration, the new Pfarrkirche St. Nikolaus was built. It replaced the old one. The old roman catholic church from the 840s had survived until the fire in 1795 that burned most of the town. A new church was erected a few years afterwards, but due to size and space restrictions, it was inefficient. Instead, the village needed a new church, resulting in the new Pfarrkirche St. Nikolaus that exists today.
While the castle was restored to what is believed to be its original state, the Pfarrkirche featured a New Romantic style using local materials (mostly stone from the quarries near Balzers, such as Balzers marble).
Additionally, there is a nice house that we stumbled upon at the base of the hill. What makes the house special (as it is on a street where all houses are in similar styles) is in the garden, where a model of the castle and town.
In my opinion, Balzers really is a village. With only about 4000 inhabitants spread across a few streets; it is only a town because it is one of the large settlements in Liechtenstein, also a tiny place. Regardless, it is a very nice place due to the nature that has invaded the town in forms of streams and duck ponds. I actually liked looking at the village against the backdrop of either the Swiss or Liechteinsteiner mountains. Balzers is one of the few towns in Liechtenstein that sits on a flat place. Most of the others sit on the side of the mountains that make up the majority of the country. The spectacular views alone are worth the trip!
Here are some more images from around Balzers:
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