The 10 smallest countries in the world

The world’s ten smallest countries in terms of area fall into two general categories: European microstates (Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican) and small island nations of the Indian Ocean, Pacific, and Caribbean (Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tuvalu.) Some of these countries are quite new as independent nations: Tuvalu gained independence from the UK in 1978, while the Marshall Islands gained full independence from the US in 1986. Others have been around for a very long time. San Marino dates its founding as a republic to 301. These countries vary greatly from one another along other axes as well: population, income, life expectancy, industry, tourist facilities, and membership in various international organizations.


[Image of Tuvalu: Flickr | leighblackall]

Flags without countries

Do you recognize this flag? Neither did I. It’s the flag of Lapland. Lapland isn’t a country, but a region in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia where the Sámi (Lapps) live. Only Norway recognizes this flag, and it’s flown throughout the country on February 6 to celebrate Sámi National Day.

I discovered this flag in Aberystwyth, Wales, of all places, while walking along the seaside promenade. It was flying proudly in the stiff breeze and caught my attention because I’d never seen it before. Then I noticed a whole line of flags I’d never seen before. A sign explained that because the Welsh so rarely see their flag flying in foreign countries, they decided to fly the flags of various European regions that are seeking autonomy or independence. The display of flags without countries was an interesting lesson in European politics and history. Several are shown in the gallery.

%Gallery-129478%Europe is a patchwork of different languages and cultural groups. Many are subsumed into greater national entities and this causes friction. One of the deepest divides in Europe is between is in Belgium, where Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south may very well become two different countries. Luckily this debate has been nonviolent, although not always civil.

Many regions are looking for greater linguistic recognition. France’s strict one-language policy has raised the ire of groups that speak other languages, such as the people of Britanny and Alsace. Some linguistic regions, like Occitania, run across more than one country, further complicating any attempt at greater recognition.

Some independence movements are small, like that in Sardinia, while other are marred by a radical extreme that has undermined the legitimacy of the general movement, like in Corsica and the Basque region.

While none of the flags shown here represent actual nations, they do reflect the feelings of vibrant cultures that enrich Europe. Many of the people who fly these flags probably realize they won’t ever see true independence, and some may not even want it. They fly these flags to show the world who they are. And you never know, when the monument was set up in Aberystwyth, it included the flags of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and they’re real nations now!

If you’re interested in flags, check out the amazing Flags of the World website for lots more.

A day in Naples, Italy

Naples, Italy is the place to be if you want to see the ruins of Pompeii, one of the best examples of a Roman town. It’s the fourth stop on our tour of the Mediterranean where we see 8 different places in 9 days, each for just one day. Of all the places we would visit, delivered by Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Magic, this was one I actually knew something about and visiting would complete a dream that started in eight grade.

Pompeii is possibly the most famous excavation in the world, drawing 15,000 people every day, almost as many as lived there before the horrifying eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It was a topic covered long and hard in my 8th grade Social Studies class teacher, Mr. Hoobing, years ago to the point that it had a permanent place on any bucket list I might have floating around someplace.

The drill in 8th grade was to hand-draw exact replicas of famous archaeological sites as a method of reinforcing information about them…or so I figured out years later. The point was well-taken though; these sites had huge historical significance and told of a time long ago that while vastly different as far as technology goes, was fueled by some of the very same human emotions that rule today.

The 45-minute bus ride from Carnival Miracle through Naples and on to Pompeii came with a running commentary by a tour guide who got most of the facts right. Never mind that he erred 100 years either side of when the big event occurred from time to time; his conclusions were accurate: the site offers a rare glimpse into what Roman life was like back then.


If you are an armchair fan of archeology, this place takes you back to a time when prostitution was legal, rich citizens ruled and perhaps gave insight to the fall of the Roman empire and all it stood for. If you are not a fan, this is not the place to visit but if you’re in the area anyway, you probably should. There is a lot to be learned here about life long ago that can have some answers to the world of today. Maybe. If you want it to. If you go to Pompeii and find yourself thinking “Oh great, more old stuff”, you are in the wrong place.

Naples offers a bunch of great cafes, shops, and other sites to see as well as some of the best Italian food in the world. It would be a shame to be in the area and miss this one. Off a cruise ship there are a bunch of excursions one can take. Count on them all to be crowded/clogged with people. After hundreds of years, these attractions are still a huge draw to travelers from all over the world.

