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Facts about Switzerland - 30 things you (might) not have known

Facts about Switzerland and 30 things you (maybe) didn't know about the country. In Switzerland you can rent a cow and during that time you can enjoy all the cheese made from its milk. Switzerland has more banks than dentists, Switzerland is not in the EU and was not in the world wars, and the capital of Switzerland is Bern. The country that is beautiful just everywhere... Join us!

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Facts about Switzerland

Hold on to your hat, because here comes some cool stuff you had no idea about. The highest railway station in Europe is in Switzerland, on top of the Jungfrau at 3454 metres. Swiss Ursula Andress became world-famous overnight in a white bikini in the 1962 Bond film 'Licence to Kill'.

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You've heard of Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheeses, Swiss army knives, Swiss watches, Swiss banks, Swiss timing and the Swiss Alps, right? In 2018, Switzerland was ranked first for eighth year in a row as the most innovative country in the world.

Five countries surround Switzerland. To the north of Switzerland is Germany, to the east is Austria and Liechtenstein, to the south is Italy and to the west is France. Now we know that and here comes the rest! 

1. Four national languages

German, French, Italian and Romansh are the four national languages of Switzerland. 'confoederatio helvetica' or 'helvetia' is the Latin name for Switzerland. German is spoken by over 60 per cent of the population (in fact, they speak the Swiss Germanwhich is virtually their own language. French speakers make up 20% of the population, while only 6.5% of Swiss citizens speak Italian and less than 1% understand and use Rhaeto-Romanic, a Latin-based language from the mountainous region of Graubünden. There are 26 autonomous cantons (like counties).

2. The UN and the Red Cross in Switzerland

The UN headquarters are located in Geneva (the city of Peace and Freedom) and also the Red Cross. Henri Dunant was a young Swiss gentleman who had been to Italy in 1859 and witnessed a bloody battle. He thought that there should be a free zone or community in place in a war zone, with qualified dedicated volunteers helping the wounded.

After 4 years and together with five others, the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) was founded in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland, where its headquarters are still located.

The Red Cross flag is a colour reversal of the Swiss flag with a red cross on a white background and today the Red Cross has 97 million volunteers. We visited the Red Cross Museum in 2018 and were very impressed.

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3. Unesco World Heritage Site in Lavaux

I Lavaux Lake Geneva is home to 400 km (40 miles) of tiered stone walls for viticulture built in 1200 by monks. Today there are 10,000 vineyard terraces in 40 levels, covering 830 hectares, and a total of 200 wine growers. 

Chasselas grapes are grown here, producing a fruity and fresh white wine. Visit the vineyards in Cully or Epesses. Since 2007, the Lavaux wine region has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protecting the region.

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4. The beautiful railways in Switzerland

Switzerland has 208 mountains over 3000 metres high and 24 of them hovering over 4000 metres, and with the highest peak at 4634 metres called Dufourspitze. Amongst these mountains since 1930, The Glacier Express connects two of Switzerland's most popular holiday resorts - St. Moritz and Zermatt, located at the base of the Matterhorn. The train takes you through the Alps at a slow pace and sometimes with gears to help the train up steep slopes. You pass over 250 bridges and about 90 tunnels through high mountain passes.

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We visited Zermatt 2017 and cars are prohibited here. The train is your way into Zermatt and we wouldn't want to be without that route. You pass waterfalls, mountain peaks with snow in summer, breathtaking heights, rapids, beautiful scenery. It's a bit like a fairy tale and the trains have large panoramic windows to capture all the beauty. If you want to go somewhere by train, Switzerland is the best choice, and you probably didn't know that?

5. Swiss chocolate habits

The Swiss eat the most chocolate per capita in the world. About 180,000 tonnes of chocolate are produced and about 11 kilos of chocolate per person are eaten per year. Famous names are Rudolf Sprüngli from 1836 with luxury confectionery and his famous flagship "Luxemburgerli", with annual sales of 1 billion. Lindt chocolate from 1845 that most people are familiar with, and there is even a real chocolate train!!!

Chocolate tips in Broc: The popular Swiss chocolate brand Cailler was created by Swiss François-Louis Cailler in 1820, and in Broc, near Gruyère, there is a chocolate factory where you can indulge yourself! Did you know that?

Chocolate tips in Zermatt: The family bakery fox  which started in 1965 in Zermatt is very popular. We met Philipp Fuchs who showed us how to make little "Matterhorns" in chocolate. Maybe you didn't know that either?

