Travel Happy Travel Books Micronations: Lonely Planet – Book Review
The world’s smallest country, Sealand, has just gone on sale. What better time to discover the scores of self-declared states around the world with Lonely Planet’s latest, off-the-wall, travel guide
Having provided a guide book for virtually every country in the world, Lonely Planet have started taking different perspectives on how we travel. Last year saw the publication of Experimental Travel, which provided different ways for travellers to consider the places they were visiting; and now Micronations provides a fascinating compendium of the self-declared states that exist around the world in varying degrees of accepted legality.
The most famous of these – to UK readers, anyway – is Lovely, comedian Danny Wallace’s nation which has thousands of citizens thanks to a burgeoning website forum, but can only lays claim to Mr Wallace’s North London flat its territory. Wallace produced a six part tv show about How To Start Your Own Country, and Micronations provides plenty more inspiration for anyone else considering becoming a self-declared monarch.
Micronations is definitely a radical and welcome departure for Lonely Planet – it’s a small but perfectly formed book,packed with photos and mainly in colour, and while it has the usual lists of accommodation and eateries, these are actually more of a send up of the traditional Lonely Planet format than suggestions to be slavishly followed. (“Getting Around: Car – Driving in London? Are you crazy?”) In truth, most of the places listed in Micronations are probably more interesting to read about than actually visit, and Micronations provides a perfect armchair excursion into the inventive eccentricities of bending international law to start your own country.
Many of these places exist within existing countries, like British West Florida, which claims to be a principality of Her Majesty The Queen but who has likely never actually heard of it; or Molossia, just on the edge of Nevada, which has its own space program (it’s a telescope). Some others, however, exist in more loosely defined states, like Sealand, the converted military platform off the east coast of England which has just come up for sale, or Cato, the island billed as a gay and lesbian heaven that exists several hundreds miles off Australia’s eastern shores.
Some states, like Denmark’s Christiania, are a hangover from more happy, hippy days, while the Republic Of Kugelmugel, now sadly diminished, was a serious attempt to preserve a new kind of architecture and attendent lifestyle. Created by German Edwin Lipburger, KugelMugel started out as Lipburger’s attempt to create an entirely spherical house, which looks oddly beautiful in the photos reproduced in Micronations. The project met with planning permission grief so Lipburger ended up declaring his own republic to try and protect his creation – and it has subsequently been dogged by invasion, imprisonment and has now been nearly engulfed by a nearby theme park. Still, it is still standing and acts as a totem for a genuinely experimental attempt at architecture, which may yet have an influence in future, just like geodesic domes.
Micronations, then, is a superb bestiary of different states -both physical places and states of mind, countries created for a joke, or a bet, or a principle, or as a very successful publicity stunt that leads to a TV series and best selling DVD. It’s the opposite of the weighty rhetoric that we usually hear from politicians about nationhood and citizenship – but in playing around at the boundaries, these different micronations remind us of the fundamentals of our own nations and provide a refreshingly different way into thinking about both the countries we visit and the one we live in. Micronations provides an easily readable, amusing and thought provoking overview of the state we can gets ourselves in.