Which country has a confusing name with Morocco?
Which country has no currency of its own, no language or army of its own?
Which country has a more popular district than its own name?
There is only one answer—Monacao.
“It is rather smaller than my home town.” uttered my colleague when I told him some basic information of Monaco from the Internet such as an area of 2.2 square kilometers (reclaimed areas from the sea included) and a population of less than forty thousand. It is quite true because when I told the local people in Monaco that I came from China they would invariably exclaimed “That is really a huge country”.
I flew initially to Frankfurt where robust people, with average height of 1.9 meters and unchanged serious expressions, made me feel nervous. With a transfer to Nice, I took a shuttle to Monaco. Full of romantic expressions of South France and bright colors, the Principality of Monaco is indeed big—measured by my footsteps.
Merci, Robust Man
Let’s say something small first.
The shuttle bus just traveled along a highway in the mountains and across an ordinary traffic light, and we were already in the territory of Monaco. One noon, I encountered an elderly on my way to the supermarket, and two hours later we met each other again at the railway station. Probably thanks to the limited place, strangers here will say hello to each other when met and you will hear “Bonjour”(Good day) or “Salut” (Hello) in the street all the time. Even when I got on a bus, I saw a patrolling policeman greet the bus driver who made a turn with “Bonjour”.
The people in South Europe seem to enjoy communications with each other. Compared to those in rigid seriousness, I prefer this kind of extroverted culture with endless fun. When visiting a museum, those working staff will say something to you and share their favorite exhibits with you. When some engineering workers who prepared ladders to pick up oranges found us looking around in curiosity, they directly asked “Would you like to taste it though it tastes like a seasoning lemon?” Regardless of age or gender, everyone, when asked, is ready to show you the way. When I looked for a church, I met a man with a bear’s shape, who can only speak “the most beautiful language in the world”—French. Therefore, I followed him onto a bus and walked quite a long way before I caught sight of my destination. After I expressed my thanks, he just turned around and walked in the opposite direction. He did accompany such a stranger as me to the destination despite totally different direction.
Perhaps as Monaco is small, any passer-by in this city will become your neighbor. The helpfulness between neighbors and delicate solicitude for strangers can be easily found in the daily life of Monaco citizens.Monaco is so small that Rainier ！, husband of the celebrity Grace Kelly, once said in pride that he was the only head of state that can recognize all his people. It is quite an interesting statement, and what I want to comment is that within just 40 minutes anyone can cover 2/3 of the territory of Monaco.
Gentle in Action, Wild at Heart
If you summarize some key words to describe Monaco, you will find the following—Grace Kelly, F1, yachting, billionaire, Monte Carlo and grand casinos.
All these dazzling words seem to have turned Monaco into a gathering point of crazy billionaires both at home and abroad. As a matter of fact, whether driving Ferrari, Rolls Royce or Lamborghini or playing bizarre mini-car that only contains one driver in the shape of L, they all abide by the principle of pedestrian priority in Monaco. However, their gentle attitude in daily action never hinders their wildness at heart during F1 session. If possible, they will act like those professional sportsmen who realized 78 rounds in the 3.367-kilometer-long track and average 3000 gear shifts every late May. Given a second thought, Webber, Schumacher, and Senna the legendary hero who had won F1 championship on five occasions, were just like those ordinary drivers in Monaco and that’s why F1 session in Monaco is the only one held in an urban district in the world.
If you don’t like driving, you can visit Saint Devote station, the very starting point of F1 every year; If you have no interest in F1, you can purchase a yacht and anchor at Monaco bay and join the yachting club that is mysterious and expensive. If you don’t like yachting, you can choose Monte Carlo Tennis Open every April, which is famous for fierce competition; and if you don’t like tennis, just think about the most famous casino in Monte Carlo. In 1863, 46 years before Monaco had its own constitution in 1911, Grand Casino of Monte Carlo that swept the whole Europe was announced open. In 1878, Charles Garnier made a brand new renovation of the casino and added an opera house in the similar style of National Opera of Paris. Today, people will appreciate its luxurious Central Hall with marble ground and 28 columns of Inonia type around. Through the Central Hall, you will see the Playroom where every room was decorated with color-painted glass, fine sculptures, emblems and bronze lanterns. You may never imagine enjoying painting, sculpture and cultural social life when trying your luck in gambling.
