Our epic 9-country road trip designed to hit all 5 European microstates came to an end on Sunday. Despite some initial trepidation, it turned out to be fantastic!
This was one of our best trips, in fact, despite encountering this choice little nugget on 2 of the tiny 5 from a Cadogan guide book that we used several years ago on a previous trip:
“It’s a sleazy little paradise, [Microstate X]. . . Today, the [inhabitants] have found a way to exploit every single possibility open to a grasping, sweaty-palmed pipsqueak principality. They’ve turned their lovely corner of the [region] into a single, garish supermarket. It’s a worthy competitor for Europe’s other Ruritanian craphole, [Microstate Y], which, if you’ve never been, is the first country in the world to be entirely paved over with factory outlet car parks.”
Yow! We’ll reveal which of the pipsqueak nations the Cadogan guide was referencing in subsequent posts, but we were infatuated with the tiny countries and undeterred! We persisted and planned and executed a pretty ambitious itinerary to hit all 5 microstates in a single trip.
Information on continental Europe’s 5 tiniest nations – and the characteristics that define a microstate – was previously posted here. A repost of the map with the location of each is below:
The trip was great adventure, overall – both based on the tiny countries and some of the outstanding start, stop, or stopover locations in Italy, Switzerland, France, and Spain that we included in the trip to keep driving distances practical. Our experiences in the five microstates spanned the spectrum:
- Two exceeded our fairly modest expectations (biased in part by the pithy and brutal opinion proffered by the Cadogan guide) and we really enjoyed our visit to both
- One was precisely as expected
- Two were definitely not as awesome as we thought they would be – one was simply not as magnificent as we had envisioned, while the other turned out to be every bit just an outrageously expensive Disney world
These reactions will be assigned to the appropriate country in future posts, but some highlights of the tiny five are below, presented in the order in which we encountered the little buggers.
No. 1 of 5: The State of Vatican City:
No. 2 of 5 – The Most Serene Republic of San Marino:
No. 3 of 5 and location for the Big 5-0 milestone – the Principality of Liechtenstein:
4 of 5 – Principality of Monaco:
And finally, No. 5 of 5 and the microstate that started it all – the Principality of Andorra:
Before we left the US, we were a little concerned that the trip could turn out to be an arduous box-checking exercise involving too much driving and not enough time to enjoy each destination, based on the itinerary we designed:
- Take a redeye to Rome
- Day 1: Vatican City (1 of 5 . . .)
- Day 2: Drive to San Marino (2 of 5 . . .)
- Day 3: Drive to Bergamo, Italy
- Day 4: Drive to Liechtenstein (3 of 5 . . .)
- Day 5: Drive to Lake Lugano, Switzerland
- Day 6: Drive to Monaco (4 of 5 . . .)
- Day 7: Drive to Carcassonne, France
- Day 8: Drive to Andorra (5 of 5!)
- Day 9: Drive to Barcelona
- Day 10: Fly back
Instead, our daily cadence ended up providing a good balance – we’d drive for a few hours each morning in our rockin’ diesel Skoda family truckster . . .
. . . then arrive at our destination in the early afternoon to explore things, typically log some downtime in the evening at the hotel pool, then grab dinner.
Although the trip focused on the microstates, some of the stopovers proved to be just as rewarding, including staying in a hotel that overlooked Lake Lugano in Switzerland on August 1, without realizing beforehand that this was the Swiss National Holiday – spectacular!
We’ll post highlights of each of the five micronations plus the very cool stopover locations during the next few weeks.
Oh, and the book read as we started the trip?