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6. The world's highest cogwheel track

Did you know that the world's highest and steepest cog railway is located in Lucerne on Mount Pilatus. Built in 1889 and electrified in 1937, the Pilatusbahn takes you up to Pilatus Kulm, at an altitude of 2132 metres above sea level, in about 40 minutes. 

A 4.6 kilometre long narrow gauge rack railway, with a 48% gradient at the steepest points, makes this trip a real adventure. It can get cold up there, so bring an extra jacket if you're walking around the peaks, or sit in the restaurant and just enjoy.

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7. tennis player Roger Federer

Tennis player Roger Federer was born on 8 August 1981 in Basel, Switzerland. He is considered one of the best ever and has been in the top 5 of the world rankings for 20 years. He plays right-handed with a one-handed backhand. What about ...

Single:

  • 1242 wins and 271 losses
  • Single titles 103 pieces
  • Grand Slam 20 - Australian Open 6, Wimbledon 8, US Open 5, French Open 1
  • ATP World Tour Finals: 6 titles
  • An Olympic silver medal in singles in 2012

Double:

  • 131 wins and 92 losses
  • Double wins 8
  • An Olympic gold medal in doubles in 2008

I just say world class!

8. Tennis player Martina Hingis

Also tennis player Martina Hingis, born 30 September 1980, was born in the Czech Republic but moved to Switzerland at an early age, where she was absolutely brilliant. Professional from 1994 to 2017, Martina was the youngest player ever when she was ranked number one in the world at 16 years and 6 months. She is right-handed and has a double-faced backhand.

Single:

  • 548 wins and 135 losses
  • Single titles 43
  • Grand Slam 5 pieces - Australian Open 3, Wimbledon 1, US Open 1
  • WTA championship 2 pieces

Double:

  • 490 wins and 110 losses
  • Double titles 64
  • Grand slam 13 - Australian open 5, Wimbledon 3, US open 3, French open 2
  • Grand slam mix 7 pieces - Australian open 2, Wimbledon 2, US open 2, French open 1

World class again!!!

Source: FlickrMirsasha - All Creative Commons

9. Switzerland is always ready for war

Before building tunnels or roads, there is always a plan. If you are attacked, there is already dynamite in roads, railway tunnels and mountain passes in the country. By law, all 26 cantons (counties) must be able to protect each individual, resulting in 360,000 shelters and 1700 protection systems. I didn't know that ...

They have enough bunkers to feed two Swiss people. The men do military service and then they keep their weapon at home all their lives and can report in a few hours if necessary.

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10. Bobsleigh from Switzerland

The daring and crazy sport of Bobsleigh where two or four people ride a bob, a kind of sled or metal tube, down a 1200 to 1600 metre long curved ice track. Average speeds are 130 km/h. Developed by Englishmen in St Moritz, Switzerland from the 1870s, bobsleigh has been an Olympic sport since 1924.

11. Charlie Chaplin Museum

Sir Charles Spenser (Charlie Chaplin) - "The Tramp" who lived his last 25 years (1952-1977) in Corsier-sur Vevey in Switzerland. There is an absolutely fantastic museum about Charlie and his house The Manoir where he lived with his Oona which we visited.

Chaplin was born poor in London in 1889 and moved to the United States in 1913, where he achieved great success. His work was categorised as communist and after leaving the country he was not allowed to return to the US.

Chaplin was known for his small moustache, his round Derby hat, a too tight tailcoat, big shoes and baggy trousers. Chaplin planned, directed, edited, and scored all of his 32 films, and he would do it all himself. Michael Jackson also did everything himself and was a big fan of Chaplin.

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12. Alien from Switzerland

H.R. Giger, who created the monsters in the science fiction Alien films, was a Swiss artist, and has a Giger Museum in the picturesque little town of Giger, Switzerland. Gruyère cheese. The museum features drawings and other monsters in horror, biomechanics and nudity.

Next to the museum is an Alien-style café and you'll feel like you're in the films. Go into the village of Gruyère again and have a cheese fondue because this is where the Gruyère cheese comes from that is part of Switzerland's national dish... raclette, or buy the heavenly cheese to take home.

13. the square flag of Switzerland

Switzerland and the world's smallest country Vatican City in Rome, are the only two countries in the world with square flags. The flag has a red background with a white cross.