I think Mr Hoobing would be happy I went. I’m happy I paid attention in 8th grade.

Photos: Lisa Owen

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Dubrovnik in a day

We had just a few hours in Dubrovnik, Croatia and wanted to make the best of it. Arriving via cruise ship, time was limited. This was the first port of call on a 9-night Mediterranean cruise which looked to be a good sampling of the area. The plan is to hit each destination hard, see some highlights and capture enough information to decide if a return trip might be in the cards for future travel. It made sense, sampling these places we had never been to before, but right off the bat we had a problem: we fell in love with Dubrovnik.

What we call our “sampling of the Med” tour started in Venice, Italy and will end nine days later in Barcelona. In between we will also visit Sicily, Naples, Rome and Livorno, Italy as well as a stop in Monaco. That makes eight destinations in nine days. To prepare for Dubrovnik we started with a Google search for Dubrovnik and gathered background information. was helpful as well as a host of other websites for the basic information we would need for entry requirements, infrastructure in place, etc. As far as what to do and see, we relied on a number of sources including Gadling and AOLTravel for specific recommendations.

The cruise ship we came on was the Carnival Magic (#CarnivalMagic), a new one on her inaugural voyage and staff there had some recommendations as well. The day before we were delivered to Dubrovnik, Carnival Magic’s cruise director gave a complete briefing on what to expect, see and do ashore. The ship offered shore excursions, packaged tours for a set price, but we wanted to try what we have done in other parts of the world here, go it on our own. Our normal plan when visiting a new destination is to first come prepared with a good working knowledge of what to expect, set some goals for what we want to see then make final choices on the ground in sync with what is happening there right now. In other words, our plans are rarely set in stone and offer a great amount of flexibility.

Approaching travel that does not have a specific date-sensitive event included with a good dose of flexibility has made for some fabulous travel adventures in the past. Still, our visit to Dubrovnik had an expiration date so efficient time management was important.

Money management here was easy. Currency in Dubrovnik is the Kuna which is about a five to one value to the US dollar. Euros are also accepted and some merchants take dollars as well. Unlike other ports we will call on for this journey, Croatia’s entry requirements for cruise travelers call for a valid passport to be presented before entry is granted. On other ports, cruise travelers can leave passports securely behind on the ship and be granted entry with only their ship identification card.

It was a cloudy day with rain off and on all morning. By mid-morning the rain slowed but naggy clouds looked like they would be staying around for a while. Armed with rain gear we chose to take a short (2.5km) hike to what is called the “Old City” (aka Stari Grad), a walled fortress that looks somewhat similar to El Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico from a distance. Good public transportation runs all day and we could have taken a bus for a few bucks but would have missed out on some fabulous scenery. Dubrovnik was heavily bombed during the Croatian War of Independence from 1991 to 1995 and has some battle scars to prove it. Still, the people are warm and friendly in a real “I hope you come back again” way rather than a “we’re putting up with you” kind of way.

Stopping at a bar along the way as well as pausing about every 10 meters to take photos, that short hike took a bit less than an hour, leaving plenty of time for lunch and exploring the walled city. It did not take long to fall in love with this city and it’s people, a helpful and friendly bunch that did not mind answering questions or giving directions and suggestions on what to see.

Our waiter, Eliah, at the Sesame Restaurant just outside the gated city, told us English was a second language to many in Dubrovnik who chose it with dreams of visiting some day. He wants to be a Crime Scene Investigator and studied to be one in college. One problem with his plan is that there is very little crime in Croatia, especially in Dubrovnik, so not all that many of those jobs exist. But when he talked about visiting the United States for a possible job sometime in the future, Elijah’s face took on a dream-like look that I will probably always remember.

To Elijah we were not the Ugly Americans off the cruise ship, we were friends being served in his home. That warm and open demeanor of his would be experienced several times that day from others we would come in contact with too.

I mention this particular part of our hike for just one reason; because it accomplished one of the major goals we have for every place we visit: to make a friend. We have done packaged tours and shore excursions before and will later on this journey. Those are safe, guided ways to see a lot of things in a short amount of time. But we like to take our time and get to know the land we are visiting. A day in old town accomplished this very nicely.

