Saturday, April 12, 2008

Andorra for April, Number Four in my geography studies


A wave crashes upon the beach, dropping upon the sand its treasures. Perhaps it leaves a shell, a bit of driftwood, a disoriented crab, a strand of seaweed.

So it is, too, with the great ocean of time. It carries people and ideas and then leaves them, high and dry, a curiosity upon the sands of history.

Wedged between France and Spain, in the Pyrenees Mountains that separate those two nations, is a sovereign state just twice the size of Washington, D.C., USA.

In my studies of world history, I am still in ancient Rome. Christianity is still a novelty, and Mohammed and his armies, nearly six hundred years in the future. So I know almost nothing about the great Frankish king Charlemagne, who in the ruins of post-Roman Europe found himself battling mightly against the onslaught of Islam.

In those days, Andorra was born, one of the buffer states established by that king to prevent the Muslims in Spain from over-running Christian France.

By odd and obscure quirks of history, Andorra is the only remaining example of those buffer states, and though Charlemagne has mouldered in the dust for more than 1,300 years, and though the borders of the nations of Europe have shifted all around it, Andorra has retained her independence.

The weary waitress clearing tables at Dinah's Diner in Kansas or Idaho may dream of France, or of the blue seas that lap the coasts of Spain or Greece -- but who beyond the academics or geography buffs -- and the 64,716 people who live there, and their immediate neighbors, has ever heard of Andorra?

Like the Amish of Pennsylvania; like the monks of the ancient, almost extinct Christian sects who zealously guard the holy places of the Holy Land; like the sunken wreck of the battleship Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Andorra is an artifact of history, flotsam in the tide of time.

But it is also a living nation, proud of its traditions, proud to have officially joined the United Nations on July 28, 1993. On that day, Pres. Oscar Ribas declared, "Avui es un dia historic per a Andorra."

I interpret that as, "Here is a historic day for Andorra."

He continued: "Andorra ja no es un vestigi del dret feudal i medievval, sino un Estat homologat segons els criteris del dret internacional modern."

My perhaps faulty translation would be: "Andorra is not just a vestige of the feudal era, but a state that meets the criteria of the modern era."

4 comments:

Janice Thomson said...

A fascinating tidbit of information and you are quite right in your statistics as I have never heard of Andorra. What a view from this castle(?) I'd like to live there :)

eastcoastdweller said...

Thank You, Janice.

If You do decide to move there, please alert me so that I can update the population stat by one.

Rebecca said...

I haven't heard of Andorra, either, and know precious little about Charlemagne, though I read a book a few years back by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro called Night Blooming that explores Charlemagne's time. I enjoyed it (as well as several of her other works) tremendously. They always inspire me to look for more information...

r.

Ian Lidster said...

Interesting. I've always wanted to go to Andorra just to say I'd been there. Did you ever hear the old Pete Seeger song called "I want to be in Andorra." Nice little bit of satire based on his learning that in the previous year Andorra had spent something like $4.95 for national defence.