We looked a while ago at some of the world’s largely unknown countries, such as Vanuatu and Tokealua. Well, as strange as it may seem, there are yet more countries out there which you probably haven’t heard of either.
I have to confess that I once lived a few hundred miles away from here without knowing anything about its existence. It has been called the smallest nation in the world and it is really an artificial fortress island the British built during WWII. The current occupiers claim that it is an independent state, though. It was once the home to a “pirate” radio station and these days it lies within UK waters. The Bates family own it and one of them even ended up in court for firing warning shot to a British vessel which approached Sealand. It is unlikely to be the scene of a gigantic battle for independence any time soon, as no more than 5 people are thought to live here at any one time.
As you look at the map of South America your eye is automatically drawn to giant countries like Argentina and Brazil, as well as the seductively slender slither of Chile along the coast. However, what is this cluster of little known or completely unknown countries in the Northeastern corner? Suriname is bordered by the equally neglected Guyana and French Guiana. This country has a population of more than half a million and has been run by both the English and the Dutch. It is now a unique mixture of Indian, African, Chinese and Javanese cultures. Suriname was only granted full independence in 1975 and Dutch is still the official language. If you have ever heard anything about this country then it is probably because of the rich heritage of Dutch international footballers such as Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf who can trace their family back to here.
This independent state is recognised by a few countries such as Russia, Venezuela and, rather bizarrely, Vanuatu, which is one of the other unknown countries we have looked at in the past and which is a world away from this Black Sea country. Other people – most of the world, really – still say that it is part of Georgia.
We need to head over to the North Pacific Ocean for our next almost but not quite unknown country. It is called Palau and it is, quite frankly, a series of tiny islands. It is famous (or as famous as a little known country can be) for sharks, beaches and clear waters. If you have ever seen this place I am willing to bet it was on the Survivor TV series.
This is the 3rd smallest country in the world and it sits entirely inside Italy. It covers an area of 24 square miles and its constitution dates back to 1600. You can get to the centre of the city by cable car although there are no train stations or airports in San Marino. Most tourists visit on a day trip from nearby Rimini. The population is measured in tens of thousands and it was supposedly founded by a stonecutter fleeing from religious persecution.
Bhutan is a fascinating little Himalayan country which was effectively closed off to foreigners for centuries and which only fairly recently entered the modern age in terms of things like television and internet connection. It is a hugely expensive place to visit but the ancient Buddhist culture and welcoming locals are said to make it an unforgettable if weird tourist destination.
Being the world’s first Wi-Fi nation is quite an achievement. Doing it in a country of 100 square miles and a population of 1,400 takes a tiny bit of the shine off it but, hey, free Wi-Fi in the South Pacific Ocean isn’t to be sniffed at.