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Switzerland officially the Swiss Confederation (Latin:Confoederatio Helvetica, hence its abbreviation CH), is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, the so-called Bundesstadt (“federal city”).
The country is situated in Western and Central Europe, where it is bordered by Italy to the south,France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a land locked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi).
While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found; among them are the two global and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as Swiss National Day.
The country has a long history of armed neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world.
In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest UN office.
On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area (and thus does not use the Eurocurrency).
Switzerland has a stable, prosperous and high-tech economy and enjoys great wealth, being ranked as the wealthiest country in the world in per capita in multiple rankings.
In 2011 it was ranked as the wealthiest country in the world in per capita terms (with “wealth” being defined to include both financial and non-financial assets), while the 2013 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report showed that Switzerland was the country with the highest average wealth per adult in 2013.
It has the world’s nineteenth largest economy by nominal GDP and the thirty-sixth largest by purchasing power parity.
It is the twentieth largest exporter, despite its size. Switzerland has the highest European rating in the Index of Economic Freedom 2010, while also providing large coverage through public services.
The nominal per capita GDP is higher than those of the larger Western and Central European economies and Japan. If adjusted for purchasing power parity, Switzerland ranks 8th in the world in terms of GDP per capita, according to the World Bank and IMF (ranked 15th according to the CIA World factbook).
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland’s economy as the most competitive in the world, while ranked by the European Union as Europe’s most innovative country.
For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was the wealthiest country in Europe by a considerable margin (by GDP – per capita). In 2007 the gross median household income in Switzerland was an estimated 137,094 USD at Purchasing power parity while the median income was 95,824 USD. Switzerland also has one of the world’s largest account balances as a percentage of GDP.
Top 5 Products imported by Switzerland
- Gold (21%),
- Packaged Medicaments (5.9%),
- Cars (4.4%),
- Refined Petroleum (3.7%),
- Jewellery (3.6%)
Top 5 Import origins of Switzerland
- Germany (24%),
- Italy (11%),
- United States (9.8%),
- France (6.1%),
- China (4.1%)
Look past the silk-smooth chocolate, cuckoo clocks and yodelling – contemporary Switzerland, land of four languages, is all about epic journeys and sublime experiences.
The perfect antidote to rural beauty is a surprise set of cities: capital Bern with its medieval old town and world-class modern art, deeply Germanic Basel and its bold architecture, shopping-chic Geneva astraddle Europe’s largest lake, tycoon-magnet Zug and uber-cool Zürich with its rooftop bars and atypical Swiss street grit. Beard cutting or stone throwing, Paul Klee art or hip club gig: what a euphoric journey indeed.
Lake Geneva’s southern shore has been home for a decade and it still tickles me pink that journeys by train or plane begin with a soul-stirring 20-minute boat ride across the water, sometimes aboard a nippy little ‘commuter’ boat at dawn, sometimes on one of the magnificent belle époque steamers that I often see twinkling after dark from my kitchen window. Lakes, mountains, urban chic: Switzerland delivers every weekend with yet another uplifting activity and, being someone who’d rather be outside than in (call me and my kids ski fiends, paddle-board mad, hiking kings and queens), it suits me down to the ground.
Switzerland’s hallucinatory landscapes demand immediate action – grab boots, leap on board, toot bike bell and let spirits rip. Skiing and snowboarding in Graubünden, Bernese Oberland and Central Switzerland are winter choices. When pastures turn green, hiking and biking trails abound in glacier-encrusted mountain areas and lower down along lost valleys, glittering lakeshores and pea-green vineyards. View the natural grandeur from a hot-air balloon or parachute, or afloat a white-water raft. Then there’s those must-do-before-death moments like encountering Eiger’s chiselled north face up close or reaching crevassed ice on Jungfraujoch (3454m). Most extraordinary of all, you don’t need to be a mountaineer to do it.
The seven wonders
- The Castle of Chillon: near Montreux
- The Lavaux vineyards: on the shore of Lake Geneva
- The Castles of Bellinzona: in the southern canton of Ticino
The Abbey of St. Gallen
- The Top of Europe and the Sphinx observatory: a “village” with a post office on the 3,500 metres high Jungfraujoch above Wengen
- The Grande Dixence: a 285 metres high dam, south of Sion
- The Landwasser viaduct: on the railway between Chur and St. Moritz
The seven natural wonders
- The Matterhorn: from Schwarzsee, Gornergrat or simply from the village of Zermatt
- The northern walls of the Jungfrau and Eiger: two of the most celebrated mountains in the Alps, they can be seen from the valley of Lauterbrunnen or from one of the many summits that can be reached by train or cable car
- The Aletsch Glacier: the longest in Europe, the Aletsch wild Forest is located above the glacier, best seen from above Bettmeralp
- The lakes of the Upper Engadine: one of the highest inhabited valley in the Alps at the foot of Piz Bernina, they can be all seen from Muottas Muragl
- The Lake Lucerne: from the Pilatus above Lucerne
- The Oeschinensee: a mountain lake with no rivals above Kandersteg
- The Rhine Falls: the largest in Europe, take a boat to the rock in the middle of the fall