Even though some have no interest in something luxurious, they will definitely know about the charm of the Princess Grace Kelly whose beauty, achievement in acting, romantic love have constituted a testimony to romance and advertisement to Monaco. You will find many signs indicating the Princess’s footsteps in many places of interest and main roads such as her wedding, her shopping, her cutting ribbons, her laying a foundation for a garden… 25 photos constitute her legendary route as a princess, describe events she had promoted and express deep tribute to her. Moreover, the film fans all over the world have been attracted to Monaco to retrieve their fascination for Grace Kelly. In several months, the 64th Cannes International Film Festival will be open in a short distance and the film Princess of Monaco by French director Olivier Dahan will be shown as the opening film in the non-competition unit. It can be supposed that this film featured by Nicole Kidman will arouse a new wave of Grace Kelly fashion.
Super Heart in Multi-element Development
Within s short stay in Monaco, you can never summarize 10 Monaco people’s favorites because they and their country are blessed with so many favorite things such as yachting, skiing, climbing mountain, F1, circus, tennis, soccer, stamp and royal family.
There should be ocean as well. Museum of Ocean Geography and Aquarium showcases the Albert First’s obsession with oceanology. With the profit from his casino, he spent 11 years in establishing this magnificent building made of Turbis from Italy with the height of 85 meters in 1910. Observing the ups and downs of Mediterranean tide for over a century, this building has become the first choice of must-see in the tourists’ list. In comparison, New National Museum, Stamp and Coin Museum and Navy Museum, consisting of two houses, are rather little and delicate. One or two storeys and three or four exhibition halls just demonstrate to the full Monaco’s dependence on and fascination with the ocean as a small country by the Mediterranean.
Monaco people have an inclusive air of “appreciating spring blossom in face of sea”, and therefore those of different races, languages and religions enjoy a peaceful coexistence. More like a giant yacht nearby the Mediterranean, Monaco has formed its national character under the influence of Mediterranean culture and civilizations from Italy and France. Despite its tiny size in geography, its wealth and varied culture lead to its decisive influence upon the international community.
Of course we must mention its culture and arts.
My presumed prejudice that casino city has no culture was totally dismissed by a 50-page brochure titled Monaco Bienvenue(Welcome to Monaco), in which information of local music, dance, theatre, film, exhibition as well as recreation and tourism in couple of months was involved. Abundant museums and resorts of tourist interest have become an illustration of Monaco people’s enthusiasm for arts, history and culture. Monaco Grand Church in New Roman style, built up of white square stones from Turbie, an ancient Rome town, in the reign of Charles Ⅲ between 1875 and 1884, has witnessed many key incidents in Monaco’s history. The chapel of Baroque style in the 17th century was renovated into Museum of Visitation that has a collection of part of religious artworks by Barbara Piasecka Johnson and some masterpieces of Baroque style from Italy, Spain and Flemings such as Rubens, Ribera and Zurbaran. The New National Museum of Monaco, consisting of two villas, was then presenting exhibitions of art, culture and architecture such as “Richard Artschwager”, “Promenades d’Amateurs” and “Monacopolis”. Either going to church for mass, or going to museum for souvenir coins collection, or having fun in the pub or bar, or cheering for Hamilton or Alonso in F1, or trying their luck in the casino or having a look at nearby gallery, or taking pictures with the footprints of soccer superstars such as Zidane, Totti and Ibrahimovic at Larvotto beach, everyone has his or her resolute countenance in the face. Just like the St. Charles Cathedral in the city center, an amateur practiced on religious melody while the believers never cared about his outtoned sound.
With such a super heart, Monaco can be a giant power of cultural inclusiveness. When I in down-filled coat encountered a robust man in sea bath at Larvotto in the blowing February while a local uncle was still reading his novel without surprise, I realized this sense of cultural diversity and smiled at both of them.
There is some pity as well. As the Prince was absent, I failed to visit his palace that is due to open to public from June till October, which meant that I had missed the priceless history of wealthy House of Grimaldi for seven centuries and a time journey from Renaissance to Napolean Period witnessed by Italian long corridor, Louis 15 Hall, Imperial Seat Hall and Paladin Chapel.
Though viewing the special ceremony of guard exchange at noon, I still have one more question to ask. It is said that Albert Ⅱfavored fried crispy biscuit of American pumpkin, egg, cheese and rice, but where on earth can I find them?