Happiness for our own.
Squeezed by the borders of large countries, these states are barely discernible on the world map. The largest of them, Andorra (468 km²), is almost five and a half times the size of today’s Moscow. The smallest of the dwarfs, Vatican City (0.44 km²) – 5707 times. It would seem, how can one take seriously state formations of such ridiculous (from the point of view of the Russians) size? But the outside world looks at these countries with respect and… envy.
A Porsche 918 Spyder on the deck of the 86-meter superyacht Quattroelle, one of hundreds of luxury exhibitors at the Monaco Yacht Show in September 2013
Klaus Köppe, a retired Latin teacher, moved from Munich to the capital of Liechtenstein more than ten years ago. Vaduz, with a population of five thousand, is not the largest city in the country – neighboring Schaan has almost seven hundred more inhabitants.
Klaus doesn’t feel like an outsider. Everyone here speaks his native German and doesn’t rush into anything. Klaus lives in the city center, in a two-story old mansion with a fireplace and a garden that overlooks the city’s main attraction, Vaduz Castle, which rises on a hill. If it gets boring, the teacher gets behind the wheel and drives 200 kilometers to visit his homeland. Sometimes the German, like other residents, does not lock the front door: here you don’t have to worry that someone might want to drop in on you while you are away.
Left: The Monte Carlo Casino awaits guests with money. Right: Stefano Bayocco, head chef at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel, preparing a “simple salad” of 120 different leaves and flowers
Klaus, like most people in Vaduz, knows practically everyone by name. He has run into members of the royal Lichtenstein dynasty more than once in the woods, picking mushrooms. What no one knows is the people who hold millions in deposits in state banks. Liechtenstein keeps secret the names of depositors, who are happy to hide money in the principality from income and profit taxes adopted in their countries. Foreign businessmen are very attracted by this, as well as the absence of taxes on gifts and inheritance, as well as the law, according to which you can create any type of organization on the territory of the state.
Thanks to foreign companies Liechtenstein citizens do not know unemployment, because every company registered here must have a local representative. And when you consider that there are more companies registered in the Principality than citizens, it becomes clear why the country has such a high standard of living. The average annual income per capita is 57,100 euros (for comparison, in Russia it is 15,100 euros).
Monaco also provides for its citizens at the expense of foreigners. The Principality offers foreign companies and entrepreneurs tax benefits in return for their commitment to employing Monegasque citizens, subjects of the Monegasque crown. In any company, half of the employees must be nationals. The average salary in Monaco is 5,500 euros per month . The Principality has exempted its residents from most taxes, but left an inheritance tax (up to 16%) and high VAT (about 20%), which confirms the country’s reputation for luxury living. In Andorra, life is a lot cheaper . There are no taxes, including taxes on inheritance. The income of an Andorran citizen is on average 10% higher than that of residents of EU countries. The state treasury is replenished by import duties, tourism, and banking services. Foreigners can easily open accounts in local banks, and do not pay taxes on income from deposits. The country charges 400-500 euros per year for banking services.
Andorra-la-Velja attracts tourists with a great number of shopping malls with products of famous world brands
The Vatican is the only state in the world that does not have its own people. Vatican citizenship is not inherited from children to parents, nor is it obtained by place of birth. One can become a citizen only by the will of God, or rather by the will of the Holy See. The Pope can grant this high privilege to whom he deems worthy. This includes, above all, those in the service of the Vatican. These include cardinals residing in his territory and in Rome, other clergymen, diplomatic staff of the Holy See, and more than a hundred laymen, 86 of whom are Swiss Guards. When service ends, citizenship is automatically revoked. According to 2011 data, the total number of Vatican citizens is 572, of whom 223 live in the country and the rest are abroad.
Andorra is literally pinned by France to the north and Spain to the south. Being surrounded by such giants, it’s easy to get lost. And it’s not easy to get people to come to a high-altitude country that has no airport or railroads. Squeezed by serious competitors, Andorra did not compete with them, but invited them to visit – for shopping. Andorra welcomed them with year-round discounts and absence of customs duties. The prices here are a third lower than in Europe. Visit the country duty free for the French and the Spaniards has become a pleasant habit.
Whenever the family of Santiago Rodriguez, a 35-year-old television producer, wants to make a valuable purchase, they drive from Valencia to Andorra. ” There are shopping buses from my city, despite the long distance (more than 400 kilometers),” says Santiago. – Many friends from Catalonia visit Andorra regularly. Barcelona is an expensive city, so residents prefer to buy cigarettes, alcohol and even sugar in the neighboring country. I stop in Andorra every time I go to France to get gas. Gasoline was a third cheaper here until recently. Now it’s more expensive, but nevertheless the difference is palpable: 1.24 euros a liter in Andorra and 1.47 in France.
