Switzerland; Pictures and Travel Information

This website offers free pictures of Switzerland (CH: Confoederatio Helvetica), alongside information about this marvellous small country in central Europe. Wherever you live in the world you can get an impression of a host of Swiss cities, towns, villages and other fascinating locations by surfing through the pictures shown, using the navigating list on the left.
You will also find useful information and tourist tips about the places pictured, with suggestions for accommodation ranging from the most luxurious hotels to good simple hostels. Finally, this website offers you interesting facts and figures about Swiss geography, history, culture and economy – all of which will help to improve your knowledge of this marvellous, modern yet traditional land. So lean back, relax and let your computer mouse take you off to far-away places, or perhaps give you a whole new perspective on spots closer to home. One picture says more than a 1000 words! Most of the photos on these websites were taken with a Nikon D200.

Though poor in mineral resources, Switzerland is a technologically highly developed country with a strong export-orientated economy and a reputation for high quality. The main export markets are EU countries such as France, Germany, Italy and the UK, but also the USA and Japan.
The main exports are machines, agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, jewellery and watches. Switzerland is a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member, but as yet not a member of the EU. Insurance and banking are two of the main sources of income in the tertiary sector, but tourism is the most important.

The Swiss hospitality industry has produced numerous outstanding chefs. Many with international acclaim work in leading hotels all over the world. Swiss cuisine is very varied and eating out is always a pleasure. In addition to regional traditional Swiss food and wines, there is also a wide variety of international cuisine.
Swiss watches and clocks
There has been a thriving watch and clock making industry in Switzerland since 1541, when Swiss goldsmiths turned to watch making as a way of surviving following a ban on wearing jewellery. Geneva was home to the first Watchmakers’ Guild anywhere in the world, formed in 1601. Since then, a combination of tradition and innovation alongside skilled craftsmanship, has ensured that Swiss watches remain famous for quality and design the world over. In the 20th century alone Switzerland produced the first wristwatch (1918), the first self-winding watch (1926), the first battery watch (1952) and the first quartz watch (1967). There quickly followed the first water resistant watch, the first with LED and LCD digital displays and the first quartz watch to run without a battery. Now Switzerland is known all over the world for designer and luxury watches from such manufacturers as Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Longines, Panerai and Patek Philippe, and these are just a few of the nearly 200 brands currently classed as ‘Swiss watches’.

Swiss Banks
Swiss banks are known above all for their secrecy and determination to maintain customer privacy, which in Switzerland is regarded in much the same way as confidentiality between doctor and patient. However the government is under pressure from the European Union to sign an OECD agreement which would bring it into line with banking practice in other countries, and in October 2013 it indicated that it would sign if the measure were ratified by the Swiss Parliament, so this tradition of secrecy may be under threat.
The history of banking in Switzerland began in the 18th century when rich linen merchants needed financial services: the first Swiss bank was Wegelin and Co. in St Gallen, established in 1741, though it did not use that name until 1893. Now Swiss banks employ about 136,000 people at home, as well as an estimated 103,000 people abroad. The financial sector, including banking, adds up to 11.6% of the nation’s GDP, and 5.6% of the workforce is employed in finance. It has been estimated that one-third of all the money in the world which is kept in “offshore” accounts (i.e. not in banks in its country of origin) is in Switzerland. The biggest banks are UBS and Credit Suisse, but there are also 24 cantonal banks which are state guaranteed, and many private banks, some of which are still family owned.
The economy of Switzerland is amongst the most stable in the world, and its people enjoy one of the highest per capita incomes. This has been achieved by political stability and long term monetary security, attracting a lot of foreign investment. Unemployment is relatively low, and a mix of industry and a strong service sector, including a lot of tourism, has brought prosperity. Switzerland has not joined the EC and has kept the Swiss Franc (the last surviving franc in Europe), but it has negotiated away most of the restrictions on its trade with the rest of Europe. The Swiss Franc is the fifth largest reserve currency around the world, after the US Dollar, the Euro, the Yen and the pound – an amazing achievement for such a small country.

