Now that am back home in Canada, I will admit that I want to finish all my blog posts related to my nearly eight months journey, and move on with planning my upcoming road trip (and doing my taxes!). So here is a very short post about the last country I visited, tiny San Marino. San Marino bills itself as the oldest republic in the World. I am not so sure what the Athenians would say about that, but if they mean “oldest republic still existing in its same form”, than I guess they are correct. The country was founded in 301, by a Christian stonecutter fleeing persecution from Emperor Diocletian.
Most of the country comprises little industrial towns which apparently have very little interest for tourists. I bought that and did not check myself. The capital, also called City of San Marino, is an ancient fortified city known for its three towers, incorporated in the country coat of arms. This is the first tower, built around 1320. If you imagine yourself as an attacker with 14th Century technology, you can see why taking it would not be so easy.
Tower 2, built around 1253 would not be much easier.
When you climb on the towers and look down, you understand that the enemy would have a hard time catching the defenders by surprise.
And if you look at the size of the cars in the lower left of this picture, you see that the place’s natural geography is most certainly in the defender’s advantage.
If you look at the stone balconies, you can see many arches supporting them. Between each arch, there is a small hole in the floor. This allows the defenders to see straight down the face of the walls, without exposing themselves, and shoot arrows, darts, rocks, burning oil, and whatever else strikes their fancy.
There is also a third tower, but for some reason – likely safety – it cannot be visited.
The cathedral, which looks more like a courthouse to me, where photography is not permitted.
Apart from the towers and a few small museums, as far as I know that’s pretty much all there is to see. But, for some reason, tourists come by the busloads. Especially Russian tourists, for some strange reason. When the bus drove across the border, an informative message / advertisement for a tour was played in Italian. Once it was over, it ran again, in Russian! It must be word of mouth, but for me it just means that even though I have never been to Russia, I now feel like I have. By the way, although they probably had something in Italian and English inside, outside Russian was the only language displayed on that restaurant’s menus!
That’s the problem with extremely touristic places; there is a point where the success of tourism displaces the real country. There is nothing wrong with tourist restaurants – not everyone wants to eat caterpillars in Zambia like me – but it becomes boring when there is no other kind of restaurant to be found. No hardware store, no pool hall, just stores selling stuff to people visiting for a short time. It just makes me feel like I missed out on the country altogether. Maybe I should have gone to the small towns, but I was told that for the uninitiated, non-Italian speaking visitor, they would be hard to tell apart from any small town in neighbouring Italy.
Strangely, ninja stores are very popular. I promise I am not joking, this is not an oddity, I must have seen 10 of them. Come to think of it, that looks like the kind of things the Russians would buy after having a few drinks.
I just got myself tons of these beauties, for myself, my family and all my friends.
That’s it! My quickest blog post about the country I spent the least time in anywhere in the world. Perhaps I missed something, but my advice is that it’s a cool place to check out, but a day is more than enough.