There are journeys that become real and palpable even before leaving.
Journeys that exist prematurely in our minds , which we ourselves have modeled with projects, desires, researches, intuitions. And when they actually start, we experience them with such intensity that they are present in every single minute, enjoying them in depth. We are already writing its history, in real time.
On the other hand, there is a second category: that of journeys with less defined, abstract outlines, which remain as if suspended in limbo . And they become concrete only after some time, after we have told them or put them in black and white.
Perhaps, this happens because we don’t want them so much, or we want them to the point that we can’t grasp them. Or maybe, we don’t know how to geolocate them well, we can’t trace their borders on the map. Maybe because unexpected, who knows.
With Andorra la Vella , that’s exactly what happened to me. I couldn’t get over me having been there, having strolled among her shops, having admired the last aftermath of snow on the profiles of the Pyrenees from one of her cafes.
I had never been interested in her, nor had I ever wanted to visit her, I admit.
Simply, I found myself on a bus departing from Barcelona , which would have advanced to the north of Catalunya and would have dropped me right here, among the Pyrenean hills.
I did not have any guide with me, I had not inquired about anything before leaving; it was just me and my curiosity, that day in early May, in Andorra .
CURIOSITY ABOUT ANDORRA LA VELLA
It took a year before I fully and consciously realized that I have been to Andorra la Vella. For the reasons I have assumed above, the experience in this strange city did not particularly mark me, and it was slowly fading into oblivion.
In these days, however, my mind has unexpectedly returned to those moments, and so I leafed through my travel notebook and my photos, and I fished out some of those precious moments from oblivion.
Although I did not like Andorra very much, I still believe it is important to point out some of its main characteristics, if only for knowledge and to realize that yes, in this corner of the world I have been there for real.
So here are 10 strange curiosities about Andorra la Vella !
1. WE ARE IN THE HIGHEST CAPITAL OF EUROPE
Yes, located at about 1023 meters above sea level, the most important city of the Principality of Andorra is confirmed as the highest capital of the European continent.
Among other things, Andorra la Vella is also nicknamed Capitals dels Pireneus , due to its enviable position in the middle of the Pyrenean mountains.
It goes without saying that in winter, Andorra la Vella turns into a renowned ski resort , where you can enjoy the most varied experiences!
Here are some ideas:
- a suggestive snowshoe hike in the Pyrenees to Grandvalira ;
- a fun dog sled ride in Grandvalira ;
- the construction of a super igloo ;
- a nice snowmobile ride !
2. IT IS THE MAIN CITY OF ONE OF THE 6 EUROPEAN MICROSTATES
The Pyrenees mountain range marks the border between France and Spain, and in the heart of the Pyrenees is one of the six micro-states of Europe: the Principality of Andorra .
Together with the Vatican City, Malta, Liechtenstein, the Republic of San Marino and the Principality of Monaco, this small nation cannot fail to attract the attention and curiosity of the traveler. Its surface of 468 km² is less extensive than the municipality of Rome , and the number of its inhabitants does not come to equal those of the town of Perugia.
The principality of Andorra has no outlets to the sea, and plays the important role of “decompressor” in the socio-economic dynamics between the two giant states that surround it. Precisely because of its position perched in the mountains , Andorra has remained on the sidelines of the main course of European history even if, in recent times, the flourishing tourism industry combined with the development of transport and communications have put an end to its isolation.
Since 1993, the year of the approval of the democratic constitution, the principality has become a component of the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
3. TWO RIVERS UNITE IN ITS CENTER
If you stroll through Andorra la Vella, you will cross at least a couple of bridges, and you will remain for a moment to philosophize in front of the impetuous roar of the river below you.
These rebellious waters belong to two different mountain streams, the Valira del Norte and the Valira del Oriente , which right here in the city come together and flow into a single river, imaginatively called the Gran Valira .
SPECIAL TIP – Did you know that Andorra is home to an immense spa that is considered one of the best in the world ? I can not help but recommend a nice moment of relaxation in this special Spa !
4. ALTHOUGH IT IS A EUROPEAN CAPITAL, IT HAS NO AIRPORT
Not even its own railway station! It really sounds like a joke but it is. If we want to reach Andorra la Vella by plane, we must necessarily choose one of the closest airports, all at least 150 km away.