Swiss cheese
Some people seem to think that all Swiss cheese has holes in and is good for fondue. You can’t really blame them because the two varieties best-known outside Switzerland, Emmental and Gruyère, do have these properties. Emmental has been made in the Emmental valley since around 1300 and is thought to be one of Switzerland’s oldest cheeses. It is pale yellow and made using partly-skimmed milk. Gruyère is named after a valley in Fribourg, and uses milk with a higher fat content. Both cheeses melt easily so are good for sauces as well as fondues, and both have holes or ‘eyes’. These holes are made by bubbles of carbon dioxide given off by the bacteria used in the cheese making process. In the past, cheese makers tried to get rid of the holes by pressing the cheeses, but now they are seen as traditional, and a sign of more flavour.

However there are over 400 other types of cheese from Switzerland, and many of them deserve to be better known. Among the hard cheese varieties is Berner Alpkäse, made using milk from Alpine pastures that have had no artificial fertilisers applied, and are therefore full of Alpine herbs that flavour the cheese. An extra-hard cheese is Sbrinz from central Switzerland. It has a smooth, nutty flavour and can be used as a substitute for Parmesan. Raclette is a semi-hard cheese, also made with milk from Alpine meadows. It has a creamy texture and a pleasant aromatic smell. Among the soft cheeses, Reblochon is a high fat content cheese made from full cream cows’ milk, and Vacherin du Mont d’Or is a luxury cheese which becomes almost liquid after maturation and is eaten like a fondue.

All the cheeses mentioned so far are made from cows’ milk, but Switzerland also produces some excellent soft cheeses from goats’ and sheep’s milk. These are popular due to health considerations, being easier to digest than cows’ milk cheese. However because they do not travel or keep particularly well, you may have to go to Switzerland to find them!

Swiss chocolate
Brands of Swiss chocolate like Suchard, Lindt, Favarger, Frey and, of course, the airport favourite, Toblerone, are known the world over for their excellent quality. Chocolate processing really started in Switzerland in the 19th century, when François-Louis Cailler opened the first Swiss chocolate factory near Vevey in 1819. Other pioneers soon followed, and by 1830 there were factories owned by Suchard, Favarger and Kohler in Serrières, Geneva and Lausanne respectively. Chocolate had been known in Europe since the 16th century, but mainly as a drink. Swiss chocolate entrepreneurs were responsible for some innovations, like combining chocolate with milk to make ‘milk chocolate’ and creating ‘melting chocolate’ by inventing ‘conching’. The surge in tourism to Switzerland between 1890 and 1920 helped to spread Swiss chocolate’s reputation and up to three quarters of the total made was exported.
Chocolate today is still made in the same basic process as it was originally, it is just that the various steps have been mechanised. Cocoa paste is made from cocoa beans by roasting and crushing; the paste is mixed with sugar and cocoa butter for plain chocolate, and milk powder is added for milk chocolate; white chocolate leaves out the brown cocoa paste. All these mixtures are ground and refined before being made into bars or used in other products. Good chocolate breaks cleanly, smells full and rounded, and melts like butter on the tongue. It does not stick to the roof of the mouth, and has hardly any after-taste.
Today more than half the Swiss chocolate made is consumed by the Swiss themselves. Big multi-national companies have bought the traditional chocolatiers: Suchard and Tobler are owned by Kraft Foods, Cailler and Kohler by Nestlé, Lindt and Sprungli have combined, and Migros owns Frey. The biggest export markets for Swiss chocolate are Germany, France, Britain and North America. However the largest consumption of chocolate per person in the world is by .... the Swiss themselves!

The Swiss Alps
Tourism in the Swiss Alps is said to have begun when the main peaks were climbed between 1811 and 1851, mostly by British climbers with Swiss guides. Soon after this hotels and mountain huts were built, and mountain railways followed in the later part of the 19th century. Still today one of the favourite ways to see the Alps is by train, either on the ‘Glacier Express’ (Zermatt – Andermatt – Chur – Davos – St Moritz) or the ‘Golden Pass’ (Montreux – Gstaad – Interlaken – Lucerne). Swiss Railways offer several different railway passes giving unlimited travel and discounts according to your intentions and circumstances. The most popular is the Swiss Pass, which attracts a 15% discount if there are two or more of you travelling together. The Swiss Peak Pass is an add-on to the Swiss Pass that will take you to 8 mountain tops, including Allalin, Corvatsch and Rochers-de-Naye. Unfortunately at the moment 75% of tourists come to the Alps by car, causing ecological problems. Swiss railways are trying their best to change this fact by offering an efficient service and pointing out that if you drive yourself you are going to see more tarmac than mountains!