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14. Women's right to vote in Appenzell

Even though Switzerland is a forward-looking country, Switzerland was the last to give women the right to vote! Women gained the right to vote in 1971 in Switzerland, except for one that came much later. The canton was forced to Appenzell (eastern region) to give women the right to vote in 1991! Absolutely crazy!

15. Direct democracy with a show of hands

In Appenzell, people do not vote as usual with an envelope in a ballot box as we do. They gather once a year in the main square and vote by show of hands. There are counters higher up to see what the inhabitants think about different proposals made by the local politicians.

To vote, you must be 18 years old. To prove this, all boys receive a sword on their 18th birthday and take it with them on election day in Appenzell. Women must instead bring a form they have received in the letterbox.

Cheese tips in Appenzell: The incredibly good Appenzell cheese is from here and they have their own shop right in the centre.

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16. Swiss watches

There have always been idiots in every country, and Jean Calvin was one of them. This reformer suddenly banned all excessive luxury and jewellery in the 17th century, and what did all the jewellery makers do? They made watches which was ok for Jean Calvin, and who hasn't heard of Swiss watches and their quality like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega or Tag Heuer? All evil has some good in it!

17. Olympic Games in Lausanne

The headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and the Museum of the Olympic Games are located in Lausanne on Lake Geneva. Here you can check out the torch from the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Carl Lewis' gold shoes. The Olympic torch always burns outside the entrance to the museum.

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18. Europe's oldest wooden covered bridge

The two footbridges over the River Reuss in Lucerne, Kapellbrücke and Spreuerbrücke, are unique. Built in the 13th and 14th centuries, the oldest of the bridges is also the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe.

In 1993, the Kapellbrücke burned down and a lot of it burned up, and the bridge has been restored using old techniques. There are original paintings every five metres in the ceilings, which are stunningly beautiful.

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19. Alcohol prohibition in Switzerland

In Switzerland, until 1 July 1999 it was forbidden to produce alcohol from basic foodstuffs such as cereals and potatoes. The corresponding law dates back to 1885 and was tightened again in 1930 to protect the population from rampant alcohol abuse. The law also served agriculture to protect local spirits made from fruit.

20. No solitary guinea pigs in Switzerland

Guinea pigs are very social animals that, just like humans, prefer to live with a partner or in a group. From 2008, the Swiss Federal Council declared that guinea pigs cannot be kept alone, and this is very cute. On the other hand... In Switzerland, 40 per cent of people get divorced. Maybe Switzerland needs an advice to the population too?

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21. Deepest and longest railway tunnel in the world

At 57.1 km (5.7 miles), the Gotthard Tunnel is the longest and deepest railway tunnel in the world. Opened in 2016, it connects northern and southern Europe and took 17 years to build.

Switzerland is already planning the next giant project - a 450 km (4.5 mile) tunnel from St Gallen to Geneva to open in 2045. We look forward to writing about it too.

22. The Rehn case is the second widest in Europe.

Rhine Falls, or Rheinfall as it is known in German, is Europe's second widest with a width of 150 metres and a height of 23 metres, located near Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland. You can admire the waterfall from land, take various boat trips or perhaps visit the 858 castle Schloss Laufen on the mountain. If you wish, you can travel here along the beautiful Grand Tour of Switzerland route.

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23. the swimming pool on the river Aare

The river Aare flowing around Bern is the population's swimming pool. Most of the population have water-resistant backpacks. They change along the river at lunchtime or any time of the day, throw in their rucksack and jump in themselves. After 20 minutes of floating in the rather strong river, they get up, dry off, change and go back to work or home.

Helena tries the river Aare in Bern

24. national dish raclette

Where does the Swiss national dish come from raclette from? It started with limited access to raw materials and people wanted to be fed. They melted hard aged cheese with wine, herbs, spices and then they could dip bread in the melt and be satisfied. Fondue - which comes from the French word melt which means to melt - was born in the 18th century.

  • Swiss cheese fondue is hot melted cheese in a large fondue pot, served with bread, pickled cucumbers, pickled onions, boiled potatoes and .
  • Raclette is melted cheese on the plate from the kitchen with small boiled potatoes, pickled cucumber and pickled onion.
  • Raclette can also be served with a raclette iron on the table., large enough pieces of cheese that you melt yourself, and in addition to potatoes, pickled cucumbers and pickled onions, sometimes cold cuts, walnuts and apricot jam as a side dish.
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Raclette in Nendaz

25. Showing off your livestock is cool

If you're anywhere near the Swiss Alps between mid-September and mid-October, you'll have the chance to witness a charming end to the summer - bringing cattle down from the mountains after several months, proudly walking through town, in fancy clothes and cowbells (cowbells) clanging between the walls of the towns, with all the fancy cows. 

