Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is reputed to have said ‘ Andorra must be preserved.’ During his march through Andorra en route to invade Spain he was impressed with the tiny well governed country. Charles the Great or Charlemagne is believed to have granted the people of Andorra a charter of autonomy in 988 in return for their loyal service in helping him fight the Moors who occupied Spain.
Andorrans have always embraced their uniqueness by remaining outside the mainstream of European affairs. They have loose diplomatic ties with France and Spain. In 1993 when Andorrans embraced modernity the money started flowing in thanks largely to the tourist industry, a modern system of government and state-of-the-art transportation and communications systems.
Andorra is situated high up in the Pyrenees Mountains of Western Europe between Spain and France. The mountains are a rugged range with an average height of 2,000 m the highest being the Coma Pedrosa at 2,946 m. The three major rivers that dissect the country converge in a ‘Y’ shape merging into the Valira River. Andorra’s climate is temperate similar to its’ two larger neighbors. It has a low point of 870 m. Due to it its mountainous location the country has snowy winters and cool summers.
Andorra’s currency is the Euro. The principality services an estimated 10.2 million tourists annually. Andorra is not a member of the European Union. Long known as an international tax haven for the wealthy Andorra is under pressure from other countries to revise its’ tax laws.
Tiny Andorra was occupied jointly by Spain and France before becoming independent during the Second World War. It is a parliamentary democracy and retains two co-princes as heads of state. The head of government retains executive power. Andorra’s main legislative body is the unicameral General Council of the Valleys (Consell General de les Valls), a parliament of 28 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote, 14 from a single national constituency and 14 to represent each of the 7 parishes with members serving four-year terms. The Andorran government is formed by the General Council electing the Head of Government (Cap de Govern), who then appoints ministers to the cabinet, the Executive Council (Govern). Defense of the country is the responsibility of France and Spain. Andorra is governed jointly by Prince Bishop Joan Enric Vives i Sicilia and secular Prince Fransois Hollande. Their odd system of government has served them well for over 1,200 years.
The principality has the 7th highest human life expectancy on Earth. The average Andorran can expect to live up to age 82. According to the 2011 census, Andorra’s population is an estimated 85,082. If you visit Andorra and decide to immigrate, you’ll be welcomed. However if you want to acquire citizenship you have to reside there for 20 years for adults and 18 years residency for children of immigrants desiring citizenship.
Most people live in the large population and economic centers of Andorra la Vella, Pas de la Casa, Escaldes Engordany and a few other cities and towns. Most Andorrans are in their mid 30’s due to an influx of immigrants after World War II. Catalan is the official language of government with Spanish the common language followed by French and Portuguese respectively. Nearly 40% of the people are of Spanish origin with Portuguese and French a close second and third. The rest of the population is a varied mixture of peoples.
Everybody’s taste in tourism, food, sports, recreation is different. Technology permits us to sit comfortably in our homes and scan any information we want without leaving our keyboards. Here’s two websites I recommend for anyone contemplating taking an Andorran holiday: ‘Andorran Vacations and Tourism…,’ ‘Welcome to Visit Andorra, the official tourism website of…’ or www.visitandorra.com/en/home. These two websites are invaluable. Where to stay, spas, sights to see, points of artistic interest, where the restaurants are, you name it those two sites have most of what you’re looking for.
Andorra is a very small country so there aren’t many museums. The few they have are pretty decent. There’s the Full House Museum, a museum that honors fine perfumes, Andorran Model Museum, a museum for cars, a postal museum for philatelists, the Viladoman, Nicolai Siadristy Microminiature and the Areny-Plandolit House Museums all await your viewing pleasure. Reader if you’re seriously into museum culture I’m quite sure the neighboring countries France and Spain will better suit your cultural interests.
Most countries have quality cooks and tasty national cuisines; Andorra is no different. The national cuisine has borrowed heavily from its’ two neighbors. Andorrans favor the Catalan cooking style slightly over the French. Lamb dishes predominate in Andorran hearths. Local menus are heavy on pork, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, pasta, rabbit, poultry, ham, sausage and potatoes. If you enjoy Trout Andorra’s the place. The only fish you’ll find in Andorra in appreciable quantities is trout. I’m basically a meat and potatoes man but having fresh fried trout is a welcome change to my meat menu. The next time I’m in Europe I must stop by Andorra even if just for the food. No wonder they live so long; Andorra a trencherman’s paradise!
Andorran chefs like all real cooks are creative. They use only basic ingredients and ordinary cooking methods in food preparation. Andorrans love to cook. You get them in aprons and behind hot stoves they’ll show you a thing or two about good cooking. They enjoy showing off their culinary skills to foreigners and are eager to offer free samples. Not only do local chefs enjoy cooking but their menus range from meals made popular hundreds of years ago to the latest fad in contemporary cuisine. They pride themselves in being a nation of great chefs and are eager to recruit Filipinos among their august ranks.
The Andorran calendar is heavy with holidays all of which involve food fests. Andorra’s National Day is September 8th. Andorran’s celebrate the usual Christian holidays and observe international Labor Day May 1st. Andorran’s are culinary carnivores meat eaters from day one. One such festive meal is escudella a combination of chicken stew, sausage, meatballs, and xai or roasted lamb. With all that good eatin’ I wonder if there are any skinny people in that country. I’m not complaining; I weigh 328 pounds so I’m no Tiny Tim. Traditional drinks are served with their marvelous meals.
Aforementioned most Andorran’s are Catholic. Our Lady of Meritxell or Senyora de Meritxell is Andorra’s patron saint. All religions are tolerated. Other Christian denominations include Anglicans, Reunification Church, the New Apostolic Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their Muslims are mostly North African immigrants. There are small groups of Hindus, Baha’is and around 100 Jews.
Poor no more and nor a country sitting in a sea of isolation, this tiny nation is raking in money hand over fist. The fine food, the picturesque mountain vistas, Andorra’s easy going people, no income tax are among the many amenities that charm people into spending lots of cash in this Washington, D.C. size country. Geographically situated between two countries Andorra is a natural draw for the French and Spanish tourist trade. Reader if you want an updated breakdown about Andorra go to ‘Culture of Andorra-history, tradition, women…’
Andorra is virtually crime free. Foreign malcontents are shipped back to their countries of origin. Drug trafficking, fraud, robbery and labor related crimes occupy court dockets. There is no State Department Advisory for Andorra. When touring Andorra exercise common sense since thugs is everywhere. There are no direct flights to and from Andorra. There are future plans to build an Andorran airport to accommodate the lucrative tourist trade. Go on line to www.expedia.com for flight times and prices. Sorry to also say you can’t take a train to Andorra though one passes by. The nearest airports are in Toulouse, France and Barcelona, Spain; I suggest you either take a bus or rent a car at the airport and do a drive through. Andorra is beautiful and the scenery breathtaking. You see more of the country driving or from a bus window. If you’re like me leery of driving in a foreign country the bus is your best bet. For hotels reservations access www.cyperandorra.com; enjoy Andorra and if I can scrape together some spare change I might join you; enjoy!