Direct Democracy, 26 Cantons and 4 Languages – Switzerland
The little country in the center of Europe is known worldwide as one the best economic developed states in the World: Renowned for so many things, such as cheese, chocolate, watches, Swiss army knives, and many more. Switzerland and his people always kept their tradition high and restrained from the big influences coming from outside. How come, let’s do a little journey in the country located between Germany, France, Italy, Austria and nonetheless the small principality of Liechtenstein.
Switzerland has a population of 8,5 million inhabitants and it is divided in 26 cantons, and there are four official languages: German in the North East, French in the West, Italian in the South and Romansh in the East. Switzerland is known for its direct democracy, important laws must be approved by the people. In two cantons, Appenzell and Glarus still exists the “Landgemeinde”, an annual town meeting for all citizens to discuss and vote directly different legislation bills, also the Swiss government has an annual rotating system for the Prime Minister.
Famous Mountains, Big Lakes
Geographically it has a huge diversity, from flat areas to big lakes, such as the Bodensee, Lake Zurich, Lake Lucerne and the Lake Geneva. Most of the Country consists of Mountains, the Alps. Probably the most famous mountain in the World is the Matterhorn in the South Wallis Canton, followed by the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in the Bern Alps next to Interlaken. In winter it is very popular to ski, the most famous areas are St. Moritz, Zermatt, Wengen, etc. Meanwhile in summer it is perfect for hiking, mountain biking and climbing tours.
Bern, the capital on the language border
Bern or (in French Berne) is the capital city of Switzerland, although Switzerland as a federal state does not consider to have a capital city. The City is located on a bend of the river Aare, it was selected as the capital because it is between the German and French language territory. The name Bern, according to the legend, derives from “Bär” (Bear), so therefore in the city center on the shores of the river there is a bear pit with living bears. Bern is famous for its cathedral (Münster) and the Clock Tower (Zytglogge).
Zurich, the economic center of Switzerland
Although Bern is de facto the capital of Switzerland, it is not the largest city. The biggest Swiss cities are Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lausanne. The economic center of Switzerland is Zurich, which has a fascinating Old Town and Churches, it is home of the worldwide big players in Sports, Finance and Economics: The World Football Federation FIFA has its Headquarters, and also a Museum there. Big banks like UPS and Credit Suisse are located in the Heart of the City, on the “Paradeplatz”. The City is located on the north shore of the Zurich Lake and the River Limmat.
Were all began
Right South of Zurich is Lucerne, known for its wooden bridge and the sleeping Lion. Lucerne is located on the Lake Lucerne or “Vierwaldstättersee”. On the shore of this lake between the Cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden is the small “Rütli” meadow, where on August 1st 1291 according to the legend the founding fathers agreed the everlasting oath of Rütli, a federal charter, which founded the Swiss Confederacy, or in German Eidgenossenschaft. The Swiss were always successful to fight against the invading European Armies, so more and more cantons affiliated to the Confederacy. In 1648, the end of the 30 Year War, on the Peace of Westphalia, the Swiss People was granted their independence and military neutrality. During the both World Wars Switzerland remained out of the big battlefields in Europe. Until nowadays Switzerland rejected their membership to the European Union, but takes part of the Schengen Area and the trade area.
The best way to explore this country is by train. Switzerland has the highest rail density in Europe. Almost every sight or location is reachable by train or public transportation. Switzerland has the highest railway station in Europe; it is located on the Jungfraujoch at 3,454 meter in the Bernese Alps.