THE TOURIST’S GUIDE TO DRACHAM (CAPITAL OF CORDENSIA)
So, you’ve got your heart set and your tickets booked – but what can you really expect to find in Europe’s most fashionable tax haven?
Dracham as it is known today dates back to the early 1700s, when the former city of Ardontalia which stood in its site was demolished and rebuilt by King Spurius III as part of his attempt to consolidate his power and restyle himself as a King (Cordensia had remained a Duchy despite gaining independence in 1568 – Spurius decided that this had to change if Cordensia wanted respect throughout the courts of Europe). After his death the court was once again re-established as a Duchy, but the new name of Dracham remained.
Until the mid 19th Century Dracham’s economy was largely funded by overseas tributes and assistance from countries such as Great Britain, France and Spain, which escalated to an almost ludicrous level. Initially, Great Britain invested £1 million a year in the principality, in order to gain favour and a staging post to control the Bay of Biscay. Spain took offence at such a large investment in a nearby country, and pledged the equivalent of £1.5 million. France under the reformist monarchy of Louis-Phillipe was in no position to have a battle with Britain or Spain over the Bay of Biscay and itself pledged £2 million a year.
These large tributes were the culmination of over 200 years worth of courting by the European powers who all desired the strategic friendship of Cordensia. For many years large amounts of resources, materials, and armaments were supplied free of charge to the principality.
The charge of industrialisation in the mid 1800s combined with the new regime of Napoleon III in France, who was determined to style himself as Europe’s chief diplomat, marked an end to the mass tributes. Napoleon stated on 1st January 1860 that “this farcical blackmail will stop. The French people do not do compromise. You are with us, or you are against us”. Britain signalled defiance by building the first embassy in Dracham. Napoleon, not a man to be defied, sent an army of 5,000 men in 25 heavily armoured ships and ordered them to blockade the principality, and sent a list of demands to Duke Fabricius IX, known as the “July Demands”. These were rejected. Napoleon stated that if the demands were not signed by the end of July his troops would mount an invasaion. Britain dispatched a fleet of 10 ships to the island, but the Napoleonic naval blockade was taking its toll on Cordensia, and the Duke turned down the offer of British assistance, and promised that Cordensia would take no further tributes, pending a conference. The 1861 Treaty of Lyon between Cordensia, France, Britain and Spain guaranteed limited supplies of resources from the three European powers until 1881. Cordensia gained recognition as French and Spanish embassies opened on the island, and Cordensia made an official declaration of its neutrality.
Napoleon III refused to be 'blackmailed' by the Cordensian court.
As the late 1800s brought an ever more advanced economy in Europe, rich European industrialists became frustrated at the ever-increasing rates of tax. As European states made liberal reforms, taxes increased to pay for them. Duke Minius II (a highly intelligent man respected throughout Europe for his economic foresight) decided to conduct an experiment – Income tax rates would be set at 1% throughout Cordensia for five years. By 1895 three times more Cordensian passports were being issued than in 1890, and the new economic policies were deemed a success and written into law. Europe’s first tax haven was born.
There is something for almost everyone in Dracham – whilst it has been traditionally seen as a venue where the very rich see and are seen, there is a wide spread of cheaper, generic hotels, which cater for tourists. Dracham is certainly worth including on any tour of Southern France of Spain, if only for a short stopover. However, Dracham is not a venue suitable for ‘backpackers’, and it is not the best place to be if you are on a very limited budget.
HOW DO I GET IN?
The Cordensian government does not require that anyone entering the country has a visa however it reserves the right to refuse entry to any person, or deport them at any time. In practice, it is one of the easiest countries in the world to get into. There is anecdotal evidence that citizens of Spain and France are allowed to enter for short stays without even owning a passport if they present ID such as a driving license, however officially this is not allowed and it is therefore not advisable to try this if you have paid money for a hotel etc in advance.
The Royal Cordensian International Airport was once an ideal means of travel for discerning tourists and VIPs alike, however over the last 20 years it has become increasingly overcrowded to the point where it is now grossly inadequate. The single runway is prioritised for VIP flights and is frequently invaded by deer from the Duke’s hunting grounds, which lie beyond the grounds of the airport – meaning that flights are cancelled until the runway is made safe. The single carriageway road leading to the airport is nearly always at a standstill due to huge volumes of traffic, and there is no satisfactory public transport service to the airport, except from a number of limousine and taxi services. Most flights are from Bilbao, and are operated by Iberia.
The airport is at best inadequate, and flights are frequently interrupted due to unwanted visitors.
A number of ferries also call at the Portmenau marina, however these generally are not permitted to carry more than 30 passengers, so generally carry passengers to and from the French and Spanish coasts only, and do not serve longer-distance liners.
A new airport and ferry terminal have been announced by the Government, but as yet both have failed to materialise. For now, most tourists will continue to enter via the airport.