26. The Papal Swiss Guard protects the Pope

The Swiss Guard is a special group of Swiss soldiers assigned to protect foreign European courts in the 15th century. Today, Switzerland has banned foreign military services with the exception of the Papal Swiss Guard who are stationed in Vatican City to protect the Pope and the Apostolic Palace.

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Picture from when we visited the Vatican City on Swiss guards in fancy dress

27. Swiss wine stays in Switzerland

Only about 1 per cent of Swiss wine is exported and they grow about 240 grape varieties. You will find Swiss wine all over the country divided into six distinct regions: Valais in the Alps, Vaud on Lake Geneva, Swiss-German, Geneva, Ticino on the Italian border and the three lakes of the Jura mountain range.

The summer festival 'Fête des Vignerons' has put the town of Vevey in Lavaux on the map. But how much do you actually know about the Fête des Vignerons? The festival runs from 18 July to 11 August. The first festival in 1797 held its main performances on a wooden platform with 2000 seats and cost about 10 crowns. 

The shows are now held in a large 30 metre high stadium built in the Place du Marché, with a main stage the size of an Olympic pool, an 870 m2 LED floor and seating for 20,000 people, and cost between €1,000-3,000 for a ticket. The Fête des Vignerons was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2016.

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On a vineyard in Lavaux

28. assisted suicide is legal

Under Swiss law, anyone of sound mind who has for some time expressed a consistent desire to end their life can request a so-called assisted voluntary death or AVD (Assisted Voluntary Death). This has led to an influx of people called "suicide tourists" who come to Switzerland, mainly to Zurich, for the sole purpose of committing suicide. 

29. Silent Sundays

Sundays in Switzerland mean no mowing the lawn, no laundry hanging out, no hammer or anything that neighbours can hear, see or overall disturb the peace. Almost everything is closed on Sundays, so be lazy, lock the doors, read a book or spend a quiet day with friends and family.

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 30. Clock tower Zytglogge in Bern

Zytglogge from 1530 is the oldest clock game in the world that still works. There are 10 men who work in shifts to wind the clock every morning. There is a 200kg counterweight that has to be cranked up manually and it takes about 15 minutes every day and is heavy.

In 1530, a local man named Kasper was commissioned to build this carillon for a lot of money and the patent is in Bern, because no one else would have anything like it. We went behind the scenes and the construction is incredibly fascinating.

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Every day at 12.00 noon there is a lot going on in the clock game with animals and people spinning in Zytglogge.
Helena flying a hang glider over Interlaken

More interesting Facts about Switzerland

  • Switzerland has 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Switzerland has received 10 Nobel Prizes until 2019.
  • There are over 1000 fountains in Zurich with good drinking water.
  • Verbier was voted best ski resort in 2018 and 2019.
  • Albert Einstein's house is in Bern where he lived between 1903 and 1905.
  • Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), 310 metres deep, is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. 59.5 % belongs to Switzerland and 40.5 % to France.
  • Interlaken may be Switzerland's most photogenic beauty spot.
  • In 15 BC, the Romans renamed "Lausanne" to Lousanna-...
  • Freddy Mercury of Queen stands as a statue in Montreux, Switzerland, because they bought a studio there and made their last album 'Made in Heaven'.

Surprising facts about Switzerland

Were these surprising facts about Switzerland, or did you know everything already? Do you have any more exciting facts about Switzerland to share?

Many fun facts that you (maybe) didn't know? Click on the image!
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Peter stands at the top of the summit in Verbier and it is his drone that took the photo.

Facts about Switzerland

  • Capital city: Bern
  • Population: 8.57 million (2019)
  • Currency: Swiss franc
  • Statehood: Republic
  • National anthem: Swiss Psalm
  • Time zone: Summer +2 winter +1
  • Country number: 41
  • National Day: 1 August
  • Longest river: Rhine 375 km
  • Biggest lake: Lake Geneva 581 km
  • Highest mountain: Dufourpitze (Monte Rosa) 4634
  • Election language: One for all, all for one

Information on Switzerland for tourists

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