Only 14% of the total area of the Alps lies within Switzerland, but that includes well over half of the 84 Alpine peaks above 4,000 metres (13,120 feet). The Alps cover 65% of Switzerland, making it the most Alpine country after Austria. In addition there are about 1,800 glaciers in Switzerland, feeding major rivers like the Rhône and Rhine. The highest mountain is the Dufourspitze in Valais, which is 4634 metres (15,203 feet). The most iconic is probably the Matterhorn. With its pyramidal shape of mostly bare rock, it reaches up to 4,478 metres, or 14,692 ft. It was one of the last main Alpine peaks to be climbed, when Edward Whymper conquered it in 1865 via Hörnli ridge with a party of English lords and gentlemen.

Winter tourism to the Swiss Alps, also known as the Central Alps, mainly revolves around skiing. The most visited ski areas are: Davos-Klosters, Zermatt, St Moritz, Grindelwald-Mürren-Wengen, Adelboden-Lenk, Verbier-Nendaz, Gstaad, Flims-Laax, Lenzerheide-Arosa and Crans Montana. Every mountain village can be reached by public transport, and some such as Zermatt, Mürren, Wengen, Riederalp and Bettmeralp are car free villages.

In summer, walking and climbing come to the fore and there are 23,000 km of well-maintained mountain trails. Most of the aerial tramways still operate so hikers and other visitors can get to high altitudes, the highest being the 3,883m (12,740 feet) Klein Matterhorn, via the highest cable car in Europe. Some of the other peaks that can be visited are: Jungfraujoch (‘Top of Europe’), Mt Titlis (by revolving gondola), Bettmerhorn (and the amazing Aletsch Glacier), and Schilthorn/Piz Gloria (with a panoramic revolving restaurant and connections to James Bond).
Also not to be missed: Trift Bridge, a 170 metres long, 100 metres high pedestrian suspension bridge above the Trift Glacier in Gadmen; a cruise on Lake Lucerne, followed by a trip on the steepest cogwheel railway in the world up to the Pilatus (2132m / 7000ft); and from Zermatt, a ride the Gornergrat Bahn train for great views of the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and 28 other peaks.

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Swiss Army Knives
The latest version of the world-famous Swiss Army Knife sells at nearly £500 GBP, but then it does have no fewer than 85 blades and other devices! British mountaineer Chris Bonnington took one to the Himalayas in 1970, and NASA astronauts were issued with them. Not surprisingly, the Swiss Army use the iconic pocket knife too, and they caused alarm in Switzerland in August 2013 when it was thought they might be about to order cheap, pirated versions from China. A petition was launched by a former colonel in the Swiss army, who said giving Swiss soldiers a Chinese knife would be the equivalent of giving them German chocolate!
The original Swiss Army Knife was first produced in 1891 in Schwyz by Victorinox, still the only genuine manufacturer. Since then 10 different models have been supplied to the army, and one issued to every Swiss soldier, regardless of rank. It is said the name ‘Swiss Army Knife’ was coined after the Second World War when US soldiers in Europe discovered the knife and bought them in large numbers. Now armies around the world, including the US, have the Victorinox knife as their standard military issue. For a while a rival company, Wenger, won a contract for a similar knife for the Swiss army; but Victorinox bought the rival out and became the sole Swiss Army Knife manufacturer again. There are currently no fewer than 80 different models on the market, depending on the size you want and which tools you need; and only some of them are red in colour. Recent developments include a number of hi-tech tools, such as a digital clock, a computer flash drive and an MP3 player!

