San Marino 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel

This is the youth hostel I stayed in San Marino. Its the one in the country, which is why its known as just Hostel San Marino. It also only had two other people staying there, as we are just after a first worldwide lockdown. The front is a restaurant which was not running. This is a pretty good place, clean and had a good kitchen you can use.

Strangely, there was a circus tent with some faint music playing. No signs or anything to show what it was used for.

This is about half way up Mount Titano, with you needing to go quite a bit further to get to the old city.

Going down the road a bit, looking to the right I can see the hostel, and ahead is back down the hill to Italy, a bit Catholic Cathedral, and the old city and castle looming in the distance.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. soon

San Marino 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town

These nice apartment blocks look similar to the one in Monaco. The streets twist around in sharp bends on the steep hills, so the top floor can be level with the street at the back. I like big balconies, as I once lived in a place like this where I could host some parties.

This is a catholic country, and this Catholic church looks quite different from others I have seen looking quite plain apart from the cartoon Jesus on the front. Monaco, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta and Andorra are also almost all Catholic.

There are a lot of shops selling firearms. This place in Serraville sells stuff for airsoft, but San Marino also has regular guns, archery, knives, paintball and even a blow dart. Think our American friends would find this interesting.

I can’t think of where you can practice shooting, with the exception there is a place to do crossbow at the top of old city.

This isn’t anywhere near automobile obsessed as Monaco. But there are a few car showrooms with prestige vehicles on offer. supercar.sm was one of them I went past, a fairly small building compared to car dealerships I’ve seen in Britain.

There are a few empty houses that look to be a project for someone, so there is room for new people to move here.

I took a 45 minute break in this coffee shop. Got chatting to the workers there, which they are from Italy. I didn’t get to find out what proportion of people in SM actually live in regular part of Italy. This could be interesting seeing as Liechtenstein actually has negative unemployment as people commute into the country.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. soon

San Marino 6. What sort of mini country is this

So the ‘proper’ border between San Marino and Italy is where I have marked on the left in Dogano; I didn’t see this until I was on the bus leaving much later. I actually entered the country on the right, hence I initially just car garages and factories.

A big bridge with a funny tower on the left. These little eccentric details is why I keep coming to Europe’s lesser known nations.

Things I learnt about San Marino:-

  • It is named after a Christian stonemason called Marinus, who escaped persecution and it’s the world’s oldest Republic, since 301AD in fact.
  • Its the 5th smallest country in the world, and enclaved inside Italy. There are only 3 countries in the world like this, The Vatican (which of course is also inside Italy) and Lesotho which is inside South Africa.
  • It uses a +378 telephone where as Italy is +39, although you can call internally from Italy without a country code. It has its own mobile provider, but this didn’t show up on my UK Vodafone Android phone. Instead despite being very high up on a hill, phone signal for Vodafone Italy was very patchy which was strange.
  • Internet domain is .sm and oval country stickers show (RSM) – Republic San Marino; the formal name of the country is The most serine Republic of San Marino.
  • It’s in Europe but not in the EU, and uses the Euro currency
  • It’s a tax haven (not so much of a surprise), but there isn’t so much cigarettes and booze shops, but there are more cars (with San Marino plates) than people. So it would appear Italians buy a car here for a discount, who don’t actually live in SM.
  • The country is on top of Mount Titano. At the top you can see for miles, to to the sea or possibly across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia.
  • Of course, people here speak Italian. Locals are known as Sammarinese, not Italian.
  • San Marino is a mostly Catholic country. They hid Italian Jewish people, whilst Italy was occupied by the Nazis.
  • The capital of San Marino is San Marino (at the highest point of the country) This reminds me of the fact that Tunis is the capital of Tunisia, where I went in 2019, when you write the capital and the nation in Arabic, they both look the same.
  • This country has about 33,000, so smaller than Liechtenstein and Monaco.

What it isn’t.

  • A race track. A F1 race circuit with the name San Marino is actually in the town of Imola, near the Apennine mountains in Italy, now defunct, as no races have been there since 2006. This was the place both Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna died within a week of each other in 1994.
  • I thought the name sounds like Sans Marina (without sea, in Latin?) as its 13km from the coast and landlocked.
  • There is no king or monarchy.

