It’s pretty much agreed between Jeopardy! contestants in-training and Snapple cap trivia writers around the world that the only acceptable answer to the question “What is the smallest officially recognized country in the world?” is Vatican City. And while yes, that is true — it’s mainly due to the use of the words officially recognized. Once you take out the idea of an authority giving its approval, along with opening up diplomatic relations, than you expand the answer to include the host of self-declared mini states called micronations. A lot are are formed out jest, others out of frustration with current economic or political situation, some are even created to draw tourists, and a massive amount are in Europe.
Here’s are seven very real, but very small, self-declared nations you can check out on your next European vacation. They may not be recognized by any official governing body or international organization, but that’s okay — it doesn’t mean you can’t visit.
Located off the coast of Denmark, the Kingdom of Elleore was purchased by group of school teachers who initially planned on using it as summer camp. The island and its culture are a sort of parody of Danish life, from its nobility to its time zone (which is twelve minutes faster than the time in Denmark).
Self-admittedly as “probably the smallest republic in the world,” the Bjorn Socialist Republic is giant rock about 7 meters that some have described as looking like a tractor. It’s located in a Lake Immeln in Southern Sweden.
Comprising of the Italian town of Seborga, which sits near the French border, the principality’s claim to independence is based on some misfiled paperwork during the 18th century that a Seborga brought to light in the 1960s and claimed negated the region’s inclusion in Italy’s unification during the 19th century. It has its own royal family and even issued its own money for a time.
Republic of Saugeais
Located in eastern France’s Haut-Doubs region, the Republic of Saugeais began as a joke between the the prefect of Doubs and a restaurant owner in 1947 and has been kept alive ever since. In fact, republic is supported by the local government administration–who commend its sense of humor.
Republic of Užupis
Situated the Lithuania’s capital city of Vinius, Užupis is a neighborhood known for its arts scene and bohemian attitudes. It joking declared its independence in 1997 with its own constitution, flag, and (reportedly) patron saint of rocker/composer Frank Zappa.
Arguably the most famous micronation, Freetown Christiania originated as a hippie commune in Danish capital of Copenhagen. Its self-governing was actually legal under Denmark’s laws and residents frequently came into conflict with Copehagen authority, most famously for the open selling and smoking of marijuana and additional drug-crimes. The area is famous for an Amsterdam-like attitude towards social policy and its bohemian style. Its current status is a bit murky, authorities tried to force residents to own their property a few years ago to legally break up the commun, but many refused. It’s still a fascinating place to visit.
Pic via Wikimedia Commons – Bruno Jargot