San Marino, the world’s fifth-smallest state, claims to be the world’s oldest surviving republic. According to tradition, San Marino was founded in 301 AD. San Marino now is the only surviving Italian microstate. Like Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco, it’s a reminder of the times when Europe — particularly Germany, Italy and the Pyrenees — was made up of tiny political units, sometimes extending no further than a cannon could fire from a city’s walls. Along with Vatican City and Lesotho it is one of the three states surrounded by a single other country. San Marino asserts its independence and various treaties of friendship have been signed with Italy since the latter’s unification.
I visited San Marino on a short trip that took me from Pisa via Bologna and Tuscany and on the way back I visited Florence. There was a hostel in San Marino that looked quite ok on the photos, that I had booked beforehand. It turned out it had a great view from halfway up the mountain, where the old city has their impressive castle built on. Arriving late in the evening I entered through a bar and then got sent through the back, where a big steel door granted me access to a dark staircase that went up to the hostel.
Although I liked my time walking around San Marino and the amazing views, I mostly remember the 2 people I encountered in the hostel, that were the only – and also most unlikely – people in my dorm room.
One was a girl named Yuki, from Japan, a 20-ish year old with typical schoolgirl looks. Terrible at English, but totally not shy about it. Not comprehending every second sentence, for example I saw her explaining at the front desk in 7 different ways that she need a hair dryer, but still chatting away with me too until I grew a bit tired of trying to explain what I was saying. Luckily she went to bed very early… She got up really early too, 5 am it must have been as she disappeared into the dark, supposedly on her way to Poland for some reason.
My other roommate was Oleg. A 55-year old Russian ex military guy. Extreme traveller, avid swimmer, typical tough Russian storyteller. He talked to me part of the late evening and in the morning. He showed me his passport, filled with stamps, telling me about Chinese trips, border checks in Belarus and his love for finding exotic records. And if I ever go to Moscow he will host me he promises…
It’s these fun(ny) meetings that make trips like this extra valuable to me. So many countries, so many different people. It’s a special place, this world… Anyways, I only have 21 Capitals left on my list!