This is my final small country in Europe I think. Why am seeing these? I also wanted to see which countries are not reliant on the European Union. (oo.. touchy subject) I like the feel of a small tight community country.
1. Planning visit to my final tiny country
 – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. soon

Tales of Holy Land: The child’s buggy and my strange dream

For a while now I often start to get strange dreams, and some of them often tended to have some genuine significance. So in 2011 while I was living in Israel I decided to start writing them down, to then see later if any of these has any useful value.

Back in 2011 I got a dream about seeing a child’s pushchair (stroller to my American friends) going down a hill. I am not sure why. This is a Google maps glimpse of the street I used to live on in Jerusalem Israel.

As I’m a evangelical Christian who believes in gifts of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:1 ) To be honest, back then I didn’t really ask for any special ability. Living in this part of the world had some unusual challenges, and I’m just going to try and share something I experienced back then.

One day, around February 2013, I was going up this exact street where I lived to work, or it might of been a weekend – straight ahead on the right was a woman with the boot (trunk) of a SUV. She was packing some stuff away. She also didn’t put the brake on the child’s pushchair.

I’m walking my bike up this hill – actually I don’t remember if this was a week day or a weekend. I don’t think it was on any of the Jewish holidays. I come face to face with an infant on a pushchair coming down the road at me.

I managed to throw my bike onto the ground and grab the pushchair and stop it without the child being thrown forward.

I saw the woman with the car, silently mouth ‘oh my God’ as I held the pushchair and just quietly told her she should be more careful. I wonder why I had a dream of something that could of nearly been a tragedy.

A few other odd things have happened since that I’ll share another time.

(Note: made slight edit, as I got the years wrong)

San Marino 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino

I set off in the morning, and ended up walking one of these white roads across to this tiny country.

The road went over a motorway and a river, which looked very dried up (this was October 2020)
Off this small country road was this place, I need to show my parents this place, this was the best garden centre ever, lots of cacti and fruit trees, mostly taller than me.
I’m intrigued to know about this tiny church. A place for farm workers to worship during their breaks?
Vines have produced a decent crop.

Finally, after 13kms of walking, this sign was where I got to San Marino. The actual formal border is on a different road, the main dual carriage way. Instead I realised I got there with a turning off that main road, via this VW dealership and a collection of factories.

A lady in a VW Golf suddenly stopped her car and gestured to me, and told me, I wasn’t supposed to take a picture of the signs, as this was illegal and said I should delete the pic. She had some t-shirt with a weird homemade logo on it. I am not sure if I stumbled on an obscure tiny fascist country, or this woman was the local nutter.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. soon

San Marino 4. City of Rimini

So I got to Rimini, this is a nice coastal city that overlooks the Adriatic Sea. It is still in Italy, but I’m getting closer.

Here is this nice river that leads to the sea. The three very formal ships marked “Guardia Finanza” I think this is for checking for smuggling or contraband over from Croatia. I’m sure these cops could be ready in a Split (ha ha)

There is a pier with this interesting fairground ride, a far smaller one than the London Eye.

I stayed in the Sunflower hostel, which is close to the beach. I got a free room upgrade, instead of the dorm, which was nice. I noticed something interesting about this balcony door. These belt-driven roll down shutters which when opened sit in a wooden box above the door, as the exactly the same as the ones I see in almost every apartment I have seen in Israel.

This was a really nice place with just local Italians from other parts of the country staying. Chatting to the owner, he was wondering if hostels would make it through the current crisis.

This car that had San Marino plates was outside by hostel. Actually there are quite a few. San Marino has more cars than people. So I guess people can buy a vehicle without taxes in this tiny country even if they don’t live there.

The next day, I was going to hike up to the border with San Marino and up the Mount Titano to the next place.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. soon

San Marino 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini

Bologna is an interesting place. On one hand, the street are clean and there is no garbage, but a lot of graffiti (maybe that’s why its a Latin word)

My friend Daniel who lives in the north of this country explained that Bologna is a very left wing city, and high taxes and beaucracy stifle small businesses, making Italians leave for elsewhere. (NB; Daniel was once house sharing with me in London, a stressful grey city with terrible weather!)

