Where is Alpennia anyway? What are its cultural connections?
Like most examples of a “Ruritania,” Alpennia exists within the geography of Europe without actually replacing or displacing any real-world regions. This makes it impossible to show it accurately on a map of Europe without serious distortion. In-story references make it clear that Alpennia sits roughly at the intersection of France, Italy, and Switzerland. But other than those three nations not having a three-point meeting in the world of Alpennia, they are not otherwise displaced or diminished. I could draw an internal map of Alpennia, but I couldn’t draw a map that included both it and its real-world neighbors.
There are ways in which Alpennia is a sort of shadow-twin of Savoy, but not exactly. The Rotein river is a sort of shadow-twin of the Rhône, but not exactly. The Rotein flows through France and into the Mediterranean somewhere in the general vicinity of Marseilles, possibly merging with the Rhône at some point but I haven’t really pinned that down. I would say that in terms of area, Alpennia is about 1/2 to 2/3 the size of Switzerland? Maybe? Not a tiny city-state like Monaco or Liechtenstein, but small enough not to be a power.
Alpennia has a Romance language that has a significant Germanic substrate in vocabulary and the early elements of the naming system. (In this, it is similar to France and Spain.) Alpennian “high culture” is strongly influenced by France and most upper and upper-middle class Alpennians are bilingual in French at the very least. The country is large enough that there are identifiable regional dialects, or at least regional accents that can be used to identify someone’s origins.
There are significant cultural connections over into the Italian states. At the time of the novels, the royal family has connections with the Austro-Hungarian empire as well, both due to Princess Anna’s Austrian marriage (to a non-royal duke) and to political maneuverings during the Napoleonic wars. In spite of those, Alpennia was occupied by France under Napoleon--one might even say “conquered” if one weren’t being tactful--and that has left the Alpennian government with a disinclination for relying too much on French “friendship” in the future.