Europe’s smallest country
March 15, 2019
Andorra is Europe’s smallest country; not in the EU, but an independent entity nonetheless, it has diplomatic representation, its own stamps, uses the Euro, and has maintained its independence for over a thousand years by playing off Spain and France. That’s the case today, where it’s co-leaders are President Macron of France (“he signs what we tell him to,” our hotelier stated), and a bishop of Spain. A democratic parliament has been constitutionally running the country day-to-day for at least 26 years, a feat celebrated today as “Constitution Day” which shut down everything, including Starbucks—except for McDonald’s and Burger King.
I had expected, honestly, a much smaller city-state (I think the population is about 200,000), but it’s about 20 miles of spectacular scenery, from about 7500 feet down to where we are, in the largest “city”, at 3000 plus. As I look out the window, what I’m seeing reminds me of Vail—a ski town with new condos halfway up the mountain. There’s a world ski cup going on, mostly in the upper reaches, which are snow clad, and remain open until April 22 (after which, I think, the slopes become suitable for the mountain biking world cup.). This is tourist country.
The country is duty-free, which means it’s either ski (or increasingly snowboard) or shop. I’m afraid to ask where’s the “old city,” since I’ll probably get shown a 1970s premall store. I think there’s one or two old buildings, somewhere, rather like Hong Kong. The comparison is apt from the shopping standpoint—high-end stores and electronics. Nathan Road anyone?
The language deceived me, initially; it’s Catalan. The marquees read “Bon Dia”,not “Buenos dias”, and the directions read “Espanya”, “ not Espana, with a squiggle over the n, but Andorrans seem to be happy to take any currency. The official map is printed in Catalan, Spanish, French—and Russian. Perhaps neighbor Catalonia, instead of agitating for independence, ought to seek annexation to Andorra?
We’re here less than 24 hours so I think I better take a walk before we leave. Everything is open again, and tourists are welcome!