Photos: Lisa Owen

Also see these related posts on Gadling

Chris is being sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines on a Nine-night Mediterranean cruise and is free to report anything he experiences on the journey without bias

Need more royal wedding buzz? Visit Monaco.

Come April 30, legions of devoted Royal Wedding Watchers will suffer the disease known as RWW, or Royal Wedding Withdrawal*.

Never fear, RWW sufferers – help has arrived, in the form of one of the world’s richest countries, Monaco. On July 1 2011, the principality will celebrate the nuptials of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II and elegant South African Olympic swimmer Miss Charlene Wittstock. Okay, so it’s not *quite* the same. He’s the son of Grace Kelley and Prince Rainier III, but the once devoted bachelor prince is in his 50s and has two illegitmate children, neither of whom can inherit the title as per Monaco’s inheritance laws. At present, Prince Albert’s sister, Princess Caroline, is the heir presumptive to the title.

Still. It’s a ROYAL. WEDDING.

On July 1, 2011, the civil wedding ceremony will take place in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace. Later that evening, a large concert will be offered by the newly-wedded couple at the Port for all residents and visitors. On July 2, 2011, the religious wedding ceremony will take place in the Main Courtyard of the Prince’s Palace.

To be celebrated by Monseigneur Bernard Barsi, Archbishop of Monaco, more than 3,500 invited guests will witness the wedding on giant screens in the vicinity of the Palace and screens will also be set up at prime locations throughout the Principality to enable residents and visitors to watch the proceedings.

The couple will take a special procession route in a Lexus luxury hybrid vehicle, underscoring Prince Albert’s commitment to environmental conservation, to the Church of Sainte Devote where the bride will lay down her bouquet. The official dinner and a gala ball will be held at the Salle Garnier and the Terraces of the Casino later that evening followed by fireworks for all of Monaco to enjoy.

[Flickr via davharuk]Never visited Monaco? Here are a few things to do:

Royal Houses Exhibition at Grimaldi Forum
This summer the Grimaldi Forum will showcase important pieces from four centuries of historic European monarchies with The Magnificence and Grandeur of Royal Houses in Europe exhibition. Open July 11 through September 11, 2011, 600-plus artifacts will provide visitors with a unique glimpse into the imperial homes and lives of Europe’s most powerful and respected leaders and couples.

Musical Legends Headline Sporting Summer Music Festival
This year’s Monte-Carlo Sporting Summer Music Festival, from July 8 through August 27 at Salle des Etoiles, offers, yet again, a list of legendary musicians as key performers. Janet Jackson will open the festival on July 8 and 9, Stevie Wonder will return after his acclaimed performance last year and Sting will perform on July 25.

New National Museum
Monaco’s recently opened Nouveau Musee National de Monaco (NMNM) is located in two venues – the stunning Villa Paloma and Villa Sauber. The newly re-designed venues focus on modern contemporary works of art and will feature two exhibitions annually that will spotlight the cultural, historic and artistic virtues of Monaco.

Spectacular Dining
In addition to the five restaurants that boast a combined eight Michelin stars, fine food connoisseurs will appreciate the Principality’s many new culinary offerings including a transformed Le Vistamar at the Hotel Hermitage, which recently re-opened its doors under the direction of Chef Joel Garault. The Horizon at The Fairmont Monte Carlo has proposed a new menu featuring a “chic and ethical” concept, demonstrating Executive Chef Maryan Gandon’s commitment to sustainable development and the planet. YOSHI at the Metropole Monte-Carlo – Chef Joel Robuchon’s only Japanese inspired eatery – recently received a Michelin star.

Relax and Rejuvenate
Monaco has a distinct advantage: a combination of climate, sunshine and abundant natural resources drawn directly from the Mediterranean Sea. This summer the Monte-Carlo Beach Spa will re-open, highlighting its sleek makeover and unique location, nestled in the pool area overlooking the sea.

Monte-Carlo Casino and Opera House

Among one of the world’s most famous cultural landmarks, the Monte-Carlo Casino and Opera House continues to be a “must-see” attraction in Monaco. Travelers from around the world can try their hand at the Casino’s gaming tables and witness operatic performances in the Salle Garnier, where 45 world premieres have been held and Matisse and Picasso designed sets and costumes in the not-so-distant past.

*This fake disease was made up by the author, whose only claim to medical knowledge is that her father is a doctor.