Switzerland

November 25, 2012 9:57 pm

Have you heard of a mountain called the Matterhorn? Do you know what yodeling is? Maybe you’ve tasted Swiss cheese or Swiss chocolate? If so, you already know something about Switzerland, a small, mountainous country in the middle of Europe.
Facts About Switzerland
Official name
Swiss Confederation
Capital
Bern
Official languages
German, French, Italian
Population
7,580,000 people
Rank among countries in population
93rd
Major cities
Zürich, Geneva, Basel
Area
15,900 square miles
41,300 square kilometers
Rank among countries in area
132nd
Highest point
Dufourspitze
15,203 feet/4,634 meters
Currency
Swiss franc
WHO ARE THE SWISS?
The people of Switzerland are called Swiss. The Swiss are a mix of people of different origins. Most have ancestors from Germany, but many have ancestors from France and Italy, too.
MANY LANGUAGES
Because of this mix of people, German, French, and Italian are all official languages in Switzerland. In fact, most towns have two or even three correct names, each from a different language! A fourth official language, called Romansch, is spoken in just a few Swiss villages.
Most Swiss people can speak several languages. The most common spoken language is Swiss German, or Schweizerdeutsch. It’s based on a form of the German language. Swiss German is a spoken language only. Most newspapers and magazines are written in standard German, French, or Italian.
THE SWISS ALPS
High mountains cover most of Switzerland. Most of the mountains are part of a great belt of mountains called the Alps. Western Europe’s highest mountains are in the Alps. Many of the towering peaks of the Swiss Alps are covered in snow year-round.
Between the mountains are steep gorges and beautiful valleys. Switzerland has many glaciers, rushing rivers, mountain lakes, and waterfalls. The spectacular Staubbach Falls in western Switzerland is one of the world’s highest waterfalls.
THE MATTERHORN
There are many famous peaks in the Swiss Alps, including the Eiger and the Jungfrau. But the best-known one of all is the Matterhorn in southwestern Switzerland. It’s 14,692 feet (4,478 meters) high and is famous for its jagged horn shape.
HIKING AND SKIING
Switzerland has a large tourism industry. In summer, people from around the world come to Switzerland’s mountains to go hiking. In winter, they come to go skiing. One famous resort in eastern Switzerland, called Davos, is the largest winter resort in Europe.
DAIRY COWS, CHEESE, AND CHOCOLATE
Because of all the mountains, there isn’t much land for farms in Switzerland. Most farmland is devoted to pasture for dairy cows and other grazing animals.
Switzerland’s dairy industry makes many kinds of cheese, including the world-famous Swiss cheese. It also provides milk to make milk chocolate, another famous product of Switzerland.
MUSIC IN THE MOUNTAINS
Long ago, cow herders in the mountains used a long, trumpet-like instrument called the alphorn to communicate with other herders. They also learned how to yodel, a way of singing that can be heard for great distances in the mountains. Even today, you can hear people yodeling in Switzerland’s mountains.
CITY LIFE
Most people in Switzerland live in towns and cities. Switzerland has many beautiful old cities that are noted for their historic homes, churches, and universities.
ZÜRICH, BERN, AND GENEVA
Zürich, in northern Switzerland, is the biggest city. It’s the main center for Swiss banking, a major industry in Switzerland. In Zürich you can learn a lot about Switzerland by visiting the Swiss National Museum.
Bern, in western Switzerland, is the country’s capital. There you can walk along the top of the old city walls and look out at the surrounding mountains.
Another important city is Geneva. It sits on the edge of a big mountain lake in western Switzerland called Lake Geneva. Geneva is famous for the many international organizations based there. If you’ve ever seen a Swiss watch, it was probably made near Geneva. Geneva is the center of Switzerland’s watch- and jewelry-making industries.
A NEUTRAL COUNTRY
Switzerland is a neutral country. That means when there is a war, Switzerland stays out of the fight. Switzerland first chose neutrality in the early 1500s, and it has been that way ever since. During World War II, while battles were fought all over Europe, Switzerland remained peaceful. Many people escaped to Switzerland for safety.
Because it’s neutral, Switzerland doesn’t keep a standing army. It does have soldiers, though. All Swiss men who reach the age of 20 must serve in the military. They keep their uniforms and weapons at home and train part-time.
THE RED CROSS
The Red Cross is an organization that helps people in need. In 1863, a Swiss man named Jean Henri Dunant was troubled by how little care soldiers got during wartime. He founded the International Red Cross in Geneva.
Today, the Red Cross helps many people. Like Switzerland, it’s neutral. If there is a war or a natural disaster in the world, the Red Cross tries to help all people in need, regardless of who they are or what side they are on.
Tags:
shared on wplocker.com