Switzerland lies in the area of the Central Alps and their northern foothills. The landscape is divided into the Jura, Central Plateau and Alps. The Principality of Liechtenstein lies between Switzerland and the second Alpine state, Austria. The cities of Zurich, Geneva and Basel are more economically important and better known internationally than the state capital Bern.
Neutral and politically stable Switzerland has a powerful economy. It plays an important role in transit traffic across the Alps. The planned Gotthard Base Tunnel is intended to relieve the road as a mode of transport.
Abbreviated as CH by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, Switzerland lies almost entirely in the Alps and is therefore one of the Alpine countries. It is one of the smallest countries in Europe in terms of area. According to the constitution, it is a federation of 20 cantons and six half-cantons, which have their own constitutions and extensive autonomy. The name of the state is derived from the original canton of Schwyz. Switzerland borders Germany to the north, Austria and Liechtenstein to the northeast and east, Italy to the southeast and south, and France to the west.
In Switzerland, three typical natural areas can be distinguished: the Jura in the north and northeast, the Alps in the center and south and between the Jura and the Alps the Swiss plateau. Most of the country, almost two thirds of the area, is in the Central Alps, where the Alps reach their greatest heights. Around 30 peaks in Switzerland are more than 4000 m high.
The central Alps are divided into a northern and a southern Alpine range by the large longitudinal valleys of the Rhone and the Rhine, which form important traffic axes, as well as by numerous transverse valleys:
The northern Alpine range reaches into the heavily glaciated Bernese Alpsits greatest height. The Great Aletsch Glacier with an area of around 87 km² and a length of almost 25 km is the largest Alpine glacier of all.
In the southern alpine range rises in the glacier-rich Valais Alps with the Monte Rosa massif (4637 m) the highest region of the country. In the eastern section, the Rhaetian Alps, which are already part of the Eastern Alps, reach 4049 m in Piz Bernina. The cantons of Ticino and Graubünden, which are climatically and culturally separated from the rest of the Alps, are located on the southern Alpine roof towards Italy.
North of the Alps, along the border with France, extends the Jura, which takes up about a tenth of the country’s area.
The Jura is a narrow, 250 km long and up to 1700 m high low mountain range made of limestone. It separates from the Alps south of Geneva and runs in a wide arc through western and northern Switzerland.
Its south-east flanks are marked by three of the great Swiss Alpine lakes: Lake Geneva, Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Biel.
The Swiss plateau stretches between the Jura and the Alps or Lake Constance and Lake Geneva and covers a quarter of the country’s area. The Mittelland is a hilly country cut up by many river valleys, with the capital Bern in the center. The many lakes, hollows and terminal moraine hills were created by ice age glaciers. Thanks to good soils, a relatively mild climate and good traffic permeability, it is the economic core of Switzerland.
The main European watershed runs right through the Swiss Alps.
The Sankt Gotthard massif is the headwaters of numerous rivers. Fed by glaciers, the Rhine, Reuss, Aare, Rhone, Mera / Adda, Inn and Ticino arise here and flow apart in all directions.
Switzerland is very rich in lakes. It has a share in the two largest lakes in the northern foothills of the Alps, Lake Constance and Lake Geneva, as well as in the large northern Italian lakes Lago Maggiore and Lake Lugano. Lake Lucerne, Lake Zurich and Lake Thun, as well as Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Biel on the edge of the Jura are other charming lakes on the edge of the Alps that make Switzerland even more attractive for tourists.
Most of Switzerland has a humid climate with high rainfall. Three quarters of the country receive more than 1000 mm of precipitation annually, the mountain slopes exposed to the north and north-west even more. Mediterranean influences are already noticeable south of the main chain of the Alps. In this respect, the Swiss Alps are also a climatic divide between the moderate and Mediterranean climates.
In the Jura, winters can be particularly cold with temperatures as low as -40 °C in unfavorable cold air sinks.
Important data about the country
|Population density:||179 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||0.7% / year|
(men / women):
|Form of government:||Parliamentary Federal Republic (Confederation)|
|Languages:||German, French, Italian and Graubünden or Romansh as official languages|
|Religions:||Catholics (42%), Protestants (33%)|
|Climate:||humid with Mediterranean influences in the southern valleys, in the high altitudes of the Alps high mountain climate|
|Land use:||Arable land 11.2%, pasture land 27.1, forest 28.5%|
(share of GDP, 2003)
|Agriculture 1.5%, industry 34%, services 64.5%|
|Export goods:||Machines and apparatus, chemical and pharmaceutical products, precision instruments and clocks|
|Gross domestic product:||320 US $ 118 million (2003)|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 40,680 / residents (2003)|
A special characteristic of Switzerland, besides the landscape, is the linguistic and cultural diversity.
