Switzerland is situated in the heart of Europe, sharing borders with France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Italy. It's residents don't speak a single common language. They may speak one or more of four languages - German (64%), French (19%) Italian (8%), and Romansch (1%), depending on where in the country they live.

The country is largely mountainous, with a large central plateau. The snow capped peaks tower above the alpine meadows, even in the middle of summer. The mountain lakes are beautiful, with pure, cold water and villages dotting the shoreline. Most of the larger cities have also grown up alongside beautiful lakes, which have frequently shared their names: Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne, Lake Zurich, and Lake Zug.

Switzerland first began to take shape in 1291 when three Cantons, now equivalent to states but then independent countries, joined to form the a loose alliance called the Confederation Helvetica. By 1513, it had grown to 13 Cantons. In 1848, Switzerland adopted a constitution and became a federal state.

The country has adhered to a policy of strict neutrality since 1515. This, in part, contributed to its ability to remain neutral throughout World Wars I and II. (Another factor is the Swiss' fierce independence and willingness and dedication to defending themselves. Military service is compulsory for all able-bodied young men who remain members of the reserves up until their mid-forties. Regular participation in both refresher training and shooting practice is mandatory.)

Click on one of the cities in the navigation bar at left to begin to explore Switzerland.  


Copyright 2004 Harry B. Rowe