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! !! Canton !! Capital !! !! Canton !! Capital
|Bern||Bern||St. Gallen||St. Gallen|
|}*These half cantons are represented by one councillor (instead of two) in the Council of States (see traditional half-cantons).
Their populations vary between 15,000 (Appenzell Innerrhoden) and 1,253,500 (Zürich), and their area between (Basel-Stadt) and (Graubünden). The Cantons comprise a total of 2,889 municipalities. Within Switzerland there are two enclaves: Büsingen belongs to Germany, Campione d'Italia belongs to Italy.
In a referendum held in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg on 11 May 1919 over 80% of those voting supported a proposal that the state should join the Swiss Confederation. However, this was prevented by the opposition of the Austrian Government, the Allies, Swiss liberals, the Swiss-Italians (persons of Swiss nationality who live in Italian Switzerland, see map) and the Romands (Swiss nationals living in the French-speaking regions of Switzerland, see map).
Foreign relations and international institutions
Traditionally, Switzerland avoids alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action and had been neutral since the end of its expansion in 1515. Only in 2002 did Switzerland become a full member of the United Nations but it was the first state to join it by referendum. Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as an intermediary between other states. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union; the Swiss people have consistently rejected membership since the early 1990s.
An unusual number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part because of its policy of neutrality. The Red Cross, whose symbol is based on a reversed Swiss flag, was founded there in 1863 and still has its institutional centre in the country. European Broadcasting Union has the official headquarters in Geneva. Even though Switzerland is one of the most recent countries to have joined the United Nations, Geneva is the second biggest centre for the United Nations after New York, and Switzerland was a founding member of the League of Nations. Apart from the United Nations headquarters, Geneva is host to many UN agencies, like the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and about 200 other international organisations.
Furthermore, many sport federations and organisations are located throughout the country, such as the International Ice Hockey Federation. The most important ones are probably the International Olympic Committee, in Lausanne, the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football), in Zürich, and the UEFA (Union of European Football Association), in Nyon.
The World Economic Forum foundation is based in Geneva. It is best known for its annual meeting in Davos which brings together top international business and political leaders to discuss important issues facing the world, including health and the environment.
Swiss Armed ForcesThe Swiss Armed Forces, including the Land Forces and the Air Force, are composed of conscripts: professional soldiers constitute only about 5 percent of the military personnel, and all the rest are conscript citizens aged from 20 to 34 (in special cases up to 50) years. Being a landlocked country, Switzerland has no navy, however on lakes bordering neighbouring countries armed military patrol boats are used. Swiss citizens are prohibited from serving in foreign armies, with the exception of the Swiss Guards of the Vatican.
The structure of the Swiss militia system stipulates that the soldiers keep their own personal equipment, including all personal weapons, at home. Some organisations and political parties find this practice controversial and dangerous. Compulsory military service concerns all male Swiss citizens; women can serve voluntarily. They usually receive the marching order at the age of 19 for military conscription. About two thirds of the young Swiss are found suited for service; for those found unsuited, an alternative service exists. Annually, approximately 20,000 persons are trained in boot camp for a duration from 18 to 21 weeks. The reform "Army XXI" was adopted by popular vote in 2003, it replaced the previous model "Army 95", reducing the effectives from 400,000 to about 200,000. Of those, 120,000 are active and 80,000 are reserve units.
Overall, three general mobilisations have been declared to ensure the integrity and neutrality of Switzerland. The first one was held on the occasion of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. The second one was decided in response to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. The third mobilisation of the army took place on September 1939 in response to the German attack on Poland; Henri Guisan was elected as the General-in-Chief.
Because of neutrality, the army can not take part in armed conflicts in other countries, but is part of some peacekeeping missions around the world. Since 2000 the armed forces department has also maintained the Onyx intelligence gathering system to monitor satellite communications.
