Tag Archives: Lonely Planet

Who wouldn’t adore Andorra?

As said in Wikipedia, “It remained in a state of belligerency until 1939” as it was not part of the Treaty of Versailles.squirrels-belligerent

I love that. They declared war against the Germans but never fought. Just were belligerent.

I’d like to see how that worked out. Did Andorrans sit about in their pubs and say things like, “Damn Germans,” and spit in their drinks? Did they practice German insults and stand on the border hurling epithets?

I’ve been belligerent in my time, but never for years on end. It could be hard on a person.

See, they don’t have an army to send, really. There’s an honour guard and they have a rule that there must be one person in every family that has to respond to country emergencies; thus each family has a gun. Maybe they use them to shoot squirrels.

an-mapAndorra is perched high in the mountains between France and Spain and is governed in an almost incomprehensible way with splits between parliament, out of country leaders and who knows what else. The origin of the country is similarly muddled with royalty messing about in it and all sorts of splitting up shenanigans. At least, I can’t understand it. They have two princes, for example, role unclear: the President of France and the Bishop of Seu D’urgell, Spain. Plus a parliamentary democracy. I’m confused.

But who cares?

It’s a tourist paradise, a tax haven, it’s filled with Alps and snow and probably edelweiss and singing nuns (though they probably sing in Spanish or French). They get 300 days of sun a year! 300! You’d be glad of a bit of shade on those dark dark 65 days of non-sun, wouldn’t you?

They have a charming, if rustic, patron saint – Our Lady of Meritxell (the name comes from some word meaning sunny pasture) – she’s the patron saint because her statue kept running away to sit under an out of season rose. The people were so startled by this they took the appearance to mean they should build a chapel on the site of the rosebush. So they did (no mention of whether they saved the rosebush) and put the statue in the chapel. The chapel burned down in 1972 but they’ve rebuilt it and made a new statue. Tourists flock, etc.vierge-meritxell

So, confusing government, confusing saint. And they speak Catalan, a language spoken only by a select few. Or French or Spanish. Or all three.

According to the Lonely Planet guide, it’s famous for skiing, shopping, and smuggling. Something about the 2000 shops in the main city. But, apparently, they are also very good at competitive roller skating.

And native Andorrans live longer than almost anywhere else in the world – average length of life is 82 years. So they must be doing something right.

It must be all that pure up high air and the sun. Mind you, you should visit soon. Apparently the tourist based economy is running on development and pretty soon the place will be overrun with condo time shares and people from colder rainy places snorting about their tax-free purchases.

Either that or lairs of evildoers and their henchmen. Even the evil like a sunny day now and again. And think of the ski chases! 06-on-her-majestys-secret-service-piz-gloria

Wandering the earth through 251 Countries

Did you know the earth is split up into 251 countries? I didn’t. I guess I had a vague understanding that I really didn’t know about all those teensy weensy countries in the middle of vast oceans, etc, but it wasn’t until I reviewed a computer registry program that I saw the names of so many I had no idea existed.

So I’ve decided to find them and write a bit about them, if I can. I was going to go alphabetically, but that’s kind of boring, so I think I’ll play lucky draw and pull one country out of a hat a day, gradually working through my list. The list, btw, is the official UN one.

So here goes – first one: Kiribati = joined the UN in 1999.

Robert Louis Stevenson was here, and with his wife designed a flag that was never used. It had a crowned shark on it. They have a better one now.

kr_large_locatorKiribati is a collection of island and atolls scattered like grains of rice down in the waters near Australia. According to Wikipedia, it’s the only country to have parts in all four hemispheres, which I suppose depends on how one slices hemispheres, but there’s something interesting about a place that has the international date line on its east coast. They moved it, the locals, after years of being split by time and day. Now they get to be the very first at everything, primarily receiving aid from the rest of the world.

Given that a few of its spots have already sunk beneath the waves, they’re opposed to climate change and are fighting it with the support of the Australians and others. They’ve arranged to move the population to Fiji at some point.

From Wikipedia:

“Kiribati is expected to be the first country in which all land territory disappears due to global climate change. . . .the Kiribati president Anote Tong said that the country has reached “the point of no return”; he added: “To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that.”

About 100,000 people live on the 32 islands. They have their own musical style and dance style, which seems to consist of sitting or standing and keeping their arms outstretched. It is rude to smile while dancing, as it is meant as a form of religious observance.

Also they practice “pubusi” wherein you can ask anyone for anything they have and they must give it to you or lose face. Remember this if visiting.

Lonely Planet tells of three things to do in the country. Three. Seems a long way to go to play “can you spot the island that isn’t an atoll?” There’s one in the country, I guess. How would you ever tell?

I’m sure it could be a lovely place, but a few things that concern me about this island paradise. They have a leader who once shut down all newspapers in the country after the first non-government newspaper started up. There is one policeman for every 222 people.  Elected officials stay in rather too long. And the country is probably still smarting after the Brits came in and gathered up all their phosphorous (their one source of money) and went away.KR_002

According to the CIA:

Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
typhoons can occur any time, but usually November to March; occasional tornadoes; low level of some of the islands make them sensitive to changes in sea level
Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to heavy migration mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping; ground water at risk





The main island, Tarawa, was the site of gruesome battles during WWII, and has been used to film movies about them ever since.

As far as I can tell, there have been only a couple of writers from there, but one visiting fellow, J. Maarten Troost, wrote what seems to be the hilarious “The Sex Lives of Cannibals – Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific”.  He and his girlfriend spent time on Tarawa, forced to listen to endless playing of “the Macarena”. I’ve put this book  on my wish list.

Sounds better than actually going there.