Santiago claims that, oddly enough, the majority of buyers in Andorra are Spaniards. The French visit rather to go skiing. Because of this, the customs police at the borders of these countries behave differently. “At the Spanish border they check every sixth car, and at the French border they don’t pay any attention to what you’re taking out,” Santiago reports. – Knowing this, many Catalans leave Andorra on the French side, especially if the purchased goods exceed the allowed limit of 900 euros.” .
The ski resort of Paz da la Casa hosts ice sculpture contests
If every one of the 10 million tourists who visit the mini-country each year makes mini purchases, Andorra’s economy will continue to thrive. So will its stores, which sell jewelry, luxury clothing, electronics and cars. Santiago believes that if it weren’t for duty-free goods, no one would climb so high into Andorra (the city of Andorra la Vella is at 1,079 meters). And once a passerby has climbed here, the country will take care of his comfort. Andorra’s reputation as Europe’s cheapest market serves as excellent bait for ski tourism. Income from tourists, by the way, accounts for 80% of the country’s GDP.
Liechtenstein has also learned the rule, that there is no point in competing with its neighbors. It is necessary either to offer similar services, but at a lower price, as in the case of the ski sector, or to create an exclusive. This exclusivity is stamps, which for only 2.5 euros in the tourist office of Vaduz will decorate the passport of anyone who wants. Stamp of entry into the country and before was not required, as tourists get here on a Swiss visa, and when the Principality joined the Schengen Union, it is no longer necessary. But not the demand. The souvenir check-in became one of the main “purchases” in the country. So were postage stamps, which began to be issued in 1912. They are highly prized by philatelists the world over. The sale of stamps brings the Principality 12% of all revenues.
Monaco went a different way. Having successfully snatched for itself a small piece of the Côte d’Azur between Italy and France, the Principality came up with an ingenious hook for a public accustomed to luxurious vacations. In the mid-nineteenth century, Prince Florestan of the Grimaldi dynasty looked enviously toward Cannes and Nice. He understood that the territory of his state does not allow to deploy, and the rocky coastline is not quite suitable for the creation of a resort that could compete with the French beaches. That’s when the Prince came up with the idea of turning Monaco into an attraction for people of means. With the opening of the casino, wealthy holidaymakers flowed into the Principality, and with them, capital. The casino and the Monaco F1 Grand Prix are considered to be the main reasons to visit the country. Incidentally, the revenue of the state from the gambling entertainment itself is only 4% . This is only a fraction of what wealthy tourists bring to the treasury. But Monegasques are forbidden to gamble at home. So why lose what the people of this small country have lost to others? Monaco is sparing the income of its few subjects. It is a special privilege to be a citizen of an elite state, living for the most part on foreign capital. To be a citizen of such a state is an unattainable dream for many.
Monaco is a dwarf state in Europe
In my short story, I would like to share with you my memories of just three wonderful hours that my wife Nadejda and I spent in the Principality of Monaco on our return from Portugal.
In July of that year, while in Portugal, we participated in the World Orienteering Championship. On our way back from the competition, we visited several countries – Spain, France, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Monaco. In each of these countries we liked much of what we saw. But most of all we were very impressed by the Principality of Monaco. Literally everything!
On the way to Monaco we stopped in the French city of Nice. To see the Cote d’Azur is a dream for every traveler. Here you can feel its beauty in full force!
The closer we drove by bus to the small state called Monaco the more dazzling and maddening was the riot of colors, the more pretentious seemed the richness and beauty of this fabulous place of our planet.
The promenade in Nice
City-fortress of Monaco is placed on a mountain outcrop and has an area only about 20 hectares (300×700 meters). There are about 3 thousand inhabitants in the fortress, and in the whole principality live a little more than 30 thousand people. The town and at the present time keeps its former medieval appearance.
The Principality of Monaco is one of the smallest states. Its area is just over 2 sq. km. The Principality borders with France on land, as if placed inside the country. However, from the sea Monaco is adjacent to Italy.
In addition to the fortress of Monaco, the Principality includes the satellite cities of Monte Carlo, Montenetti, the financial center and the main port of the country La Condamine, La Colle, Le Révoir, Le Portier, Larvotto, Saint-Michel and Saint-Roman, the industrial Fontvieille.
Such a brief historical and geographical overview of Monaco.
We traveled through the fortress, as well as the towns of La Condamine, Fontvieille and Monte-Carlo, which we managed to see in incomplete 3 hours.
For a tour of the cities of the Principality (which are actually areas of one city) in the car is unnecessary. The best way to move is a leisurely walk.
