Beyond the piquant chocolates, the sprawling meadows, alpine forests and the Alps rests a land or rather a utopian place of sorts that is home to poetically arranged sculpted houses, shimmering lakes, cuckoo clocks, enchanting railway network and benevolent people. When one step outside from the airport and all your mind will think about is simply how more beautiful can a place get. A place that could melt even the sternest of hearts like a Swiss Meringue and make people believe in love at first sight. Classy, contemporary and yet rooted to history and legacy, how can there be a place so picture perfect in this world?
Just when you think you’ve seen enough for the day, you will pass through innumerable canals and the reminiscing countryside that will restore faith in good things and life and wonder if God was at his creative best when he was coming up with this place. Glacial mountains, vineyards, glittering lakes, uber cool restaurants and eateries, some old-school countryside cycling and classic European architecture, Switzerland is the place that will leave an impact in your mind forever. It is the ultimate destination which will make you feel you’ve seen it all and whatever you see further are simply complimentary. If you are a wandering soul, Switzerland is where your salvation is. No matter how hard you try, there are no words in the language of the humans that can perfectly describe how it feels to be in Switzerland and soaking in the experiences it has to offer. You will have to be there, see them through your eyes, sense it and reaffirm the fact there isn’t actually a word to tell people how it feels to be there.
Welcome to a piece of art that is open to interpretations, art that will speak for itself and art that cannot be brought or taken home. It is just right there for us to see, feel and experience. Welcome to Switzerland – where life is good!
German, French, Italian, Romansh
Currency: Swiss Franc
Time Zone: CET - UTC +1
Area: 41,285 square kilometer
Official Language: German, French, Italian, Romansh
Capital’s Calling Code: +41
Landlocked between some of the most famous and beautiful countries like France to its west, Italy to its south, Austria to its east, Croatia to its southeast and Germany to its north, Switzerland is an exquisite tourist destination in Central Europe. Despite its small area of over 41, 000 square kilometers, the amount of attractions and activities it offers to its visitors is unparalleled. Switzerland is a congruence of diverse terrains and climatic conditions, where the landscape is divided into three types – the Jura Mountains, the Central Plateau or the Swiss Plateau and the mighty Swiss Alps. All these topographies are located in the western, central and the southern regions of Switzerland respectively. The Alps covers over 60% of the country’s landscape, a majority of the population of Switzerland around the central region. The northern regions of the country are more populated than their southern counterparts. Over 48 of the mountains in Switzerland reach an altitude of over 4,000 meters. Monte Rosa is the highest peak in Switzerland with an altitude of 4,634 meters followed by Matterhorn, which is approximately 4,478 meters high.
The Alps is home to several glaciers that cover an area of approximately over 1,000 square kilometers. These glaciers give rise to some of the most pristine water bodies of Switzerland like the Inn, Ticino, Rhone and Rhine. There are more than 1,500 lakes in Switzerland that you can see when moving from one city to another. Lake Geneva is the country’s largest lake, which it shares with France. The lake gets its water from the Rhine river.
Northern Switzerland, the more populous region of Switzerland accounts for over 30% of the entire population of the country. Geographically, this is the Central or the Swiss Plateau region and is marked by hilly landscapes, mild forests, lush green meadows, agricultural fields, and lakes. Some of the biggest cities located in this region include Zurich – one of the most famous tourist destinations, Lucerne, Geneva, Lausanne, Fribourg and more.
The history of Switzerland can be traced back to times as early as 5,300BC, where one of the oldest recorded farming settlements have been found in the region of Gachlingen. Hominid existence has been traced back in Switzerland to about 150,000 years early and some of the earliest known tribes to settle down in Switzerland include La Tene and Hallstatt. These cultural tribes are known to have flourished after post ice-age era, approximately during 450BC. One of the notable tribal settlements in Switzerland includes the Helvetti, who decided to migrate to Gallia from the Swiss Plateau region after consistent harassments from the Germanic tribes.
The time of prosperity in Switzerland began approximately in the 2nd Century AD, where several towns popped up around the Swiss Plateau region giving rise to massive agricultural fields and the formation of the countryside.
During the world wars, the country remained independent and was never invaded. Switzerland became part of the League of Nations during 1920 and was exempt from military requirements. It joined the Council of Europe in 1963 and in 1999, the population of Switzerland and that of Canton voted for a revamped federal constitution. Switzerland became a member of the UN in the year 2002. It is the founding member of the European Free Trade Association. In 2005, Switzerland joined the Schengen Treaty.
With a total land area of over 41,000 square kilometers approximately, the total population of Switzerland numbers to around 8,507,736. It has a population density of 214 per square kilometer and gets as low as 27 per square kilometer in the canton of Graubunden, which is largely located in the Alps. The population of Switzerland constitutes to less than 0.15% of the world’s population and ranks 99th in the list of world’s most populous cities. Over 70% of the population is urban and the country has 42.4 years as its median age.
One of the interesting facts about Switzerland is that there is no set official religion in Switzerland. Some of the cantons in Switzerland recognize churches, which are either the Swiss Reformed Church or the Roman Catholic Church. However, Christianity is a religion that is predominant in Switzerland and accounts for over 71% of the resident population. In the population, over 38% are Roman Catholics, 26.93% follow the Swiss Reformed Church, 2.90% follow Protestant Church and close to 2.9% of other Christian sub-sects. Islam is also mildly prevalent in Switzerland with less than 5% of the population following the faith.
Switzerland is home to four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh. While German is the predominantly spoken language in Switzerland, French is spoken in the western regions, Italian in the southern regions and Romansh in the canton of Graubunden. Over 62% of the Swiss population speaks German. This is followed by French and Italian, spoken by approximately 22.7% and 8.1% of the population respectively. Romansh is spoken by 0.5% of the total population.
Apart from the official four languages, Switzerland also has people speaking English, Albanian, Portuguese, Croatian, Serbian and Turkish.
The Swiss Franc is the official currency of Switzerland and is minted and issued by the Swiss National Bank. CHF is the code for Swiss Francs, which translate to Franken in Germany, Franc in Romansh and French and Franco in Italian. Rappen is the sub-denomination of Franc, where 100 Rappens constitute to one Franc. This further translates to centime in French, centesimo in Italian and rap in Romansh. The Swiss Franc is the legal tender in Switzerland and is used in all transactions.
The currency is available in two types – coins and currency notes. While the denominations for the coins include 50 rappens, 1, 2 and 5 francs, the denominations for Rappens include 5, 10 and 20 Rp. The bank notes are available in the denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 1000 Francs.
Cost and Money
Being an exotic destination, Switzerland is considered to be one of the most expensive tourist places in the world. However, the country offers the best of both luxury and budget hotels and even backpacker hostels that help cater to the needs of different types of tourists from around the world. You can get accommodation in Swiss apartments and hotels at approximate prices starting at Rs. 3,500 and go all the way up to Rs. 1,50,000 per night. The higher range hotels are a haven for luxuries and prime location and views of the Alps and are designed to give you the best of Swiss experience.
There are thousands of ATMs throughout Switzerland that offer you the local currency for applicable bank fees. The ATMs have the option of displaying information in English, making it convenient for tourists. Travelers often suggest you withdraw the amount you are likely to spend for a couple of days at once to avoid repetitions to ATMs and keep getting charged for it. Most places accept credit and debit cards in Switzerland. One of the things you should keep in mind when withdrawing currencies in Switzerland is your daily local limit. Due to the conversions, know your local withdraw limits and then decide on how much you intend to withdraw. If your daily limit is Rs. 50,000, withdraw only 500 Francs for use. Euros are accepted in a few places but on applicable charges.