Aug 4, 2016

Country number 39: Monaco

In my quest to get to see 50 countries before I turn 50, I can now check Monaco off my list. Was it magical? In many ways, no. In a couple of ways interesting.
To know that there is a Formula 1 race happening in Monte Carlo every year - in these narrow streets: yes. The opulence, one car after the other parading my, not so much. That is the good part about not having too much money - there is nothing to show off. But Monaco being the playground for the rich, I was not surprised.

The good:
Monaco is beautiful. Even with a lot of construction going on in the harbor, the city of Monte-Carlo came across as beautiful. And so were all the yachts in the harbor.
Walking past McLaren cars, Rolls Royces and Bentleys with registration plates from Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland and France, just to mention a few, where there has been no money spared, it sure looks interesting. And with only 2 per cent of the population of almost 38.000 people being out of work, is also a nice fact.

The bad:
Monaco levies no income tax on individuals. The absence of a personal income tax in the principality, has attracted to it a considerable number of wealthy "tax refugee" residents from European countries whom derive the majority of their income from activity outside Monaco; celebrities such as Formula One drivers attract most of the attention, but most of them are less well-known business people, according to Wikipedia.
Money laundering.
The Council of Europe also decided to issue reports naming tax havens. Twenty-two territories, including Monaco, were evaluated between 1998 and 2000 on a first round. Monaco is the only territory that refuses to perform the second round…

For those who get their Monégasque citizenship, I am sure there are good parts and bad parts to everything. I just do not see it all during my limited time in the country. I just scrape the tip of it all.
As a one-day tourist, arriving by train from Menton, there is nothing much to be irritated about. Walking downhill, taking the public elevator back up, and spending a lot of time in and around the harbor, I get the feeling that voyerism is the thing in Monaco - see and be seen. The vast majority of the windows are facing down towards the harbor - the view is the opulence of the insane yachts, with two and three decks and entire crews cleaning them.
The italian ice cream tasted all right, the service was good, the prices were not crazy and the pizza tasted like pizza. I have a sense that even though the Monégasques have the motto: "Deo Juvante" (Latin for "With God's Help"), it cannot be easy to be a spiritual leader in this place, with money playing first violin in almost everything. Kudos to the churches still operating here!

Memorable - sure, having read about Princess Caroline of Monaco since I was a teenager, I was happy to finally be visiting the country. To see the automobil club of Monaco, walk in the streets, seeing a picture of Prince Albert and his wife Charlene on a picture on a wall, ok. Seeing more fancy cars than I could name - impressive then and there, but not in the long run. Easily seen, and easily forgotten.
Prince Albert and Charlene

A good thing, though - the leader at the restaurant “Stella Polaris” at ground level, right next to the harbor, was very understanding and replaced a chair at our table before I sat down.
– A bigger chair for you, Sir!
Very good service, and it made our meal a little better. Thank you, Stella Polaris!

Unto new territories!  

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