Swiss International Boarding Schools
Some of the best international boarding schools are found in Switzerland, and they deservedly enjoy a high reputation around the world. Most now educate both genders, but it is still possible to find schools that take only girls or only boys. In most schools the language of instruction is English, but there are some bilingual schools offering courses in German and French. Swiss schools have a strong tradition of teaching languages, and a wide range, including Mandarin Chinese, is available. Boarding schools range from juniors to college preparatory, and take the International Baccalaureate, Swiss Matura or German Abitur programmes. Some Swiss schools have special support for children with learning disabilities. Switzerland was once known for its private ‘finishing schools’, where royals such as Diana, Princess of Wales and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece had their education completed. The original institution that made the reputation of these schools was Chateau Mont-Choisi, which operated from 1885 to 1995; now only one traditional finishing school remains open in Switzerland: the Institut Villa Pierrefeu in Glion. Today there is something of a boom in international schools as a result of increased globalisation: multinational companies want their top executives to work all over the world, so they need access to good schools for their children. Like Swiss banks, Swiss schools have a reputation for keeping quiet about which famous parents send their children to them.

The nine most expensive schools in Europe are all found in Switzerland. Top of the list is Le Rosey in Rolle, at 50,000 Euros a year. Housed in a lakeside chateau on a 28 acre campus with 10 tennis courts and a sailing centre, the school has taught a number of royals over the years. The international boarding school, College Alpin Beau Soleil at Villars-sur-Ollon, is not much cheaper at 48,000 Euros a year. This school is in the mountains near Geneva, with ski slopes and a riding centre on hand, as well as its own performing arts centre.

Famous Swiss
Quite a few Swiss-born men and women have achieved international renown in their field; here are some of the better-known ones:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Born in Geneva in 1712, Rousseau became a philosopher, writer and composer whose ideas influenced the French Revolution. His most famous works are ‘A Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts’, which argued that Man had been corrupted by civilisation, ‘On the Social Contract’, and ‘Discourse on the Origin of Inequality’. He also wrote successful novels and an opera, and his ‘Confessions’ is taken to be the first modern autobiography.

Leonhard Euler
Born in Basel a little before Rousseau in 1707, Euler was a pioneering mathematician and physicist. He introduced much of the mathematical notation used today; for example he popularised the use of the Greek letter Pi for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. ‘Euler’s Function’, ‘Euler’s Formula’ and ‘Euler’s Equation’ are all named after him.

Henri Dunant
Henri or Henry Dunant was a Swiss businessman and humanitarian who founded the Red Cross as a result of witnessing the suffering of the Battle of Solferino in Italy in 1859, which caused 40,000 casualties. Born in Geneva in 1828, Dunant’s ideas inspired much of the Geneva Convention drafted in 1864, for which he was the first ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Carl Gustav Jung
The famous Swiss psychiatrist, born in Kesswil in 1875, is best known as the founder of analytical psychology. It was he who developed the idea of the extrovert and the introvert personalities. He also worked on the analysis of dreams. Less widely known is the fact that he was an officer in the Swiss Army during World War 1, working as a doctor.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Dürrenmatt, the Swiss author and dramatist, died in 1990 aged 69. He wrote avant-garde plays, crime novels and satires, particularly of Nazism. His most successful dramas were ‘Romulus the Great’, set in ancient Rome, and ‘The Visit’, which was made into a film in 1964. In the last year of his life Dürrenmatt made a famous speech in honour of Václav Havel, the Czech dissident who became the last President of Czechoslovakia.

Max Frisch
Frisch was born in a suburb of Zürich in 1911 and by the age of 26 had published two novels. A Swiss border guard in World War 2, he then wrote plays that explored the moral dilemmas of modern life, and became a friend of Berthold Brecht. His best-known play is ‘The Firebugs’, published in 1958.

Le Corbusier
Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in Switzerland in 1887, the architect and designer better known as ‘Le Corbusier’ became a French citizen in 1930. As one of the pioneers of modern architecture, his buildings were constructed over five decades throughout Europe and in India and America. His five main architectural ideas were: lifting the building off the ground on reinforced concrete stilts; having a free façade and open floor plan by doing away with supporting walls; including long strips of windows for unencumbered views; and making a roof garden to compensate for the land lost under the building.

