The Swiss Confederation
Switzerland is a small, mountainous country, located in the heart of Western Europe. It is one of the richest countries in the world, which gained its fame due to unique beauty of the Alps, wide green valleys, crystal clear lakes and rivers, architecture of old towns and unique colour of quiet villages. Famous Swiss cheese and chocolate well known for its delicacy, as well as the most quality, accurate and eternal Swiss watches are considered symbols of Switzerland.
The unique geographical position of Switzerland has influenced the country’s history and the development of the state in general. During many years the country gradually transformed from a fragile union of cantons into the federal state. For almost two centuries, neutrality, internationally recognized at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, has been an important feature of Switzerland. The current neutrality of the state is the main reason the headquarters of such organizations as the European Bureau of the UN, the Red Cross, the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organisation are located on its territory.
Today, due to its advantageous location Switzerland is a favourite destination for tourists from all over the world. First of all, Switzerland is a skiing country. Its most area is occupied by the mountain range of the Alps in the south and the Jura in the north. The largest mountain in the country is known as Dufour of 4634 meters high. The mountains of Switzerland are covered by broadleaved and coniferous forests providing the country with fresh and clean air. Snowy peaks of the Alps attract many tourists to the country. The pearl of the Alps is Saas-Fee, one of the highest resorts, which is interesting not only for skiers, but also for snowboarders.
The most popular and highly professional ski resorts in the country are Davos, St Moritz and Zermatt. Davos is an international alpine resort, located in Eastern Switzerland at an altitude of 1,560 meters above sea level. The resort offers a flat ski track of 75 kilometres long. St Moritz is famous due annually held international sport events. The resort is equipped with tracks for beginners as well as for professional skiers. In addition, there are places for snowboarding, ski races and ice skating. St Moritz also hosts quite exotic winter races and games as polo on snow, winter golf, horse racing on the frozen mountain lake. Famous mineral springs that improve human health are located in this resort as well.
A real challenge for professional skiers is Zermatt. Its slopes are located at an altitude of 3000 meters and are intended for skiers of medium and high levels. Zermatt has a wide variety of slopes and tracks, being in the top ten of the world's best ski resorts. Also, the resort offers other pastimes, such as winter bowling, volleyball, skating, parachuting, sleds, tennis.
Fans of outdoor activities will be interested in Switzerland not only in winter, but also in autumn. The country offers you many other activities, including mountain biking in the hills or steep slopes, Nordic walking, paragliding, dog sledding.
The territory of Switzerland is covered by freshwater lakes, formed as a result of water coming down from large glaciers of the Swiss Mountains. Geneva, Neuchâtel, Maggiore and Lucerne are the largest reservoirs of the country. Geneva Lake with its shape resembling a half moon is the largest of the Alpine lakes. It is considered one of the most picturesque in the world. It is surrounded by mountains and is always warm, that’s why this place is well known as Swiss Riviera. Many interesting and beautiful cities such as Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux and quiet cosy villages are located at the Geneva Lake shores.
The Swiss architecture is worthy of special attention. You won’t find pompous and rich decorated buildings, quite the contrary they are restrained, simple, just perfect. Each house, church, town hall or theatre in a mountain village is carefully built representing an example of simple beauty. Peasant houses vary depending on the canton of Switzerland they are located in. For example, houses in Engadine are remarkable for painted thick walls with small windows, and townhouses with balconies and large attics are typical for Emmental. Each Swiss city has much to be seen, including medieval architecture monuments, fountains and parks. Tenor of life and art style in Switzerland are influenced by the picturesque Swiss mountains with castles and monasteries built according to the traditions of French and German architecture. Such monasteries are located in Einsiedeln, St Gallen, St Urban, and Muri.
Geneva is a city known for its kind of elegance, expressed in narrow streets, Gothic buildings, small cosy cafes, pastry and antique shops. Its symbol is the Jet d'Eau Fountain with a jet of water rising up to 130 meters. In addition, Geneva abounds in beautiful parks, where you can find the Flower Clock, chess pieces, and magnificent gardens of roses. You are well advised to visit the city's oldest building Maison Tavel and St Peter’s Cathedral. Also Geneva has a port, located at the confluence of the Rhone River into Geneva Lake, and the largest international Geneve-Cointrin Airport. This city is also considered a research centre of the country. The world's largest particle physics laboratory operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is located in Geneva. There is a complex of buildings with conference rooms, helipads, as well as the large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator, located about 100 meters underground near Geneva.
