A Few Hours in the Principatu de Múnegu

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Europe » Monaco
July 11th 2011
Published: July 12th 2011
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Blink and you’ll miss it.

The micro-micro state that is the Principatu de Múnegu – or, for those not familiar with the Monégasque tongue, the Principality of Monaco – almost makes little Liechtenstein seem gargatuan. While it has a similar population to Liechtenstein (Monaco has about 36,000 inhabitants, though actually Monégasques are a minority at less than 8000), Monaco is a miniscule 1.98 sq. km. (or .76 sq. mi.)* – meaning you could fit around 80 Monacos inside of the other principality! Not only is it tiny, it is rather vertical. Much of that approximately 2 sq. km. seems to be composed of a cascade of rocky cliffs. There are even public elevators to get from one level to the next, like trains and subways in countries tending more to the horizontal. It is hard to believe that this place exists at all, let alone as a sovereign – and extremely wealthy – state.

While I think my friends in France found it somewhat odd, or at least amusing, that I wanted to take a peek at Monaco, they indulged me. And being so close, how could I not go?

It was actually a rather interesting time to make a foray to this speck of a principality, as the country is still reveling in the recent marriage of the current ruler, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of the House of Grimaldi, to a South African former Olympic swimmer, Charlene Wittstock. While apparently no fairytale wedding for the new princess – rumors were abounding before the wedding that she wanted to flee to her homeland after finding out about another possible illegitimate child fathered by Albert (he already has two); also, it can’t have been easy to deal with the constant comparisons to Grace Kelley – the citizens of Monaco had to have been relieved to finally see their playboy prince finally settle down. The Grimaldi family has been ruling Monaco since the 13th century – and the Monagasques were getting nervous not have a legitimate heir to the throne!

The paraphernalia of the wedding was everywhere. There was even a display of the wedding garments at, of all places, the Institut Océanographique de Monaco (I always think “wedding” when I see fish swimming in aquariums….). The flags of both Monaco and much larger South Africa fluttered from street lamps and private balconies; they were even recreated in flowerbeds in front of a little church we stumbled on. Wedding blessings were printed in English, French, and the local dialect (related to Ligurian Italian) and posted on walls. Since I was not invited – clearly a major oversight by the Grimaldis – walking around the city-state and touring the palace gave me a flavor of the big day.
I am starting to really get into this tour of the mini-states of Europe. What shall I see next? The Vatican City?...

*Thus Monaco has the distinction of being the most densely populated country in the world!

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