There are four official languages with equal rights: About two thirds of the population speak a German dialect, Swiss German. In the western part of the country around 20% of the Swiss speak French, and in the canton of Ticino Italian is predominantly spoken. Only a small part of the residents of Ticino and Engadin speak Grisons or Romansh, the fourth national language.
Last but not least, its constant foreign policy neutrality has contributed to Switzerland being one of the leading industrial nations in the world today and, after Luxembourg, having the world’s highest gross national product per resident.
Switzerland has a diverse, modern, export-oriented industry. The companies have concentrated on the production of high quality products and are therefore very successful on the world market. Examples of this are the electronics industry, the manufacture of precision devices and clocks in the Jura, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry in the Basel region, and the regionally distributed food and beverage industry. Machine and apparatus construction and metal processing are also important and also strongly export-oriented.
More than half of the energy needs of business and industry are covered by hydropower plants, for which the water-rich and sloping rivers offer the best conditions.
This sector is of paramount importance for the Swiss economy.
The Swiss banks and financial institutions in particular contribute significantly to the country’s wealth. Switzerland has been one of the most important financial centers in the world for decades. Many banks and insurance companies are internationally recognized and generate a large part of their income from business abroad. The great political, monetary and economic stability of Switzerland and last but not least the banking secrecy exert a tremendous attraction on foreign capital.
Next to it is tourism – an important economic factor with almost 80 million overnight stays per year. According to the natural conditions of the country, the tourist infrastructure is extremely varied. Many places are in season all year round. The snow-sure mountain regions, scenic lake zones and the major cities of the country play the dominant role as tourist destinations.
The most important foreign trade partners are the EU countries, above all Germany, and the USA.
Relief and climate limit the possibilities for agriculture, especially arable farming.
On the other hand, cattle breeding is highly developed with traditional dairy farming, which uses many products, e.g. B. Chocolate and chocolate products for export. Beef cattle is also increasingly being farmed. In the past, livestock farming played a major role, especially on the alpine pastures, but today it has shifted more and more to the Swiss plateau. Wine, fruit, vegetables and tobacco are now grown there and in the climatically favorable Alpine valleys.
Due to its central location in Europe, Switzerland was already an important transit country in earlier times. This function is becoming more and more important. Switzerland has the shortest north-south connection through the Alps. Road and rail traffic mainly uses the alpine tunnels, e.g. B. the St. Gotthard Tunnel, the Lötschberg Tunnel or the Simplon Tunnel.
The fully electrified railway network and the excellent road network offer excellent conditions not only for transit traffic, but also for inland traffic.
A growing problem, however, is the surge in mass traffic in the last few decades, which has reached the capacity limits of the traffic routes.
With new rail and tunnel projects as part of the New Alpine Transversal Railroad (NEAT) attempts are being made to reduce or relocate road traffic, which is harmful to the environment, in particular. Tolls and transit fees that are levied on foreign road users at the borders are also intended to curb the excessive flow of traffic.
Gotthard Base Tunnel
At the information center in Sedrun in the Vorderrheintal, you can experience one of the boldest building projects in Switzerland up close. The bottom of the shaft for the two tunnel tubes of the Gotthard Base Tunnel lies at a depth of 800 ms that are to be driven from here to the north and south at the same time. The sinking work for the 8 m wide and 800 m deep vertical shaft is currently in full swing. When it is completed in 2014, the base tunnel will be the longest railway tunnel in the world with a length of 57 km. Taking into account ingenious security concepts, high-speed trains are to cross under the Alps from the north portal at Erstfeld to the south portal at Bodio. After completion of the tunnel, Switzerland is hoping for a considerable shift in freight traffic from road to rail.
1291: The original cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden found the “Eternal League”, the nucleus of today’s Switzerland.
1386: The confederates defeat a Habsburg knight army near Sempach.
1499: The Swabian War leads to the separation of the Swiss cantons from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
1674: The “principle of armed neutrality”, which from then on largely kept Switzerland out of armed conflicts and protected from war damage, is explained.
1798: Conquest by French troops and creation of the Helvetic Republic.
1803: Re-establishment of the “thirteen old places” (cantons) by Napoleon, expanded to include Graubünden and another five new cantons.
1848: adoption of a new federal constitution.
1920: Geneva becomes the seat of the League of Nations.
1992: The Swiss refuse to join the European Economic Area (EEA).