The closest is Perpignan , France, (156km), followed by the Spanish one of Lleida (160km). Then we find two other airports, the most important and international, which are that of Toulouse (165 km) and that of Barcelona (215 km).
5. PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE TIME OF CHARLES THE GREAT
“The great Charlemagne, my father freed me from the Saracens
And from heaven he gave me the life of Meritxell, the great Mother.
Princess I was born and Virgo, neutral between two nations.
I remain the only daughter of the Carolingian Empire “
recites the official anthem of Andorra. And already in these words we find an interesting link with the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the eighth century, in fact, Charlemagne used the territory on which Andorra la Vella stands today as Marca Spagnola . He created, in a nutshell, the southwestern frontier of his empire, exploiting the natural barrier of the Pyrenees to stop the advance of the Arabs, who had already conquered the Iberian Peninsula.
To date, the principality of Andorra is the only surviving country among the buffer states created ad hoc by the emperor.
6. IT IS A PRESTIGIOUS TECHNOLOGICAL POLE
Thanks to its geographical location, Andorra has always performed the function of nation-customs : a place of trade and trade between Spain and France, a sort of free port hidden in the Pyrenees mountains for any type of activity, lawful or otherwise. .
After getting a bit in line, Andorra has veered towards the sphere of technology and is emerging strongly especially in the IT sector . Suffice it to say that, to date, it is the only country in the world to have full coverage of telephone communications over optical fiber, and is becoming the privileged hub for the most varied IT activities at an international level.
However, the absence of careful controls and adequate regulation are returning Andorra la Vella and the entire principality to the status of a free port, this time for illegitimate IT operations. Ouch ouch!
7. ESCAPES THE LAWS OF THE TIME
I can’t say that I liked Andorra la Vella much, honestly. I had very high expectations, but I was a little disappointed when I found myself there in person.
However, one thing in particular struck me positively about her: her ability to skillfully and nonchalantly cross ancient and modern, history and future .
Low stone houses that are reflected in the glass of highly technological buildings.
Old shops and antique shops on the edge of the most modern shopping centers (which, unfortunately for me who hate them, seem to have become the main attraction of the capital of the Pyrenees).
A medieval structure which, however, is at the forefront of the tourism, finance and technology sectors.
In short, a place full of contrasts and dichotomies , which if not immediately striking for its beauty, at least intrigues.
8. GUARANTEES A SCULPTURE BY SALVADOR DALÌ
In Plaça de la Rotonda , near the bridge that Via Meritxell creates over the Valira river, there is a peculiar sculpture whose style is immediately recognizable. Yes, it is precisely the Noblesse du temps of that genius of Salvador Dalì.
Made by the Catalan artist between 1977 and 1984, the work measures 1.70 x 4.90 meters in height, and 2.60 meters in depth and length. A gigantic bronze clock seems to melt leaning against a tree trunk; on its top it bears a crown, which symbolizes the supremacy of time over humanity .
La Noblesse du temps is part of a collection of works by Dalì that deal precisely with the concept of the passage of time, and has been here, in Andorra la Vella, since 2010.
9. IT IS A MULTILINGUAL CITY
Although small (its surface is 30 km²), Andorra la Vella is a veritable linguistic and cultural heritage of humanity , a precious guardian of different linguistic strains.
Walking through its streets, you immediately notice this multilingual situation : you hear Catalan everywhere , the official language of the city spoken by 33% of the population, but you also come across the typical accent of the French language , typical of 7% of the its inhabitants.
It goes without saying that everyone understands and interacts in Spanish (even if they first try to talk to you in the other two languages mentioned above) and even 11% of the population chews Portuguese perfectly .
For a former student of foreign languages and literature, this thing of being in a microcosm of different linguistic codes is truly exhilarating!
10. ITS NAME CROSSES A ROMANCE LANGUAGE AND A PROTO-EURASIAN LANGUAGE
Let’s analyze the toponym of the city: Andorra derives from two words proper to the Basque substratum , ama (ten) and iturri (springs), and refers to the ten streams that flow into the Valira, the aforementioned river that crosses the city.
The term Vella , on the other hand, comes from the Catalan language and would be a modification of the original toponym vela , which means city. Over the centuries, a sail has incorporated a le has been transformed into a vella , which means old.
So, in Italian, we can call it Andorra la Vecchia