Yesterday I arrived in my 100th country: the tiny Principality of Andorra!
As most people have no knowledge of this nation sandwitched between France and Spain, I figured it was a good time for another installment of “8 Things You Might Not Have Known…”
1) Andorra is a country
OK, maybe most of you probably know this, but there are a lot of people out there that have no clue that Andorra is actually a country. One woman I spoke with today visited the US and people didn’t believe there was a country called Andorra. Yes, it does exists and has been around in some form for almost 1,000 years. It has a seat in the United Nations, an Olympic team and diplomatic relations with other countries. It is a real country.
2) Andorra is small
It is the 16th smallest country in the world by land and the 11th smallest by population. It is only about 40km to drive from one side of the country to the other. Total population of Andorra is about 85,000 which includes citizens and residents. What is even more shocking is that despite its small size, the vast majority of the buildings are located at the bottom of the valleys because so much of the land is mountainous.
3) Andorra produces a lot of Tobacco
One thing that surprised me here is how much tobacco is produced in Andorra. It takes up a lot of what little farming space exists here. There used to be a cigarette factory in Andorra and because of its status as a tax haven, you can purchase cigarettes here much cheaper than you can in Spain or France. Cigarette smuggling has been a long problem (tradition) in Andorra where people would head up to the mountain tops to take smokes into Spain or France. Andorra is also one of the few places in Europe where you can still smoke indoors in public places.
4) Andorra is the world’s only co-principality
A principality is a place ruled by a prince. Monaco is an example of a principality. Andorra, however, is a co-principality. They have two princes who jointly share the position of prince. Neither of the two are from Andorra, however. One is the President of France, who is currently Nicolas Sarkozy. The other co-prince is the Bishop of Urgell who is currently Joan Enric Vives Sicília. The position is a constitutional one similar to the British Monarchy and holds no real power. Except for limited things, the two princes must exercise their authority together, not separately. They are the only country where one of their heads of state (the President of France) is democratically elected by another country. The other prince (the bishop) is appointed by the head of state of another country (the Pope).
5) Andorra is the only country in the world with Catalan as its official language
Catalan is spoken in Spain, bits of France and a even smaller hunk of Sardinia. However, the only country where it is the official language is in Andorra. I’m sure there are many people in Catalonia, however, who would like there to be at least one more country :)
6) Andorra has never been in a war in almost 1,000 years
Given its non-strategic location in the Pyrenees Mountains and lack of natural resources, Andorra has been without conflict almost since Charlemagne came through to fight the Moors. Technically, Andorra did declare war on Germany in WWI but never sent anyone into the conflict. Given Andorra’s lack of participation in WWI they were forgotten about in the Treaty of Versailles and didn’t officially declare peace with Germany until 1957!
7) Andorra has no national bank and has never had its own currency
Andorra currently used the Euro as its currency. Before that it primarily used the Spanish Peseta and sometimes the French Franc. There is no national bank in Andorra so it has to go to private banks if it wants to incur debt.
8) Andorra is not part of the EU, EFTA or the Euro zone
Andorra is not a member of most of the major European associations. Even though they use the Euro, they are not technically part of the Eurozone. They have a special relationship with the EU which they follow their trade rules for industry but not for agriculture. They are also not a party to the Schengen Treaty, however, you can only access Andorra via Spain and France which are party to the treaty and they don’t have an airport, so no one worries about them.