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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Switzerland

A land that conjures up images of breathtaking mountains, beautiful lakes, Alpine villages, chocolates, cowbells and fields of edelweiss is a land with the power to seduce...
Landlocked by France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy, Switzerland takes up an area of 41,295 square kilometres and is home to 6.9 million people. More than 60 percent of the country is mountainous and a quarter of it is covered in forests. The snow-capped Alps, Europe’s highest mountains, occupy the central and southern regions of the country. Some of the Alpine meadows are breathtaking and are inhabited by famous and distinctive Alpine animals such as the ibex (a mountain goat with huge curved horns) and the chamois (a horned antelope). There is perennial snow cover at altitudes of above 3000m. Winter sports resorts begin operating in late November and close around April. Switzerland is a federal republic and consists of 23 partly autonomous cantons. Politically neutral since 1815, it is an important international meeting place and houses one of the headquarters of the United Nations.
Its people enjoy the highest standard of living in Europe. Switzerland has long attracted many foreign artists and writers including Voltaire, Byron, Shelley, James Joyce and Charlie Chaplin. The 18th century writings of Rousseau in Geneva played a key role in the development of democracy while Carl Jung’s research in Zurich was instrumental in the development of modern psychoanalysis. Switzerland’s cities are well worth a visit. Zurich, the most populous city, is famous for its financial institutions and for its art galleries – both coexisting happily side by side. Lake Zurich offers endless opportunities for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking. Nestling on the shores of Lake Geneva, the city of Geneva is home to more than 200 international organisations. The city’s fine location and the wealth of boating and walking opportunities provided by Lake Geneva make it an attractive and relaxing place. Lucerne is often considered to be the true “Swiss” capital. This charming and attractive town straddles the Reuss River on the western edge of Lake Lucerne and makes an excellent base for excursions.

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