Saturday, March 24, 2012


Almost every article I read on Andorra started out with something like “Andorra is a tiny country…”.  But when I really started looking at the statistics, I realized (when it comes to area) it is a little less than half of the size of the city where I live, Indianapolis, Indiana. However, it is situated in the middle of the Pyrenees Mountains right between France and Spain, so perhaps it’s not so easy to traverse as it would Indianapolis. (Don’t get a big head because we’re not on top of a mountain, Indy. Try adding more sidewalks and quit letting the bicyclists ride in the same lanes with the cars. Hint, hint.)

 Andorra’s beautiful mountain backdrop does lead it to have a very illustrious ski resort industry. In fact most of Andorra’s economy is from tourism, especially for those who want to get in touch with nature and get away from the bustling European cities. Its capital Andorra la Vella does have modern amenities and cultural events, but even as far as national capitals goes, it’s really not that large (around 25,000 people). It is, however, the highest capital city in Europe, at 3356 ft above sea level. (Still, that’s roughly 2000 ft lower than Denver, Colorado.) Because of its duty-free shopping and no income tax, their hospitality is well known. You won’t have to look far to find a decent hotel room, dining, and shopping.

The interesting thing about Andorra is that the infamous Charlemagne had, in essence, created Andorra as we know it in exchange for having them fight against the Moors during the latter part of the 1200s. There was basically an agreement that it would share leadership with the president of France and the bishop of Urgell (in Spain).

The Andorran people share a culture that is closely related to the Catalonia region on Spain, which is mainly the northeastern portion of Spain. The official language is Catalan, although many people can also speak and/or understand Spanish, French, and Portuguese. I believe, as far as I have been able to find, that Andorra is the only country where Catalan is the official language. It’s spoken in other countries but recognized only as a regional language. I have a basic reading knowledge of both Spanish and Portuguese, and Catalan seems to me to be a mix of the two languages.

Andorrans can also boast to have the 4th longest life expectancy of anyone in the world: 80 years for men and 84 for women. (Just in case you’re wondering who beat them out: #1: Monaco, #2: Macau, #3: San Marino. And they’d be 3rd if we’re only counting UN member states [sorry, Macau].) The vast majority of Andorrans are Roman Catholic.  The good thing about being an Andorran is that your country practically has 100% literary rate and practically everyone has access to basic heath care, clean water and sanitation. 

Because of its unique history and geography, Andorran culture is unique in and of itself. There aren’t a lot of resources out there that really delve into Andorran-specific cultural topics, so in certain cases, I’m going to have to expand it to the broader Catalonian culture. I’m really excited for what’s coming 
 this week. 

Up next: Holidays and Celebrations

CIA Factbook: Andorra
Wikipedia: “Andorra,” “Andorra la Vella,” “Catalan,” “List of countries by life expectancy,” “Denver,” “Indianapolis”

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