Michael A. Stecker

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Switzerland Home Page
Other Switzerland Page:
Switzerland Photos



The beautiful mountainous country of Switzerland is surrounded by Germany to the north, Italy to the south, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east and France to the west. The Alps and the Jura Mountains cover more than half of Switzerland. The Matterhorn, Eiger and Jung Frau are mountains recognized throughout the world. Consequently, the country is a haven for mountaineering and skiing. The Swiss have a long history of independence, neutrality, banking and producing precision instruments. Most of the people live on a plateau that extends across the middle of the country. In this region are most of Switzerland's industries and its richest farmlands. Switzerland's capital is Bern, and its largest city is Zurich.

Country name
Swiss Confederation
Common name: Switzerland

noun: Swiss (singular and plural)

August 1, 1291 (Founding of the Swiss Confederation)

Central Alpine Europe, surrounded by Germany, Italy, Austria, and France

41,290 sq km, slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey

Border Countries
Austria on the east -- 164 km, Liechtenstein on the east -- 41 km, France on the west -- 573 km, Italy on the south -- 740 km, Germany 334 km

Mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes

Elevation extremes
lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 meters
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 meters

Zero km (landlocked)

Temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers

machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments

7.2 million (July 2001 est.)

Ethnic groups
German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%

German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 19.2%, Italian (official) 7.6%, Romansch 0.6%, other 8.9%

Roman Catholic 46.1%, Protestant 40%, other 5%, none 8.9% (1990)

Government type
federal republic

29 May 1874



Switzerland can be divided into three main regions: (1) the Jura Mountains, (2) the Swiss Plateau and (3) the Swiss Alps:

1. The Jura Mountains in the northwest consist of a series of parallel ridges that extend across the Franco-Swiss border. Within Switzerland, the highest mountain of the range is 5,518-foot (1,682-meter) Mont Tendre. The Jura Mountains are the home of Switzerland's important watchmaking industry. Other industries in the region include dairy farming, lumbering, and the manufacture of electronics.

2. The Swiss Plateau in north-central Switzerland comprises about 35% of the Swiss landmass. It is a hilly region with rolling plains from 1,200 to 2,200 feet (366 to 671 meters) above sea level. Large lakes in the region include Lake Constance and Lake Geneva. Switzerland's richest farmland is in this region, as are most of the large cities and manufacturing industries.

3. The Swiss Alps in central and southern Switzerland are part of the Alps, the largest mountain system in Europe. This region covers about 60 per cent of the country. There are glaciers as low as 3,500 feet (1,070 meters) above sea level and avalanches sometimes occur. Much of the region is forested. The valleys of the Rhine and Rhone rivers divide the Swiss Alps into a northern and a southern series of ranges. These ranges include the Bernese, Lepontine, Pennine, and Rhaetian Alps. Mountain streams sometimes form waterfalls. The highest waterfall is the 1,982-foot (604-meter) Giessbach Falls in the Bernese Alps. The Pennine Alps include Switzerland's highest peak, the 15,203-foot (4,634-meter) Dufourspitze of Monte Rosa. The beauty of the Swiss Alps attracts tourists from around the world.

The Swiss Alps are the source of rivers that flow in all directions. The Rhine and the Rhone rivers rise within 15 miles (24 kilometers) of each other in the Alps. The Rhine flows into the North Sea, and the Rhone into the Mediterranean Sea. The Inn River runs into the Danube, which flows east into the Black Sea. The Ticino River is a tributary of the Po River, which flows south into the Adriatic Sea.

Points of Interest
Located on the southwest shore of Lake Geneva, this international community is headquartered for 200 international organizations. Just about every global problem has been negotiated in this city. Geneva enjoys a fine location on this Swiss lake near the French border and Rhone River. The Jet de Au -- a huge water-jet (similar to the imitators in Canberra, Australia and Echo Park, Los Angeles) dominates the lake shore, while Mont Salève offers a picturesque panorama of the city and lake. The town's center is home to the Cathedral St Pierre, where John Calvin preached here from 1536 to 1564. Nearby is Place du Bourg-de-Four which is both the oldest square in Geneva and a locus of tourist shops. Museums of note are the Museum of Art & History, Petit Palais, Museum of Old Musical Instruments, the Horology Museum and the Voltaire Museum and the International Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum.

Château de Chillon
Chillon Castle receives more visitors than any other historical building in Switzerland. Occupying a plot right on Lake Geneva, the fortress caught the imagination of Lord Byron who wrote about the fate of Bonivard, a follower of the Reformation who was chained to the fifth pillar in the dungeons for four years in the 16th century. It's worth viewing the castle's tower, courtyards, dungeons and medieval weapons.

The quaint city of Lucerne in north-central Switzerland is located near the Reuss River on the western edge of Lake Lucerne. Its picturesque old-town center on the north bank of the Reuss offers 15th-century buildings with painted facades, towers, a 17th-century Renaissance town hall and the Kapelbruke covered bridge. The Transport Museum contains trains, planes and automobiles and shows the film Swissorama, a 20-minute, 360° travelogue. North-east of the city is the poignant Lion Monument, which was carved out of natural rock in 1820 as a monument to the Swiss soldiers who died in the French Revolution.

This skiing and mountaineering resort lies near the foot of one of the most famous peaks in the Alps, the 4478 meter Matterhorn. The popular cog-wheel railway to Gornergrat offers some magical vistas of the Matterhorn and surrounding peaks. It's easy to get around Zermatt on foot (the town is car-free) and it's well worth exploring the Hinter Dorf area with traditional wooden Valais homes.