HOW DO I GET AROUND?
There is a small car-hire agency at the airport, however this generally specialises in prestige marques, and lower value cars may need to be booked in advance. Prices are generally 50-100% higher than in mainland Europe. It can be difficult or expensive to park your car and even if you do rent a car you will find it easier to get around by taxi. That said, if your hotel has parking, and you plan to frequent the more modern parts of Dracham (most modern conference and shopping centres/casinos/resorts have ample parking which is free for customers), a car might be more suitable.
You should be especially alert whilst driving in Dracham, as speed limits are loosely enforced, and the rich drivers of prestige cars frequently flout basic traffic regulations. Royal Guards do enforce traffic regulations but generally in the form of fines, which most offenders are able to pay. Almost everyone affiliated with the Royal Court (and many of the principality’s richest) travel in vehicles with special numberplates and/or police escorts. These will usually be fitted with flashing lights and may announce their presence with sirens. These vehicles almost constantly break the speed limit, run red lights, etc, and you should exercise extreme caution if you encounter them on the roads. Any incidents are usually blamed on the civilian driver and they will be pursued for repair costs to the usually very expensive vehicles.
A number of places are inaccessible by car (for example King’s Knoll), due to security measures which only allow authorised drivers to pass.
Due to the traffic situation, it is strongly inadvisable to cycle in newer parts of the city (eg The Strip), where traffic regularly moves at speeds in excess of 70mph. Some people do choose to cycle in areas where the traffic is calmer, and in these parts it can be a very viable method of transport. Portmenau has a cycle hire agency, and is a very pleasant area to cycle in. However, you cannot cycle to Portmenau due to the fact that the only access is via freeway. It is illegal to cycle on a freeway in Dracham.
There are no scheduled bus services provided by the government of Dracham. There are however a number of tour buses and coaches, which your hotel will be able to point you to. These generally depart from all the major hotels and operate on a hop-on hop-off basis.
There is no train service in Cordensia
Walking up and down The Strip is something which every tourist to Dracham should do. Pedestrian subways allow you to cross in safety. In general other parts of the city are pleasant on foot, but the low density of Dracham means you may spend some time walking between locations.
The way to travel around Dracham in style, many hotels/casinos/etc offer the use of their helipad to those travelling by helicopter. Some people travel by private helicopter, however the more practical version is to charter a helicopter for your stay, or use one of the many ‘air-taxi’ services.
WHERE TO STAY?
Like any tax haven, Dracham is awash with sumptuous places to stay. The focus is on the recently-built Dracham Strip, on which a number of impressive buildings have recently been constructed. The Hotel Noir is surely the centrepiece for any discerning tourist. The 600 room hotel and casino in the form of a black monolith dominates the strip, and offers only the highest level of service. The standard room is rated as 5-star, however 6 and 7 star suites are also available. For the particularly discerning visitor, the hotel’s opulent Duchy Suite offers the world’s only 8-star hotel experience, for the price of $2,000 a night (tips are not included). Room features include tea and coffee making facilities (maid included), a trouser press (a second maid included), and a bar (barman included). If the worldwide satellite TV with 78” home cinema system is not adequate for your entertainment needs, Rufus Schoner, the hotel’s resident composer and pianist, will join you and your guests for an evening of improvisation or performance, at no extra cost. The resident chef, Silvio Dulciatti (4 times Michelin starred, former state chef to the United Arab Emirates), will personally prepare all your meals and any impromptu snacks during your stay.
For those who cannot afford such a sumptuous experience, there is a wide range of hotels in the city which will fit many more budgets. However, there is a lack of central hotels below 4-star, and guests should expect to pay around 50% more than they would in mainland Europe. Cheaper accomodation is available in guest lodges (often spare rooms in a house), however guests should always check for a Dracham Hotelier's License. These are issued only to institutions which are seen as being 'suitable' (widely seen as an effort to keep the location upmarket), and are tightly enforced by the Royal Guards. Dracham law makes it an offence to stay in an unlicensed lodge, and Guards can impose fines. There is a notable absence of Youth Hostels in Dracham - the YHA has attempted to open such institutions but their applications have been turned down.
WHAT TO SEE?