Roger Federer
Is the Swiss, Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player of all time? Even better than Borg or Laver? And what about Nadal?
Federer was born in Basel in 1981, and by 2013 when he had slipped to number 6 in the world at the age of 32, he had already won 17 Grand Slams, including the Wimbledon title 7 times and the US Open 5 times. Next in the league table is Sampras, with 14 Grand Slam titles, but then comes Nadal – still playing at the age of 27- with 13. Federer has won all four Grand Slam tournaments at least once, and he is the only player ever to have reached the men’s singles final of each Grand Slam at least 5 times. So going on results, yes Federer is the best, but could still be over-taken....

The following men and women, while not born in Switzerland, chose to make the country their home – or one of their homes.

Hermann Hesse
The German novelist, author of ‘Steppenwolf’, ‘Siddhartha’ and ‘The Glass Bead Game’, first lived briefly in Basel between the ages of 4 and 10, when the family returned to Germany. In 1901, now 24, Hesse moved back to Basel and published ‘Peter Camenzind’; the novel’s success enabled Hesse for the first time to make his living as a writer. Judged unfit for combat in the First World War, Hesse was used to guard prisoners of war. He became a Swiss citizen in 1923, and in the Second World War opposed Nazism and had his writings banned by them. Hesse died in 1962 at the age of 85, and is buried in Montagnola.

Thomas Mann
The German writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature lived in Switzerland from 1952 to his death in 1955 at the age of 80, having first lived in the country when he fled Nazi Germany in 1933. His most important works were the novels ‘Buddenbrooks’, ‘The Magic Mountain’ and ‘Death in Venice’, but he also wrote many short stories and essays.

Boris Becker
The German former professional tennis player now lives in Schwyz. He won 6 Grand Slam singles titles, an Olympic Gold Medal and married three times, after being the youngest ever Wimbledon Champion at the age of 17. Since his retirement in 2000, Becker has owned a tennis clothing and equipment company, played professional poker, and worked extensively in the media. He has other houses in Munich, Monaco and London, where he is known as “Britain’s favourite German”.

Gunther Sachs
Sachs, photographer, documentary film maker, writer, industrialist, art collector, former sportsman and playboy, committed suicide at his home in Gstaad in 2011, referring in his final note to a mental condition that was causing him to lose control over his life. (His father had also committed suicide.) Sachs had been a Swiss citizen since 1976 and was a long time chairman of the St Moritz Bobsleigh Club. The second of his three wives was the French film star Brigitte Bardot.

Since 2009 the “British violinist”, born in Singapore of mixed Thai/Chinese parentage, has lived in Zermatt with the intention of representing Thailand in downhill skiing in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The wealthiest young entertainer of 2006 in the UK, Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, as she was born in 1978, was a classical violin child-prodigy who attended the Royal College of Music in London and then “crossed-over” to a style of music known as “violin techno-acoustic fusion”. She also composes and has sold 10 million albums worldwide, activities which made her worth an estimated £32 million by the time she was 28.

Anna-Frid Lyngstad
Having been a member of the super-successful 1970s group ABBA, Lyngstad is probably assumed by most people to be Swedish, though in reality she was born in Norway in 1945 to a German soldier father and a Norwegian mother. As a baby, Lyngstad was taken by her grandmother to live in Sweden to escape possible reprisals for her father having been a member of the occupying forces during the Second World War. In 1972 ABBA was formed with Lyngstad, her then boyfriend and later her husband, Benny Andersonn, his best friend Born Ulvaeus, and Bjorn’s wife, Agnetha Faltskog. Following their enormous success in the pop music business, Anna-Frid and Benny divorced and she married a Swiss architect, Prince Reuss, going to live in his family castle in Fribourg. After the Prince’s death from cancer, Lyngstad now shares a home in Zermatt with her British boyfriend, Henry, Viscount Hambleden.

