by Miodrag Colic - 5 years, 3 months ago
This miniature mountainous land, hidden amongst the peaks of the Pyrenees, is surrounded by powerful neighbours, benefactors and rulers - France and Spain. Officially it is a dual principality, ruled by two princes: the French President and Catalonian Bishop alike. Perhaps, those French citizens mourning the long lost monarchy may find solace in Andorra’s formal status. These two rulers take turns in ruling Andorra which has become a huge duty free zone. Hence shopping and skiing have become the two main activities in Andorra, most visitors coming exclusively for that reason. Skiing resorts boast most up to date facilities as well as challenging pistes, attracting increasing numbers of tourists, especially because of the proximity of Barcelona – in one day you can enjoy the sea and the mountains alike.
Trekking through the Pyrenean valleys and riding on the sightseeing train from France’s Perpignan to Andorra along the steep hills remind me fully of passing through the Swiss Alps. You can find picturesque pensions reminiscent of medieval inns, appearing at a river bend or tucked away in villages that seem to belong to a time long gone. It seems as if parts of Andorra are slow to take in the advancing influence of modern Europe.
My first visit to this tiny country was a romantic train journey (by Inter-rail) a long time ago – when three medical students, Ivan, Smilja and myself, left on a student exchange visit to Spain, at the end of the seventies in the last century. It sounds like a very long time ago, indeed, whenever you refer to ‘the last century’, however my other two visits to Andorra, predominantly shopping trips, also date back to that period. However, what sticks in mind are the summer valleys and mountain notches on the way to Andorra la Vella, Andora’s capital with the highest altitude amongst European capitals (more than 1000 metres above sea level). My friend Mila Dragićević used to tell me about the skiing slopes on the side of the Pyrenees, amongst the prettiest in Europe. I regret I never trod on them. However, I did experience the old Andorra, far removed from modern Europe, tucked away in the Pyrenees, hidden from the rest of the world.
Today, Andorra is much closer to the modern world, even though it is deliberately keeping its distance from the European Union.
Maybe one day, the mini-states of Europe, five of them, can form a Union of their own.