No visit to Dracham is complete without a visit to King’s Knoll, the spectacular residence of Duke Eustace VIIth. Dominating the skyline, the Knoll has been residence to the court of Cordensia for 300 years, since the construction of the spectacular HardewickCastle. You will not be allowed to enter the castle (unless you apply for a ticket to the Annual Ball, $2000). Bus tours (groups of no more than 7) leave hourly from the Hotel Rouge, and tickets can be bought for $250. For the ultimate experience, watch as the city flies past as you and your personal tour guide speed through traffic in the comfort of a limousine whilst sipping champagne, with the aid of a motorcycle escort provided by the Royal Guards (groups of no more than 5, must be booked 24 hrs in advance, $3500)
King's Knoll has been the seat of the House of Corden for nearly 300 years
The Strip itself is an experience not to be missed, and even if your hotel features a casino and nightclub within the premises it is still worth venturing out, especially during a hot summer afternoon or evening. Watch in awe as fleets of Ferraris and Lamborghinis are overtaken by supercars you’ve never even heard of, during the many spontaneous street races that occur (playboys will, after all, be playboys). If you are lucky, you will witness a Race Day, when the sons of the city’s great and good pay for the use of the strip. The entire road is closed off by Royal Guards and glamorous women line the streets as the sounds of V12 engines fill the air.
Whilst the rich playboys of the city frequent the strip, their fathers hang out in Portmenau, making it even more affluent than the sumptuous Strip. A short drive on a new freeway takes you from the Strip to Portmeneau, which as well as housing the vast majority of the city’s businesses (many of the premises are tax-exempt offices for European companies), also serves as the city’s maritime centre. Relax in the terraced flower gardens whilst sipping champagne and watching the yachts come and go.
Portmenau and its glamorous marina is the playground of the movers and shakers of Dracham.
WHAT TO DO?
Fans of gambling will be entertained for hours in the many luxurious casinos of Dracham. Take the opportunity to gamble amongst the world’s richest and famous. You should be aware that, despite severe penalties, cheating does occur, and you are well advised to set yourself a spending limit before starting to gamble. Tourists who acquire gambling debts may face difficulties leaving Cordensia if they are not repaid.
Enjoy a top quality meal or a round of golf at the Buena Vista Country Club.
The sumptuous Buena Vista Country Club offers a luxurious backdrop to anyone enjoying a top-quality meal in the clubhouse restaurant, which on most days is open to guests (meals are average $200 a head) . The golf course is of top quality and is also open to guests on certain days (around $300 a round, pre-booking essential).
Portmenau offers a number of activities for those interested in sailing and yachting, as well as tourists in general. Those interested in sailing can charter a speedboat or yacht from the Portmenau Boat Co (www.pbc.cor), who cater for activities from sailing to water-skiing, and prices start from $250 a day. The Portmenau Gallery has a wide collection of some of the world’s most famous paintings, as well as a collection of works by arists who have moved to Dracham. Entry : $50.
WHERE TO EAT?
Most hotels offer restaurants, however for a true Dracham experience you will do well to visit a variety of restaurants. Portmenau is home to a number of sailing and gentleman’s clubs which offer world-class cookery and views. The various hotels on the strip also offer top-class cuisine.
There is a notable absence of large fast-food outlets, but the market is filled by private traders. Street traders frequently set up on side-streets to cater for the needs of workers, and can be real gems. The local cuisine is a result of the combination of British, French and Spanish culture - and a variety of foods can be bought on the street, ranging from paella (usually served in a cardboard wrap) to pasties. These traders are usually tolerated by the Royal Guards, but they are absent from high-brow locations such as The Strip, where Royal Guards rigorously flush them out.
Drachamians do not have a strong cultural identity, having for many years thrived off making other cultures feel at home. This has resulted in an identity which is based upon a mixture of British, French and Spanish influences. The ‘indigenous’ working-class population (waiters/taxi drivers etc) have a culture closest to French culture, but they are not easily offended and there is a distinct lack of patriotism, no doubt caused by hundreds of years of a Government which does not actively seek to represent the society it rules.
The city of Dracham is generally extremely safe, with a large network of police (known as Royal Guards) who patrol in cars and on foot, as well as monitor CCTV. Severe penalties for those caught committing offences such as theft, especially against tourists, also act as a deterrent. The policing of the city centres around The Strip and other upper-class tourist areas, with Guards usually responding within seconds to incidents in these areas. King’s Knoll is exceptionally heavily policed due to its Royal residents.
You should be aware that the Duchy of Cordensia has not signed any international human rights agreements, and whilst Royal Guards generally treat tourists fairly and with dignity, there is no constitutional guarantee to freedom of speech. Whilst in practice the authorities are tolerant and allow speech and press freedoms, those travelling with the intention of staging or participating in a protest should be aware of the potential consequences.
The city is policed by the well-equipped 'Royal Guards' (picture taken at their annual demonstration)
Provided you have travel insurance which will pay for medical expenses, the medical care within Dracham is amongst the best in the world. There is no state medical cover in Cordensia, however a number of charities and organisations do operate free clinics.
Drinking water within Dracham is safe to drink, but if you venture out of the city into the surrounding countryside (unlikely), then you should boil all water before drinking it. Sanitation services are not provided on a national basis, but rather funded by individual regions and towns. Certain areas (e.g. those not expecting tourists) may not consider clean drinking water to be a priority.