Lausanne located on the lake shore is considered the cosiest town in Switzerland. Small town Rolle will impress you with its unique charm and vineyards, as well as peace and quiet reigned there. You can go sailing, water skiing, horseback riding, as well as sample delicious wine in one of cool wine cellars.
Those to be fond of jazz are well advised to visit Montreux and its International Jazz Festival. World famous Chillon Castle, majestically towered on a rocky island in Montreux, is worth to be seen. However, Switzerland can surprise you with many other interesting castles, such as Sargans Castle, Thun Castle, Neuchâtel Castle, and Aigle Castle, where you can visit the Vine and Wine Museum.
Zurich, located at Mount Uetliberg near the lake, is worth to be visited. However it is a modern financial and cultural city, you might notice wonderful landscapes there and Grossmünster Church can boast breathtaking views from its observation deck. Chinese Garden is another place of interest, located in the centre of the city. Originality of the Zurich urban ensemble consists in its planning and architectural features typical for most cities in Germany.
The true charm is inherent in Bern. The country's parliament and the federal government are located here.
On the shore of Lake Geneva, also known as Lake Leman, you can see the town surrounded by vineyards – Vevey. It has been visited by many celebrities – one of them was Charlie Chaplin, who has lived there his last 25 years. In addition, the town has gained worldwide fame for wine and delicious chocolate considered one of the best in the world. By the way, the Swiss are well known for their love for chocolate, which history goes back about three hundred years. In former times chocolate was used as a prescription medicine. Later, on the site of a mill near Vevey, the first factory producing chocolate bars was founded. Today every confectionery surprises with its unique tastes of chocolate and sweets, following traditional recipes.
Cheese is considered another Switzerland’s symbol. In Fribourg Canton you’ll have opportunity to taste famous classic Gruyere cheese, as well as watch its production at the creamery.
One more important feature of the country should be mentioned. Watch making has appeared exactly here. Unique design, accuracy, impeccable quality, and luxury are qualities of Swiss watches. According to historical sources the first watchmaker was Huguenot John Calvin, came to Geneva together with other immigrants from Catholic countries. This fact has influenced the development of watch making as many of the immigrants were good watchmakers. Thus the first professional Watchmaker’s Guild of Geneva has been founded. Later, the Swiss watch industry developed in such cities as Neuchâtel, Biel, Le Locle, Grenchen, La Chaux-de-Fonds. Talking about Le Locle, it should be mentioned this interesting city is notable for its ordering street’s layout, which is explained by the fact that initially the whole architecture of the city was developed according to the needs of the watchmakers. Be sure to visit the Patek Philippe Museum with its collection of unique exhibits representing the watch making evolution. You are well advised visit the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show, a famous international exhibition held each spring in Basel.
Switzerland hosts various festivals. For example, the International Motor Show held each March in Geneva tends to get together car enthusiasts from all over the world. Striking competitions of more than 500 yachts, as well as the parade of ships decorated with flowers are held in the city as well.
Switzerland offers the most beautiful mountain scenery and the unique urban architecture. Holiday in this country will leave only good impressions and desire to visit it again.
Administrative division — Switzerland
Berne Population: 121631
- Basel Population: 830000
- Biel/Bienne Population: 48614
- Geneva Population: 183981
- Lausanne Population: 136514
- Lucerne Population: 57066
- Lugano Population: 26365
- St. Gallen Population: 70572
- Winterthur Population: 102966
- Zurich Population: 341730
- Aargau Population: 621398
- Appenzell Ausserrhoden Population: 53017
- Appenzell Innerrhoden Population: 15688
- Basel-Landschaft Population: 277042
- Basle-Ville Population: 192581
- Bern Population: 955658
- Fribourg Population: 278493
- Geneva Population: 466536
- Glarus Population: 38608
- Grisons Population: 192621
- Jura Population: 70197
- Lucerne Population: 377610
- Neuchâtel Population: 172021
- Nidwalden Population: 41024
- Obwalden Population: 35585
- Saint Gallen Population: 483101
- Schaffhausen Population: 76356
- Schwyz Population: 146730
- Solothurn Population: 257393
- Thurgau Population: 250640
- Ticino Population: 333753
- Uri Population: 35422
- Valais Population: 312684
- Vaud Population: 713281
- Zug Population: 113597
- Zurich Population: 1390124