Friday, June 29, 2012

About Switzerland.

From Wikipedia.

Switzerland (Swiss Confederation) is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the capital city.

The country is situated in western Europe where it is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.

Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 square km.

While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are found.

Among them are the two global cities and economic centres of Zurich and Geneva.

The Swiss Confederation has a long history of armed neutrality — it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 — and did not join the United Nations until 2002.

It pursues, however, an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world.

Switzerland is also the birthplace of the Red Cross and home to a large number of international organisations, including the second largest UN office.

On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association – although it is not a member of the European Union.

Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita gross domestic product, and has the highest wealth per adult (financial and non-financial assets) of any country.

Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French and Italian.

The Swiss, though predominantly German-speaking, do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnic or linguistic identity.

They are a mix of German, French and Italian.

The strong sense of belonging to the country is founded on the common historical background, shared values (federalism and direct democracy) and Alpine symbolism.

The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August, 1291.

Switzerland is named for the canton Schwyz, the old centre of the confederation.

Schwyz is Alemannic (Baden Wurtemberg) German for cleared.

The country was originally part of France, despite the German-speaking majority.

Later, the country was divided between France and Germany.

The French-speaking Cantons were in France. The German-speaking cantons were in Germany.

When the Habsburgs (themselves from Baden Wurtemberg) ruled Germany from the German province Austria, they made the whole of Switzerland part of Austria.

In 1291, the cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden formed the Swiss Confederation based in Schwyz.

More cantons split from Baden Wurtemberg and France and the confederation was gradually enlarged.

In 1499, the confederation broke free from Austria and the German Empire (which was controlled by Austria).

In 1798, France invaded Switzerland. The French quit Switzerland in 1815.

During World War I, Switzerland was home to Vladimir Illych Ulyanov (Lenin) and he remained there until 1917.

In 1920, Switzerland joined the League Of Nations, which was based in Geneva.

During World War II, Switzerland interned over 300,000 refugees and the International Red Cross, based in Geneva, played an important part in evacuating them to safety.

Women were granted the right to vote in 1959 in canton elections.

It was only in 1971 that women could vote in federal elections.

In 1984, Switzerland's first female cabinet minister Elisabeth Kopp took office.

Ruth Dreifuss became the first female President in 1999.

Extending across the north and south side of the Alps, Switzerland encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates.

The more mountainous southern half of the country is more sparsely populated than the northern half.

The Alps are a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country, comprising about 60 percent of the country's total area.

Among the high valleys of the Swiss Alps many glaciers are found, totalling 1,063 square kilometres.

From these originate the headwaters of several major rivers, such as the Rhine, Inn, Ticino and Rhone, which flow in the four cardinal directions into the whole of Europe.

The hydrographic network includes some of the largest bodies of fresh water in Western Europe, Lake Geneva, Lake Constance and Lake Maggiore.

Switzerland has more than 1500 lakes, and contains 6 percent of Europe's stock of fresh water. Lakes and glaciers cover about 6 percent of the country.

About 100 of Switzerland's mountain peaks are close to or higher than 4,000 metres.

At 4,634 m, Monte Rosa is the highest, although the Matterhorn (4,478 m) is the most famous.

Both are located within the Pennine Alps in the canton of Valais.

The more populous northern part of the country, comprising about 30 percent of the country is the Middle Land.

It has a hilly landscape, partly forested, with grazing herds, vegetable and fruit fields.

The largest lake is Lake Geneva in western Switzerland.

The Rhone River is both the main input and output of Lake Geneva.

The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary from glacial conditions on the mountain tops to near Mediterranean at Switzerland's southern tip.

Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing.

The less humid winters are in the mountains.

A weather phenomenon known as the fohn (with an identical effect to the chinook wind) can occur at all times of the year and is characterised by an unexpectedly warm wind to the north of the Alps.

The Swiss President serves a year's term and is a member of the 7-member cabinet (Federal Council).

Switzerland's most important economic sector is manufacturing.

Manufacturing consists largely of the production of chemicals, pharmaceutical goods, scientific and musical instruments.

The services sector – especially banking and insurance, tourism and international organisations – is another important industry for Switzerland.

Education in Switzerland is very diverse because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system to the cantons.

There are both public and private schools, including many private international schools.

The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons.

The biggest university in Switzerland is the University of Zurich with nearly 25,000 students.

Many Nobel prizes were awarded to Swiss scientists, for example to physicist Albert Einstein.

More recently Vladimir Prelog, Heinrich Rohrer, Richard Ernst, Edmond Fischer, Rolf Zinkernagel and Kurt Wuthrich received Nobel prizes in the sciences.

In total, 113 Nobel Prize winners in all fields were from (or based in) Switzerland and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded 9 times to organisations residing in Switzerland.

Switzerland has one of the best environmental records among nations in the developed world.

A total of 70 percent of Swiss are from the German speaking cantons. 22 percent are from the French speaking cantons. 8 percent are from the Italian speaking cantons.

Roman Catholics form 60 percent of the population followed by Protestants at 40 percent.

Switzerland is home to many notable contributors to literature, art, architecture, music and the sciences.

Some 1000 museums are distributed throughout the country.

Among the important cultural performances held annually are the Lucerne Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival and Locarno International Film Festival.

Concentrated mountain areas have a ski resort culture in winter, and a hiking (wandering) or mountain biking culture in summer.

As the Confederation, from its foundation in 1291, was almost exclusively composed of German-speaking regions, the earliest forms of literature are in German.

In the 18th century French became the fashionable language in Bern.

Among the classics of Swiss German literature are Jeremias Gotthelf (1797–1854) and Gottfried Keller (1819–1890).

The undisputed giants of 20th century Swiss literature are Max Frisch (1911–91) and Friedrich Durrenmatt (1921–90), whose repertoire includes Die Physiker (The Physicists) and Das Versprechen (The Pledge), released in 2001 as a Hollywood film.

Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) is famous for the children's classic Heidi.

Prominent French-speaking writers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and Germaine De Stael (1766–1817).

More recent authors include Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878–1947) and Blaise Cendrars (born Frederic Sauser, 1887–1961).

Many Swiss are fans of football and the national team.

Switzerland was the joint host, with Austria, of the Euro 2008 tournament.

Many Swiss also follow ice hockey and support one of the 12 clubs.

In a eight-year span, Roger Federer has won a record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, making him the most successful men's tennis player ever.

The cuisine of Switzerland is multi-faceted.

While fondue and rosti are omnipresent throughout the country, each region developed its own dishes.

Chocolate had been made in Switzerland since the 18th century.

The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine.

The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas and Pinot Noir. The Merlot is the main variety produced in Ticino.