Andorra is a principality located between France and Spain. It is also a favorite among Lithuanian tourist seeking really good cuisine and Ukrainian tourists (very recently) who went there thinking that Andorra was really Pandora from the Movie, Avatar. Ultimately the Lithuanians were happy, but the Ukrainians were bitterly disappointed.
Interestingly enough, only until very recently, Andorra was completely unknown until a U.S. spy satellite spotted a very large billboard, written in Catalan describing the largest shoe store, Andorra Footwear selling Andorran running sneakers, which are manufactured entirely out of cobra snake skin. Needless to say, once the bill board was translated, hoards of sneaker hungry European and US tourists flooded into Andorra to buy these unusual sneakers.
It’s Not Just About Snake Shoes!
Outside of their sneakers, Andorra has much more to offer vacation hungry tourists or displaced terrorists seeking an out of the way place to hunker down. For one thing, they have much more to offer than anyone could ever imagine. What follows are the ten most interesting things about Andorra that most everyone would like to know.
1. The language is Kind of Like Spanish, but… The language of Andorra is very similar to Spanish, but was modified in 1342 by Prince Zebacula to confuse the Spanish. It resembles Spanish in some ways, however, a few extra letters were added to totally confuse Spanish nobleman during their epic Scrabble tournaments, which are a favorite among both Andorrans and the Spanish. This gave the edge to the Andorrans who had bet heavily and won large tracts of land in Greenland, which Spain had conquered and claimed as their own. Of course, everyone living in Greenland (maybe 11 people and 10 stranded caribou) knew that no one really wants to live there, anyway.
2. Andorran had no Native Snakes, Until 1994. Andorra had no reptiles of any kind, but one fateful day, an airliner flying low during the filming of the snake/plane movie over the Andorran countryside accidentally dropped 2,123 king cobras onto the sleepy mountain towns of Andorra. The residents awoke and to their horror, saw that they were overrun with large venomous cobras. Everyone hid, except one famous Andorran herpetologist who figured out a way to solve the snake problem and fix their teetering economy which was almost insolvent because the country purchased pre-Castro Cuban bearer bonds in bulk. At any rate, Dr. Frederic Limon, convinced the townspeople to make cobra moccasins which were eventually called Snake Shoes which became an instant hit among the few tourists they had. Andorran Snake Shoes are famous the world over.
3. Andorra invented golf almost 1,300 years ago. Because the economy of Andorra was so heavily dependent upon ranching and because most of the cattle pastures were located on the tops of hills and mountains in the Pyrenees, the towns which were located in the valleys beneath the pastures suffered from the manure rolling into large clumps and landing in the middle of their towns. This caused a great deal of upset, until one of the townspeople dug holes all around the hills and throughout the country side. The manure then rolled harmlessly into the holes and the problem was solved.
The Andorrans celebrated and on one inspired evening in 711 AD, they held a party and reenacted the solution to their manure problems. This turned into the game of golf and the idea was quickly and shamelessly stolen by the Scottish aristocracy, which over time has become mistakenly associated with Scotland. However, everyone in Andorra knows who really invented the game They have a saying in their language about that, “Ells poden creure que ells, els escocesos, va inventar el golf, però al final, l’únic que va fer va ser robar aquest joc Bol merda de nosaltres!” This would really be quite clever if you understood Catalan.
4. Andorra invented skydiving in 1781. Juanito Megalora, an Andorran, was credited with having invented skydiving in 1781. He made one fateful jump from the tallest peak in Andorra, Coma Pedrosa which is roughly 9,650 feet high. It was formerly called Muntanya Pedrosa, until Megalora jumped off the mountain to his sad destiny. He languished in a coma, hence the name, for 237 days until his death. The irony of the whole thing is that he might have survived the jump, if he only waited until a working parachute was actually invented, which occurred in 1783 by Louis-Sébastien Lenormand, a Frenchman.
5. Turkish Taffy is not really Turkish at all. What we know of Turkish taffy originally has its roots in the Andorran plumbing industry. The so-called taffy is made from a root that actually grows in abundance in Andorra, called “Plomero massilla de tafeta”. It had been used for centuries by Andorran plumbers to fix leaky pipes. Some out of work Turkish plumbers who were in Andorra ate some in desperation to stave off dying of hunger. It was surprisingly tasty, nutritious and the rest, of course, is now Andorran history.
6. There is poor hunting in Andorra, except for the Andorran Weasel Snipe? Maybe. Andorra instituted a weasel snipe season in an underhanded attempt to attract hunters from America who watched the online gun and knife auctions that are aired during the wee hours of the morning on cable TV. Surprisingly, it exploded with over 175,000 hunters yearly who hunt for non existent snipe-weasel. This brings in over $500,000,000 in hard currency yearly in tourist expenditures to the struggling economy of Andorra. While no one has ever seen or heard of a snipe-weasel actually being captured or killed, the hunters like UFO hunters, vainly seek this prize.
7. The Soil in Andorra is poor, yet the volcanic rocks are edible. Like Andorran/Turkish taffy, some of the volcanic rocks in Andorra are edible. Many of the volcanic rocks are the primary food of the Andorran Otter Goat which inhabits some of the tidal pools in the Pyrenees Mountains. The earliest inhabitants of Andorra were the Frankish Tribes who observed the Andorran goat’s love for the volcanic rock and incorporated the rocks into their meager diets which prior to this epic discovery, consisted mainly of boiled hummingbird eggs. Interestingly, the Scottish noblemen that stole the game of golf also incorporated the edible volcanic rocks into their diets and renamed them scones. To this day, only the Andorrans are aware of the perfidious acts of treachery visited upon them by the Scots. In fact, their national anthem is entitled, “El nostre Llegat Perdut de golf i Scones”, which translates roughly to “Our lost scone legacy”.
8. There are Three Supreme Rulers of Andorra. Until 2010, Andorra had two traditional leaders: the President of France and the Bishop of Seu d’Urgell. However, in 2010, a Belorussian convenience store entrepreneur, Stashkoff “Stash” Ruvel, proposed to open 1,500 convenience stores in Andorra providing that he could be named the Duke of Andorra and share the head of state Andorra title with Sarkozy and the Bishop of Seu d’Urgell. Because of the enormous positive economic impact the chain of stores would generate on this tiny nation, Andorra held a plebiscite and most everyone (albeit reluctantly) agreed.
9. Andorra sits on one of the largest pools of oil in the world. Like most nations, Andorra would love to be energy independent. Their primary source of power, other than motor bike has been the wind. Most Andorrans who can not afford a motor bike travel by roller skates holding a large sail to get from place to place. In the fall of 2002, a noted geologist discovered that there were large heretofore unknown deposits of petroleum in Andorra. However impressive the deposits were, it was also sadly revealed that they were 800 miles beneath the surface of the earth, well out of range of any drilling technology known to man. So while the Andorrans are potentially rich, they still cling to their sails and skate unhappily around Andorra, awaiting a breakthrough in oil extraction technology.
There you have it. Nine incredible things about Andorra you never would have thought about. Often when we’re flying to Europe to visit Paris or London, we just fly over and never realize the richness of beauty and the culture that lies within the tiny principality of Andorra.