Book Review: Cultures Of The World: Andorra

Cultures Of The World:  Andorra, by Byron D. Augustin

Since childhood, when I first found out about this small and odd nation in the Pyrenees Mountains, I have been interested in the nation of Andorra [1].  There are a lot of odd and delightful facts about this nation that are present in this book, and most of which would be quite interesting not only for the intended audience of fairly young readers engaged in some kind of world cultures class, but also for adult readers who (like me) happen upon the book while they are looking for reading about obscure countries around the world.  Reading this book, quite honestly, made me even more interested in traveling through the country, even if it appears as though Andorra is in danger of being overrun by tourists, and while that may be the aim of a book like this, one wonders if the people of Andorra (few of whom read this blog, alas), want more quirky tourists like myself or if they are quite content with the attention they have for their historical sites, intriguing history, and gorgeous locales.  I suppose one day I may have to see for myself.

This book is a short one at less than 150 pages, and it is organized to give information more than it is to provide some kind of in-depth commentary, even though the author makes plenty of comments that reveal quite a lot about Andorra and its quirkiness and some of its contemporary struggles.  The author begins with an introduction and then quickly moves on to chapters about the geography, history, government, economy, environment, people, lifestyle, religion, language, arts, leisure, festivals, and food of the country.  And in all of these areas there are interesting aspects to the country.  The author also provides a map of the country, some notes about the economy and culture of the nation, as well as a timeline, glossary, bibliography, index, and some works for further information.  Among the more interesting aspects of the country that the author reveals is its popularity for tourists seeking low prices, its stringent requirements for citizenship and permanent residency, its air pollution struggles and the decline of agrarian life, and the fondness of the country for skiing and rugby.  Likewise, the author spends some time talking about Romanesque churches, the myths of Charlemagne, and the importance of Catalan to the culture and public picture of the nation abroad.

Being a quirky person myself with at least some degree of fondness for Catalan culture, even if I do not know its language, there was much to enjoy here.  Andorra appears to be a mix of historic buildings that are somewhat modest but attractively built out of the local rock and elegant modern construction built to handle the sudden population gains of the twentieth century.  If Andorra appears to be an expensive place to live, it appears to have a history of hospitality and a legal system that is well-prepared to protect the glories of creation within its mountainous territory even as it has successfully guided being between the massive kingdoms of Spain and France far better than most small states have managed to do.  The extent to which Andorran cultural pride has inspired its Catalan neighbors to the south and east is unsure, and the author is quick to concede that there was not much history written about Andorra until very recently, but all the same, there is much to appreciate in the knowledge of the region.  How common such knowledge of Andorra is is rather difficult to say, since it appears to be best-known by those in the neighboring regions of France and especially Spain, as well as Portugal.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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