Roger Moore
The actor who was James Bond 007 from 1973 to 1985, now spends the winters at his chalet in Crans-Montana, Valais, and the summers at his apartment in Monaco. Voted ‘Best Bond’ in an Academy Awards poll in 2004, Moore made 7 Bond films in 12 years before his retirement in 1985. His friend Audrey Hepburn led him to become a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in 1991, for which organisation he worked for more than a decade, being rewarded with a knighthood by the Queen. Other charitable work included taking part in a successful campaign to persuade Selfridges in London to stop selling foie gras, for animal welfare reasons. Moore was granted a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007, but he regards his work for UNICEF as more important than his film career.

Audrey Hepburn
Roger Moore’s friend and fellow UNICEF Ambassador, Audrey Hepburn, starred in 27 films between 1948 and 1989; she also worked in the theatre and on television. She was regarded as a leader of fashion and placed on the International Best Dressed List in 1961. Hepburn won numerous awards for her acting, including an Oscar for ‘Roman Holiday’ and several other Oscar nominations. From 1988 onwards Hepburn worked as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, visiting starving children in Ethiopia and working in slums in South America. In recognition of her contribution she was awarded the United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush. Audrey Hepburn died at her home in Tolochenaz, Vaud, in 1993, having lived in Switzerland for the last 30 years of her life.

Martina Hingis
Hingis is a Swiss tennis player by naturalisation, having been born in Košice in what is now Slovakia in 1980. She came to Switzerland at the age of 6 when her mother married a Swiss following her divorce from Hingis father. Both her natural parents had been professional tennis players in Czechoslovakia, and Martina won her first Grand Slam junior title at the age of 12. She went on to become number 1 in the world in 1997 and won 5 Grand Slam singles titles and 9 in doubles. After breaks from tennis due to injury and retirement, Hingis has resumed playing in 2013 at the age of 33.

Phil Collins
Best known as the drummer and singer with the English rock group, Genesis, Collins was also a solo artist and record producer who had numerous hits all the way from 1976 to his retirement in 2011. Only Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson have sold as many albums as Collins as both a band member and a solo musician. Born in England in 1951, Collins has lived in Switzerland since he met his third wife, Orianne Cevey, in 1994, first in a house overlooking Lake Geneva and then, after their divorce, in Féchey. Some say Collins lives there for tax reasons (he is estimated to be worth £115 million) but he claims it is to be near his children. He also has homes in New York and England.

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin died in Corsier-sur Vevey in 1977, having lived in Switzerland with his American 4th wife from 1953, when he was accused in the US of being a communist and effectively banned from working in Hollywood. Chaplin began by working in English music halls at an early age, and went on to produce, write, direct and star in countless silent movies including ‘The Tramp’, ‘The Gold Rush’ and ‘The Great Dictator’, a satire on Hitler. He also edited his films and composed the music. Chaplin is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry, and in the early years of the 20th century was one of the most famous people in the world.

Tina Turner
Her website describes her as “the undisputed queen of rock and roll”, and indeed Turner has had numerous hits since her debut in 1950, first with Ike Turner and then as a solo artist. Her 1984 album ‘Private Dancer’ sold over 20 million copies, and she has sold more concert tickets than any other performer in history. Other successes include ‘River Deep and Mountain High’ and ‘Simply the Best’. Turner became a Swiss citizen in 2013, having lived in Kϋsnacht on the shore of Lake Zurich since 1994. After revelations about the domestic violence she suffered from Ike Turner she seems to have been wary of marriage, only finally marrying for the second time after a 27 year romance with her partner, German music executive, Erwin Bach.

James Joyce
The Irish modernist novelist and poet, author of the avant garde ‘Ulysses’, ‘Dubliners’, ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, lived in Paris and Zurich for various periods of his adult life, including during the Second World War, when he lived in the Swiss city to escape the Nazis. In 1941, following surgery on an ulcer, Joyce died in hospital and is buried in Fluntern Cemetery near Zurich Zoo. His wife Nora and their son George, who died in 1951 and 1976 respectively, are buried beside him.