A few hundred meters from the underground parking place is a beautiful temple – the cathedral in pseudo-Romanesque style, built in 1875 on the site of an old church of the XIII century.
We looked at it with great interest, both inside and out. It is the main cathedral of Monaco. All the princes and their blood relatives are buried in it.
Then we visited the Grimaldi Palace, where the princely family still lives. We saw the rooms available for visits. This palace is the official residence of the Princes of Monaco. It was built on the site of Monaco’s first fortress, which has been in existence since 1215.
Monument to François the Snatcher
According to the legend, the founder of the dynasty, François Grimaldi and his collaborators dressed up in monk’s clothes and penetrated into the castle which was controlled by the Genoese in 1297, under cover of night, and seized Monaco.
Place de Palais
After the tour we went down to the main square of the Place de Palais in front of the palace and admired the bronze cannons, which in the Middle Ages were potential guards of the palace, but which never fired a shot at the enemy. There was no excuse.
The Monaco fortress was well protected in the Middle Ages.
The cannons were a gift from King Louis XIV of France to the Prince of Monaco.
The cannons on top
While we “gazed” at the cannons, there was a change of guard near the palace. I managed to capture this action on photos.
For centuries, the change of the guard has been taking place exactly according to the schedule. The guard is carried by the Monaco Guards, as many as 82 people!
After a walk through the fortress, we went down to the exotic garden, located right by the sea.
Japanese Exotic Garden
The Japanese or Botanical Garden is one of the most exotic and famous attractions of Monaco. The garden has many tropical plant species, which, thanks to the excellent microclimate, blossom here in every month and season. Many of the trees, as well as the wooden gate, tea house and stone lanterns for the garden were imported specially from Japan. Beppu Yasuo, the famous Japanese landscape architect, supervised the planning of the garden and the planting of the trees.
Then we walked to the bay and the town of Fontvieille. In the bay, we looked with interest at the modern boats and yachts standing on the pier.
The harbor and the city of Fontvieille
The city of Fontvieille was built on the rocks and filler in the seventies of the twentieth century, as a result of the dewatering works under the leadership of the then Prince Rainier II.
In this town, the Prince Grimaldi Louis II stadium is an excellent structure. The stadium also houses the offices of the Monaco soccer club and the International University of Monaco.
One of the best hotels in Fontvieille
On the seashore at Fontvieille is the helicopter pad, a site from which an air route connects the people of Monaco with the cities of France.
Many interesting sights were still in Fontvieille, but the length of the article does not allow us to write about it in more detail.
After visiting Fontvieille, my wife and I quickly left (time was running out) to the financial and commercial center of Monaco – Monte Carlo.
Having imagined by available information what Monte Carlo is, we couldn’t help but see this famous area of the Principality with our own eyes!
From the rocky promontory on which the fortress of Monaco is placed, you can see the amazing panorama of Hercules Harbor.
The picturesque port of Monaco is located in the convenient Genoese Bay, where luxury white yachts call and moor from all over the world. As we passed by the bay, we looked out at these marvelous vessels.
Hercules Harbor is Monaco’s largest marina. View of Monaco harbor from the Monte Carlo side
The Monegasques (Monaco residents) are spoiled with glamour and luxury, the beauty of the coast. Spoiled by a high standard of living and great potential. In addition, the current Prince Albert II does not collect any taxes from the inhabitants of Monaco. And only cares that the lives of his subjects were free and rich.
There is something and someone to envy. I envy the Monegasque people not only because they are free, but also because the residents of the Principality regularly witness Formula 1 races.
Monument to the first Formula 1 drivers Promotional events before the Formula 1 race
In the Monte Carlo area there is a whole complex of gambling establishments – casinos. This is a kind of Las Vegas in European style.
Nadia and I also went up to Le Casino de Monte Carlo, the main one in Monte Carlo and one of the first gambling casinos in the world.
Main Casino One of the entrances to the casino
We didn’t go into the Casino, of course. We had no money and no time. They say that it consists of halls full of luxury, the walls of which are decorated with prestigious and expensive paintings. The central Casino also has the Salle Garnier, a sort of opera house, which is the most ornate.
From other attractions of the Principality I would like to mention the fashionable Hotel de Paris, a beautiful sandy beach, located on the seashore of Lavrotto town, the Anthropological Museum, the National Puppet Museum.
We were sad to leave the Principality of Monaco, this tiny, warm and wonderful state, but the emotions and impressions which seized us in such a short time will stay in our memory for a long time.
And we decided with Nadezhda that we will definitely come back here. At least for 2-3 days and to wander around the whole principality.