Family business country

Heheh… well we are not referring to the little red dot in case you think it… The third in our little series on micro and small states in Europe, we train our focus on the tiny little nation that sits between Switzerland and Austria.

Yep, Liechtenstein.

This little nation is 160km², but like the little red dot, this landlocked country is also a financial powerhouse. While it WAS under (and still in a way) the private ownership of a family who literally bought the place, it is now a constitutional monarchy. It is one of the countries in the world that does not have a military, since its size and population probably inhibits it.

But it is not part of the EU and that is the interesting situation. Because it still participates in the European economic area and is a party to the Schengen treaty effectively making its borders open. But then it uses the Swiss Franc in a monetary union. Our little red dot has an interchangeability agreement with Brunei, which effectively means both countries’ currencies are equal and can circulate in each others country. Different strokes for different folks!

It was just a restroom stop, but we crafted a little story out of it with help from many sources on the web. Add a dash of our own seasoning, this little essay here tells how a medieval noble family’s fortune ebbed and flowed with the times. Have you been to Liechtenstein?

Encircled! But independent

If you read our story here, you will know that it is the local favourite of the Italians living around the city to get into the little country and come out with daily necessities… well as far as our guide told us. Not sure if that still works today.

All of San Marino is just 61km². Founded in the year 301 as an independent monastic community, it claims to be the world’s oldest republic. Actually it is very unique. And being in Italy; history had a lot to do with it. The tiny republic began on Mount Titano and only expanded in the mid 1400s. It came under the protection of the Papal states too and that flowed on through to 1861 when Italy was reunited – ie the new nation recognized San Marino’s independence!

Well, again it is a little challenging to explain the politics behind why this tiny state was not simply incorporated into Italy, but literature suggests that it was because the unifier of Italy had sought refuge in San Marino during his earlier days of revolutionary war to unify Italy. And there are sources citing the republic’s links with France, a powerful neighbour to the newly formed Italian nation. Whatever the case, that independence was affirmed and today aside from defence, the most serene republic of San Marino conducts all local government and foreign relations on its own.


The unique thing about the country is that it has two heads of state – like the two consuls of the Roman republic. Every 6 months two are appointed from opposing parties to ensure a balance of power. The council which is democratically elected every 5 years performs this act and is essentially like the Roman senate! Wow.

Does this make you want to visit San Marino too?

World’s tiniest country

Yep. It is officially the world’s smallest country. At 0.44km², it beats all the other recognized states in the world. With the nearest competitor Monaco trailing at 2km²… This is the first of our series on micro and small European states as we Segway from the US for a while. We will continue with 4 others that we have touched in the weeks to come.

This is about survival. Its an interesting thing even to this day that international politics still pit small nations at the mercy of large ones. The sovereign equality of all states as equal partners despite size. Hmm… will that work? Our little red dot is perhaps an example of how that can be. But there are also different operating principles elsewhere that works too. Such as in Europe. Perhaps some of the examples that we cite in the coming posts like this one might prompt you to think about it.

For the Vatican was not always this tiny. In fact it was the centre of the Papal states in medieval times. A political power as well back in the day. Today it does not exert hegemony over territory, but instead hold leadership of the world’s Catholic faithful. And by agreement with the Italian government it has remained independent and conducts its own foreign relations (as the Holy See). Obviously this relationship is more complex to be described here but it works!

Yes it is encapsulated within Rome. And it should have been part of the Italian handprint story series. But that will have to wait. We want to show all the micro states of Europe that we’ve touched first! Read all about our little story on the Vatican here.

Yes we know that there are actually quite a few other micro states in Europe and we will also skipped Monaco, but that’s because we’ve not touched it yet. Someday we will.

A theme park paradise

You might recall we wrote about new theme parks opening (here). Well this one’s not about more of them but the place where quite a few are already operating. Yeah, we are referring to the city of Orlando Florida, where adults can become children again. Or young adults can try to pass off as children… heheh.

Again you will realize that this is a reminisce. Because we have since “graduated” from taking roller coaster rides to cruise rides… heheh. But that is not to say we cannot and do not. Just a preference thing as we gracefully age. One thing was for sure, that is the number of rides in the integrated park (it has grown even more now) will take you literally a week to complete. Of course fast pass would help and back then it was free. Really. We do not jest.

How would you like to be part of the electoral process in the Magic Kingdom? Yup. There was a contest between Winnie the Pooh and Captain Hook. Huh? Both were gunning for the office of Main Street Mayor. Whoever won this prestigious role would mean the difference between visitors being treated sweetly (with honey if he can ever find it) or being rounded up as galley slaves! Aaargh!

However there are no electoral colleges in this case and it’s all by popular vote count. Heheh… And did you think you guessed correctly who won? Did you really thought the honey seeking bear would win against a suave marketeer pirate?

Read all about it here!

Under the Board Walk

Ok not literally. Because it depends. Sometimes it is the sea underneath, other times the sandy ground. So unless one is a tunnelling rodent, it isn’t easy to walk under the board walk. Except in some places of course where you can see on instagram.

This post is a reminisce that harks back to the late 1990s when we first made the journey to the US as a couple.

Like its peer Las Vegas, Atlantic city thrived on gaming revenues. But that was in the 1990s and perhaps early 2000s. Unlike its peer though the city did not manage to keep up its attraction to gamers as competing venues sprung up. The advent of the great recession did not but further help fuel its decline in this “industry”.

Our handprint story here is a short one.

See how grainy the feature picture is? Well that is to demonstrate that back in the day we did not have a lot of easily available information as it is now with the web. How’s that relevant you ask? Well, for one it meant that because of the limited time we had, we did not do a lot besides walking the famed board walks.

Have you been to Atlantic city lately?

The great northern journey

Finally. We’ve made it. Yep we are finally on terra firma of the most northerly state of the US. It had been a week at sea and we were so excited to finally get to the frontier state. And we started off with a flight further northwards to the city of Fairbanks.

Was it fair?

Well yes! Because we had wonderful weather, though for folks such as we the temperatures were still a wee on the low side. So you will see us still in coats and sweater though the weather appears to be sunny or downright blazing hot. Yeah, photos can be deceiving aren’t they? Plus the frivolous change of weather within the space of minutes an hour can literally leave you frozen stiff.


This journey was fantastic as it was short – just 5 days. But it was definitely well spent. Particularly on the food. Because we had more than our quota of the delightful Alaskan King Crabs throughout the journey. Sick or not (yeah Suan was down a little on day 1 & 2), we weren’t going to deprive our gut of the delish delicacy. To the point that our tour mates were literally amazed, or perhaps aghast…

Heheh. It was not all food of course. And from more native American cultural appreciation, experiencing an earthquake, to wild life sightings, we did it all again. In our essay here, we asked if Alaska is the last frontier. We hope you had an opportunity to read it.

What do you think? Is it the last vestiges of a wild north?