You won't see famous sights here
Paris is easy to recognize by the Eiffel Tower, Washington by the dome of the Capitol. But there are cities whose appearance is not familiar to anyone. These are, for example, the capitals of the island states of Oceania.
Nauru, the smallest island nation and the smallest independent republic on Earth, does not officially have a capital. The whole country can be walked around in three hours or by car in 20 minutes.
Locals live mainly in coastal villages, moving between them on pickup trucks and motorcycles. In the center of the tropical island, the “lunar landscape” is an abandoned open pit for the extraction of phosphorites.
The Republic of Nauru does without an official capital, but locals still consider the village of Yaren near the airport as such. It is here that the parliament and the residence of President Lionel Engimei are located. In addition to government buildings in the “metropolitan” village, there is a Chinese restaurant, a small shop and a dusty road.
See also the islanders of Nauru
The capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara, is a rather densely populated city on the island of Guadalcanal. More than 85 thousand people live here. In addition to government agencies and higher educational institutions, the capital has a huge market for vegetables and fruits. Every week, thousands of people from the remote, wilder islands of the archipelago arrive at the port of Honiara in ships and boats to sell their crops. In total, the state owns 992 islands.
Honiara is cut through by many rivers and streams, which overflow during the rains. To get from one part of the city to another, locals have to organize makeshift rope ferries, mostly run by teenagers for a small fee.
Honiara is home to many immigrants from the Ontong Jawa atoll, lost in the ocean 250 kilometers northeast of the Solomon Islands archipelago . People moved to the capital because of the increasing hurricanes and brought with them the culture of the Polynesian tribes.
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Kava kava, or simply kava, is Vanuatu's calling card. Many tourists come to the islands to try this intoxicating pepper root drink, which replaces local alcohol. Without kava, not a single ceremony takes place in Vanuatu, not a single contract is concluded.
On numerous islands in the archipelago, only men are allowed to drink kava, but in the capital Port Vila, the ban does not apply, and you can see whole families in kava bars.
In the evenings, residents of Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, flock to « orange light” in kava bars. It is by the orange subdued light that these establishments can be identified.
Cava is usually drunk from a coconut cup in solitude and twilight in a special section of the bar, then the visitor bites the drink with a banana or baked taro and returns to the table with his interlocutors.
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Palikir, the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia, is located on the island of Pohnpei. At the entrance to the city there is a monument-pointer with the text of the country's constitution.
Formally, an independent republic has its own president, but remains in free association with the United States. The city of Palikir is more like a village, on one of the fields of which one-story government buildings were built. Until 1989, the capital was Colonia, which remains the largest population center and commercial center of the island.
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The island of Niue in the South Pacific Ocean is the world's largest raised atoll, known as the Rock of Polynesia. It can only be reached by private yacht or once or twice a week by plane from New Zealand.
Due to migration to New Zealand, the population of the freely associated state of Niue is decreasing every year. Now about 1600 people live there. Less than 600 of them are in the capital, the village of Alofi. Nevertheless, life goes on: children go to school, and well-dressed grandmothers accompany them on holidays.
Most of the area of Funafuti atoll, the capital of Tuvalu, is occupied by an airstrip. Planes fly here only twice a week, and when the airport is free, the strip becomes a rugby field.
On cool evenings, many residents of the capital stay to sleep on the warm asphalt in the open air, and once a week in the morning they use the runway as a marketplace.
The city of Apia, the capital of the Independent State of Samoa, is criss-crossed by American-made yellow-orange buses that have become a tourist attraction.
Buses got to Upolu Island from neighboring American Samoa (US territory). The international date line runs between the islands, and despite the fact that the Samoans of both countries live only 30 minutes from each other, independent Samoa is always one day later.
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Papua New Guinea
Outside the center and several suburbs, the capital of Papua — New Guinea's Port Moresby is a conglomeration of villages and illegally built towns.
In the villages, in houses made of plywood and sheets of galvanized iron, settlers from different parts of the country live, who arrived in the main financial center in the hope of earning money. These areas are notorious as centers of gangs and are not recommended for tourists and expats to visit.
Photo: Vlad Sokhin
The material was published in the magazine “Around Light” No. 2, March 2021, partially updated in January 2023