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  Switzerland

CAPITAL : Bern
POPULATION : 7,782,900 (2009 estimate)
DISTRICTS : 26 cantons; Bern (capital district)
RELIGION : no official religion
TIME : CET (Central European Time)
CURRENCY : Swiss franc

Overview

‘The Great Neutral Country’ is truly a place of contradictions. Switzerland is one of the few countries in Europe that is not part of the EU, and while it is also one of the smallest European nations, it is also one of the richest, despite being landlocked and denied any sea-based trade options.  

Geography

Switzerland is mostly mountainous country, with the Alps and Jura Mountains comprising a large part of it. The Central Plateau area, which also contains the majority of the population, also has the friendlier Mediterranean climate, while glaciers and frigid winters can occur on the higher mountainsides and valleys. Awe-inspiring lakes and the Rhone River ensure that Switzerland provides the only bodies of water that Switzerland has access to. 

Economy and Infrastructure

Although Switzerland has refused several time to join the EU, it’s economic policies run parallel to the EU’s. To avoid being locked out of the more lucrative parts of doing business with the EU, Switzerland uses bilateral trade agreements with many countries, ensuring its economy of lasting stability. In terms of infrastructure, Switzerland has a dense railroad network that carries more than 350 million people a year. The Swiss autobahn also provides hassle-free transportation throughout the country, while Zurich Airport, the country’s largest international airport, handles just under 21 million passengers annually. 

Culture

Switzerland has the unusual privilege of playing home to three of Europe’s largest cultures. This has influenced the country significantly, so that only the highly urbanised city metropolises stand apart and neutral, considering. The countryside is a mixture of the quaint, picturesque and time-honoured, with rural villages still sporting archaic architecture and ethnic tastes. Although Switzerland is at the forefront of global movements, it still holds on to its more traditional and historic side as well.

Swiss Cuisine

While Swiss food is as multi-faceted as its cultural influences, both internal and external, there are some memorable things to note, such as fondue, rösti and raclette, not to mention the world-renowned Swiss chocolatiers, or the Pinot Noir and Chasselas wines from the Valais and Geneva regions. Swiss cheese and dairy products, also globally well-known, are produced in the Gruyère and Emmental valleys. Western Switzerland in particular is known for its finer dining and cuisine, on par with international standards of excellence.

Interesting Facts

  • Switzerland is the country with the second-highest life expectancy in Europe, right after Sweden.
  • The Swiss city of Geneva is the European seat of the United Nations.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (the ICRC) originated in 1863, also in Geneva.
  • There are over 32 mountain peaks in Switzerland that are taller than 4,000 metres. 
  • Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe invented the first wrist watch in 1868.

 

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