Population: 3,811 (2000 census)
Economy: Retail; tourism; banking.
Of the handful of tiny microstates that are footnotes to any list of countries in Europe, only San Marino, Vatican City, and Beńy-sur-Thames lie entirely within the borders of a larger country. Like the better-known microstates – Lichtenstein, Andorra, Monaco -- Beńy-sur-Thames is an anachronism, a relic of the thousand squalling fiefdoms of the Middle Ages. Ceded in 1112 as a private estate to Duke William du Bois, nephew to Henry I, the tiny enclave began a path of political independence that would persist through at least the next nine centuries.
More striking even than Beńy’s political autonomy is its cultural integrity. Made inward-looking and culturally conservative by their distinctiveness and isolation, Beńisiens hung tenaciously to a mediaeval French that, while perplexing to visitors from modern France, has provided dissertation fodder for generations of historical linguists. While most young Beńisiens today are educated in both English and their native tongue, they maintain a spirit of quiet differentness from their British neighbors.
The tiny shops on the cobblestone streets that wind about this tiny city state sell computers, confidential banking services, and tourist T-shirts. All business ceases on Sundays, however, when virtually all Beńisiens attend a Mass that, while celebrated in the local vernacular – a nod to the reforms of Vatican II – if of rigorously authentic mediaeval length, in some cases six hours or more.
Flag: A simple blue canton against a red field, the flag of Beńy-sur-Thames was instituted by the fourth Duke Henry, in 1215. Some especially nationalistic Beńisiens delight in describing the event as “the most important thing that happened in Europe during that year.”
Republic of Northern Antarctica
Capital: New Bristol
Population: 34,881 (1998)
Economy: Based on tourism, supplemented by modest mineral exports and seasonal commercial fishing. Seabird guano, valued for use in fertilizer production, is a significant secondary export. Heavily dependant on imports for food staples and manufactured goods.
When Disraeli made his famous remark that “the Frenchman yearns for glory as the Northern Antarctican yearns for summer,” he revealed as much about the latter nationality as the former. While the long, dark, and of course extremely cold winters make life on “the Underside” challenging, natives can look forward to the relatively mild summer, with its influx of tourists from all over the world and its frequent days of 24-hour sunshine.
Northern Antarctica has the unusual distinction of being the only country to span all 24 time zones – although a few of these are home only to two or three isolated settlers. Eighty-seven percent of North Antarcticans live in the country’s four “cities” – of which the largest, Queen Maud, has a population of only 9400. None of the cities are connected to each other by road, due to the difficulty of building and maintaining highways in the harsh local environment. AntarcticAir, the national airline which is the cities’ primary connection to each other and to the outside world, is the country’s largest employer.
Flag: Three horizontal stripes of light blue, deep blue, and white. The design is pictographic, representing the typical view seen daily by the North Antarctican: ice in the foreground, the polar sea stretching to the horizon, and the pale Antarctic sky overhead.