Following the end of the Cold War there have been a number of attempts to curb military activity or even abolish the armed forces altogether (see Group for a Switzerland without an Army). A notable referendum on the subject was held on the 26 November 1989 and, although defeated, did see a high percentage of the people in favour of such an initiative. A similar referendum, called for before, but held shortly after, the September 11 attacks, was defeated by over 77% of voters.
Geography and climate
Extending across the north and south side of the Alps, Switzerland comprises a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area of . The population is about 7.6 million, resulting in an average population density of around 240 people per square kilometre (622/sq mi). However, the more mountainous southern half of the country is far more sparsely populated than this average, while the northern half and extreme south have a somewhat greater density, as they comprise more hospitable hilly terrain, partly forested and partly cleared, as well as several large lakes.
Switzerland comprises three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps on the south, the Central Plateau or middleland, and the Jura mountains on the north. The Alps are a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country, comprising about 60% of the country's total area. Among the high peaks of the Swiss Alps, the highest of which is the Dufourspitze at , countless valleys are found, many with waterfalls and glaciers. From these the headwaters of several major European rivers such as the Rhine, Rhône, Inn, Aare, and Ticino flow finally into the largest Swiss lakes such as Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), Lake Zürich, Lake Neuchâtel, and Lake Constance.
The most famous mountain is the Matterhorn ( ) in Valais and the Pennine Alps bordering Italy. Even higher mountains are located in the area: the Dufourspitze ( ), the Dom ( ) and thirdly, the Weisshorn ( ). The section of the Bernese Alps above the deep glacial Lauterbrunnen valley, containing 72 waterfalls, is also well known for the Jungfrau( ) and Eiger, and the many picturesque valleys in the region. In the southeast the long Engadin Valley, encompassing the St. Moritz area in canton Graubünden, is also well known; the highest peak in the neighbouring Bernina Alps is Piz Bernina ( ).
The more populous northern part of the country, comprising about 30% of the country's total area, is called the Middle Land. It has greater open and hilly landscapes, partly forested, partly open pastures, usually with grazing herds, or vegetables and fruit fields, but it is still hilly. There are large lakes found here and the biggest Swiss cities are in this area of the country. The largest lake is Lake Geneva (also called Lac Léman in French), in western Switzerland. The Rhone River is both the main input and output of Lake Geneva.
The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities, from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant near Mediterranean climate at Switzerland's southern tip. Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The winters in the mountains alternate with sun and snow, while the lower lands tend to be more cloudy and foggy in winter. A weather phenomenon known as the föhn can occur at all times of the year, even in winter, and is characterised by a relatively warm wind, bringing air of very low relative humidity. It blows mostly on the northern side of the Alps where it can trigger dangerous avalanches. The driest conditions persist in the southern valleys of the Valais above which valuable saffron is harvested and many wine grapes are grown, Graubünden also tends to be drier in climate and slightly colder, yet with plentiful snow in winter. The wettest conditions persist in the high Alps and in the Ticino canton which has much sun yet heavy bursts of rain from time to time. The eastern part tends to be colder than western Switzerland, yet anywhere up high in the mountains can experience a cold spell at any time of the year. Precipitation tends to be spread moderately throughout the year, with minor variations across the seasons depending on locale. Autumn frequently tends to be the driest season, yet the weather patterns in Switzerland can be highly variable from year to year, and difficult to predict.
Switzerland's ecosystems can be particularly vulnerable, because of the many delicate valleys separated by high mountains, often forming unique ecologies. The mountainous regions themselves are also vulnerable, with a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes, and experience some pressure from visitors and grazing. The tree line in the mountains of Switzerland has advanced down over the years, largely because of the increasing absence of herding and grazing pressures.
EconomySwitzerland has a stable, modern and one of the most capitalist economies in the world. It has the 2nd highest European rating after Ireland in the Index of Economic Freedom 2008, while also providing large coverage through public services. The nominal per capita GDP is higher than those of the larger western European economies and Japan, ranking 6th behind Luxembourg, Norway, Qatar, Iceland and Ireland.
