There is a saying in Australia: "This is going straight to the pool room!" Lifted from the popular film The Castle, it's heard when someone is presented with an extremely special item. For The Castle's main character, Darryl Kerrigan, his pride of place was the pool room; for the princes of Liechtenstein, it's the Treasure Chamber.
This tiny museum in Liechtenstein's capital Vaduz is the repository for gifts to the royal family from kings and emperors as well as interesting knick-knacks donated by local collectors. There are also moon rocks, but more of that later.
The principality of Liechtenstein is more than 300 years old, having been established within the Holy Roman Empire in 1719. But the family tree of its royals stretches further back than that, a longevity reflected in the wealth of works collected in the museum's Princely Collections. The Treasure Chamber was opened in 2015 to display selected items from these collections. It's the princes' pool room, more or less, and displays an engaging and eclectic jumble of prized objects.
Entry to the chamber is by gold token obtained from the nearby National Museum's ticket desk. It activates a golden sliding door, which opens to a long, dark room. Within the dimly lit surrounds are items in illuminated glass cases.
I can see the princes were keen on decorative weaponry. Displayed near a 1970s replica of a crown that was lost in the 17th century, are beautifully crafted wheel-lock pistols with decorative inlays and a flintlock rifle presented by Emperor Joseph II to the reigning prince in the 18th century. Even more fun is a gauntlet etched in gold which belonged to Emperor Maximilian II. Somehow only the gauntlet ended up here – the rest of the armour is in Vienna. A neat contrast is an Indian katar, a steel-bladed dagger with gold inlay.
But it's not all about dangerous items made from metal. The Treasure Chamber contains the donated hoard of the late Adulf Peter Goop, a Liechtenstein collector who loved Easter eggs and amassed an impressive number of them from around the world, including highly decorated eggs from Tsarist Russia.
There are several eggs from the famed designer Faberge, including the 1901 Apple Blossom Egg, a stunning green creation wreathed in floral decoration. Goop's eggs employ a variety of techniques and materials: porcelain, silver and cloisonne. They take the form of eggcups, pendants on necklaces or as objects you can open. In addition to the Russian eggs on display, there are glass eggs from Venice, stone eggs from Ecuador, a Chinese glass egg with a depiction of a heron, even a plastic egg from Bulgaria.
On the walls of the Treasure Chamber are paintings by the artist Johann Bleuler. In the 1820s he travelled along the Rhine, from its source in the Swiss Alps to its mouth at Rotterdam, painting distinctive scenes along the banks of the iconic river. With his wife Antoinette acting as his agent, he then sold multiple prints of different sizes. Sadly this artistic entrepreneurship was undermined by the invention of photography, which occurred at much the same period. Still, they're an attractive reminder of the diversity of natural and urban life along this mighty river, which forms the western border of Liechtenstein.
The exhibition's finale seems out of place among the historic art: rocks brought back from the moon by Apollo 11 in 1969, and Apollo 17 in 1972. But there's a solid reason for their inclusion: they were gifted by NASA in recognition of the work of a Liechtenstein-based company which supplied protective coatings for space rockets.
It's a reminder that there's more to the principality than the "land that time forgot" aura that hangs over sleepy Vaduz, symbolised by the reigning prince's impressive castle. Still, as Darryl Kerrigan would say, you can't beat the serenity.
Tim Richards was a guest of Liechtenstein Marketing.
Landhaus am Giessen is walking distance from the museum with pleasant rooms from CHF110 a night. See giessen.li
The Treasure Chamber is open daily from 10am-5pm and entry costs CHF8, or CHF13 as a combined ticket with the National Museum.