This of course, is a very Catholic country, but in the centre here is a historic Jewish community, as can see from this plaque. There are evangelical churches here, but not a huge amount.

Restaurants are open for business, although with very few visitors. Sitting outside is pleasant and works well in current limitations. You are meant to wear a mask all the time outdoors, something I didn’t know till later in my trip.

Trains in Italy are great. Carriages are double decker like the ones I’ve been to in France, Germany and Holland. The journey to Rimini which is on the coast is in a straight line with no changes. The fare is reasonable, and a security guard ‘shoots’ me with a gun (which remotely shows my temperature) before I go to the platform.

As I visited between the two lock downs of 2020, and travelling made difficult, as no one knew which could get severed connections, this trip was a gamble, which I am very glad worked with very few problems.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country
 – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. soon

Covid testing sites in North London appear to be unused

If you know me, you know I really don’t like conspiracy theories. Also, I work in healthcare.

I did see a little while ago, a video where someone drove to four different COVID test sites and all of them are empty except for the staff running them.

I currently live in Harringay part of North London, and there is one of these sites near me.

These have been set up by the UK government for folks to get themselves tested.

From the looks of these sites, they are set up for the purpose of a large scale infection. The car park has maybe two cars there. This is today, Sunday 8/11/20 at 4:45pm.

There are a collection of tents, barriers and signs and a hum of two different diesel generators, as this is not near any actual buildings but in a large car park on the opposite side of Alexandra Palace.

It would be interesting to see what the infection rate of the second lock down and if they could verified against any other figures.

San Marino 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas

2020 is a pretty dismal year. Looking at my trip I planned to head back to Israel is to be shelved for another year.

Instead, I looked to do something different to use some of my leave from work instead of spending the time indoors.

I’ve never been to Italy. Reason being is this, I’m a single chap, and I’ve been reserving a trip to there for the time when I have someone to bring along with me. Right now, I thought about making the goal of this trip seeing San Marino by leveraging a cheap flight to Italy.

With no one making much plans for holidays, I snagged this bargain deal. Yes, this is return including taxes.

Ryanair do these low prices as kind of loss-leaders. Its this cheap as there is no luggage, not even carryon.

Bringing a typical cabin bag with you as another cost. So I just brought backpack which has to fit under a seat for this kind of deal. Ryanair then try and upsell you ability to chose a specific seat, as otherwise if you are couple, family or group, you will be sat in randomly allocated seats, and it costs more to specifically choose where you want to me. Then of course there is, the meal, insurance, car hire, hotel, and other things which all of I declined.

Bologna is old, rustic and charming. Rimini is a bit closer, but there were no flights going from any of the London airports when I looked. Bologna is a straight line as far as as a train to Rimini which is good though.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. soon

San Marino 1. Planning visit to my final tiny country

If you know me, I’ve been fascinated by tiny countries, since my trip to Monaco in 2005, and after seeing my good friend Peter M in Malta, I made my mission to try and visit all of them.

San Marino was the last I wanted to do after doing Liechtenstein last year, Andorra the year before and Luxembourg before that.

My plan was to get a cheap flight to Italy, seeing as, 1. I’ve been working from home and don’t actually miss commuting to London at all, and wanted to try and budget a trip based on my typical 1 month cost of commuting into Farringdon. 2. I want to support hospitality and travel industry and feel very sorry for those folks who are in these industries have been hit the hardest.

Before I went, there was some specific parts of San Marino that seems intriguing.

  • It’s on a steep hill with winding roads that go around hairpin bends (sounds like Monaco or Luxembourg) It has castles (Monaco, Liechtenstein)
  • Its in Europe, uses the Euro but not in the EU (like Monaco and Andorra)
  • During World War II, when the Nazis occupied Italy, San Marino hid some of the Italian Jews.
  • It has a race track and like most of these tiny places, its a tax haven.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. soon

Related:  Other tiny countries I have seen:-Andorra, Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein,  Luxembourg, Malta, 
Monaco, San Marino