Richard Wagner
Wagner, a composer and theatre director best known for his operas, lived from 1813 to 1883, and during a period from 1849 to 1858 was in exile in Zurich, with warrants out for his arrest in his native Germany following an involvement in a left-wing uprising. Later Wagner’s music was adopted by the Nazis, with Hitler declaring that it glorified “the heroic Teutonic nature”. The connection caused controversy because some of the composer’s earlier prose writings had expressed anti-semitic views common in the 19th century. Wagner’s operas written or partly written in Zurich include ’Der Ring des Nibelungen’, ’Der Junge Siegfried’, ’Die Walkϋre’, ’Das Rheingold’ and ’Tristan and Iseult’.

Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, the Russian communist revolutionary leader adopted the name ‘Lenin’ in 1901. Lenin lived in exile in Switzerland between 1900 and 1905, and again during the First World War. During this period, together with his wife, Nadya, he took up hiking in the Swiss Alps. Although born into a wealthy middle-class family, Lenin was a Marxist and as leader of the Bolshevik faction returned home to take a leading role in the October Revolution of 1917, becoming the first leader of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. He died in 1923 following a series of strokes.

A few facts
Switzerland has a land area of 41,284 sq km (15,936 sq miles), about 60% of which is made up of foothills and the Alps.
It has approximately 8,000,000 inhabitants.
Four languages are spoken: German, French, Italian and Romansch.
Bern is the capital city and has a population of almost 123,000. It is a beautiful city and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The largest city is Zurich with a population of almost 337,000.
The highest peak is the Dufourspitze (Canton Valais): 4,634 m / 15,203 ft.
The highest village is Juf (Canton Graubunden): 2,126 m / 7,000 ft
The lowest village is Ascona (Canton Ticino): 196 m / 690 ft.

Switzerland has long been looked upon as an idyllic country, reminiscent of the Alpen cereal adverts seen on television, where life is easy and gentle. However, Switzerland has also not been spared an increase in population and all the associated problems. In 1900 Switzerland had 3.3 million inhabitants. By 1950 it was 4.7 million – an increase of around 42%. Over the following 50 years the population increased by a further 53% to a total of 7.2 million and then reached 8 million in 2012. Since “Free movement of persons, asylum and immigration” was introduced in 2007, Switzerland’s population has grown by around another 500,000. All these increases have not been caused by the birth rate, which has dropped from 2.6 to 1.5 children per mother, but by immigration.

This level of immigration has brought problems such as increased population density, above all in Switzerland's Mittelland, urban sprawl, so-called zubetonierung (concreting over) the landscape, traffic jams, lack of parking spaces, packed public transport and last but certainly not least, enormous rises in the cost of renting or buying homes. This to the extent that old buildings offering apartments at reasonable rents are being demolished to make room for new apartment blocks for which the owners can charge exorbitant rents. In Bern, Switzerland’s capital city, around 1000 new homes were built between 2009 and 2012. However, this has had little effect on reducing demand and the rate of unoccupied apartments has remained at a meagre 0.44%. This lack of housing has had the effect of further increasing rental costs.

More people also results in more traffic. Traffic has constantly increased over recent decades and will continue to rise, not only because of the population, but also because of other factors, one being job sharing. If two people share the same job at one location, those two people will have to also travel to that location, whether by road or by rail. Public transport has already reached or exceeded its limits during “rush hours”. It is estimated that within the next two decades, passenger travel will increase by 20 to 40 per cent and freight traffic by somewhere between 40 and 85 per cent. Plans have now been put forward to put a roof over sections of motorways to effectively recover the space taken up by the roads and build settlements on the land regained. Legislation will never satisfactorily solve these problems. It will eventually be solved by industry. With today’s communication possibilities, commuter traffic could be greatly reduced if the work space was decentralized for many thousands of employees. In other words, employees would work from home or at least in satellite centres. It is very slowly beginning to happen and found to be successful. The employee has more freedom, is more efficient and much more satisfied. All it needs is trust.

The Swiss Flag

The Swiss love to fly their flag and they do so throughout the year, often together with cantonal or municipal flags, as a sign of patriotism. On 1 August - Swiss National Day – you’ll see a multitude of flags fluttering on buildings and along streets. The exact shade of red of the flag is not clearly defined and various shades have been used throughout the years. Although the cross on the Swiss flag is plainly white, It’s surprising how often the Swiss flag is mistaken for the flag of the Red Cross.
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