If adjusted for purchasing power parity, Switzerland ranks 15th in the world for GDP per capita. The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland's economy as the most competitive in the world. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was the wealthiest country in Europe by a considerable margin. In 2005 the median household income in Switzerland was an estimated 95,000 CHF, the equivalent of roughly 81,000 USD (as of Nov. 2008) in purchasing power parity, which is similar to wealthy American states like California.
Switzerland is home to several large multinational corporations. The largest Swiss companies by revenue are Glencore, Nestlé, Novartis, Hoffmann-La Roche, ABB and Adecco. Also notable are UBS AG, Zurich Financial Services, Credit Suisse, Swiss Re, and The Swatch Group. Switzerland is ranked as having one of the most powerful economies in the world.
Chemicals, health and pharmaceutical, measuring instruments, musical instruments, real estate, banking and insurance, tourism, and international organisation are important industries in Switzerland. The largest exported goods are chemicals (34% of exported goods), machines/electronics (20.9%), and precision instruments/watches (16.9%). Exported services amount to a third of exported goods.
Around 3.8 million people work in Switzerland. Switzerland has a more flexible job market than neighboring countries and the unemployment rate is very low. Unemployment rate increased from a low of 1.7% in June 2000 to a peak of 3.9% in September 2004. Partly because of the economic upturn which started in mid-2003, the unemployment rate is currently 3.4% as of April 2009. Population growth from net immigration is quite high, at 0.52% of population in 2004. Foreign citizen population is 21.8% as of 2004, about the same as in Australia. GDP per hour worked is the world's 17th highest, at 27.44 international dollars in 2006.
Switzerland has an overwhelmingly private sector economy and low tax rates by Western standards; overall taxation is one of the smallest of developed countries. Switzerland is an easy place to do business; Switzerland ranks 16th of 178 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index. The slow growth Switzerland experienced in the 1990s and the early 2000s has brought greater support for economic reforms and harmonisation with the European Union. According to Credit Suisse, only about 37% of residents own their own homes, one of the lowest rates of home ownership in Europe. Housing and food price levels were 171% and 145% of the EU-25 index in 2007, compared to 113% and 104% in Germany. Agricultural protectionism—a rare exception to Switzerland's free trade policies—has contributed to high food prices. Product market liberalisation is lagging behind many EU countries according to the OECD. Nevertheless, domestic purchasing power is one of the best in the world. Apart from agriculture, economic and trade barriers between the European Union and Switzerland are minimal and Switzerland has free trade agreements worldwide. Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Education, science, and technology
Education in Switzerland is very diverse because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system to the cantons. There are both public and private schools, including many private international schools. The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons, but most cantons provide a free "children's school" starting at four or five years old. Primary school continues until grade four or five, depending on the school. Traditionally, the first foreign language in school was always one of the other national languages, although recently (2000) English was introduced first in a few cantons. At the end of primary school (or at the beginning of secondary school), pupils are separated according to their capacities in several (often three) sections. The fastest learners are taught advanced classes to be prepared for further studies and the matura, while students who assimilate a little bit more slowly receive an education more adapted to their needs.
There are 12 universities in Switzerland, ten of which are maintained at cantonal level and usually offer a range of non-technical subjects. The first university in Switzerland was founded in 1460 in Basel (with a faculty of medicine) and has a tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. The biggest university in Switzerland is the University of Zurich with nearly 25,000 students. The two institutes sponsored by the federal government are the ETHZ in Zürich (founded 1855) and the EPFL in Lausanne (founded 1969 as such, formerly an institute associated with the University of Lausanne) which both have an excellent international reputation. In 2008, the ETH Zurich was ranked 15th in the field Natural Sciences and Mathematics by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities and the EPFL in Lausanne was ranked 18th in the field Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences by the same ranking.In addition there are various Universities of Applied Sciences. In business and management studies, University of St. Gallen (HSG) and International Institute for Management Development (IMD) are the leaders. Switzerland has the second highest rate of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia.
Many Nobel prizes were awarded to Swiss scientists, for example to the world-famous physicist Albert Einstein in the field of physics who developed his theory of relativity while working in Bern. More recently Vladimir Prelog, Heinrich Rohrer, Richard Ernst, Edmond Fischer, Rolf Zinkernagel and Kurt Wüthrich received Nobel prizes in the sciences. In total, 113 Nobel Prize winners stand in relation to Switzerland and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded 9 times to organisations residing in Switzerland.
Geneva hosts the world's largest laboratory, the CERN, dedicated to particle physics research. Another important research center is the Paul Scherrer Institute. Notable inventions include the Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), the Scanning tunneling microscope (Nobel prize) or the very popular Velcro. Some technologies enabled the exploration of new worlds such as the pressurized balloon of Auguste Piccard and the Bathyscaphe which permitted Jacques Piccard to reach the deepest point of the world's oceans.
Switzerland Space Agency, the Swiss Space Office, has been involved in various space technologies and programs. In addition it was one of the 10 founders of the European Space Agency in 1975 and is the seventh largest contributor to the ESA budget. In the private sector, several companies are implicated in the space industry such as Oerlikon Space or Maxon Motors who provide spacecraft structures.
Switzerland and the European UnionSwitzerland voted against membership in the European Economic Area in December 1992 and has since maintained and developed its relationships with the European Union (EU) and European countries through bilateral agreements. In March 2001, the Swiss people refused in a popular vote to start accession negotiations with the EU. In recent years, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with those of the EU in many ways, in an effort to enhance their international competitiveness. The economy has been growing most recently at around 3% per year. Full EU membership is a long-term objective of some in the Swiss government, but there is considerable popular sentiment against this supported by the conservative SVP party. The western French-speaking areas and the urban regions of the rest of the country tend to be more pro-EU, however with far from any significant share of the population.
The government has established an Integration Office under the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Economic Affairs. To minimise the negative consequences of Switzerland's isolation from the rest of Europe, Bern and Brussels signed seven bilateral agreements to further liberalise trade ties. These agreements were signed in 1999 and took effect in 2001. This first series of bilateral agreements included the free movement of persons. A second series covering nine areas was signed in 2004 and has since been ratified. The second series includes the Schengen Treaty and the Dublin Convention. They continue to discuss further areas for cooperation. In 2006, Switzerland approved a billion francs supportive investment in the poorer eastern European countries in support of cooperation and positive ties to the EU as a whole. A further referendum will be needed to approve 300 million francs to support Romania and Bulgaria and their recent admission. The Swiss have also been under EU and sometimes international pressure to reduce banking secrecy and to raise tax rates to parity with the EU. Preparatory discussions are being opened in four new areas: opening up the electricity market, participation in the European GNSS project Galileo, cooperating with the European centre for disease prevention and recognising certificates of origin for food products.
On 27 November 2008 the interior and justice ministers of European Union in Brussels announced Switzerland's accession to the Schengen passport-free zone from 12 December 2008. The land border checkpoints will remain in place only for goods movements, but should not run controls on people, though people entering the country had their passports checked until 29 March 2009 if they originated from a Schengen nation.
Energy, infrastructure, and environment
Electricity generated in Switzerland is 56% from hydroelectricity and 39% from nuclear power, with 5% of the electricity generated from conventional power sources resulting in a nearly CO2-free electricity-generating network. On 18 May 2003, two anti-nuclear initiatives were turned down: Moratorium Plus, aimed at forbidding the building of new nuclear power plants (41.6% supported and 58.4% opposed), and Electricity Without Nuclear (33.7% supported and 66.3% opposed). The former ten-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants was the result of a citizens' initiative voted on in 1990 which had passed with 54.5% Yes vs. 45.5% No votes. A new nuclear plant in the Canton of Bern is presently planned. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) is the office responsible for all questions relating to energy supply and energy use within the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC). The agency is supporting the 2000-watt society initiative to cut the nation's energy use by more than half by the year 2050.
A very dense rail network of carries over 350 million passengers annually. In 2007, each Swiss citizen travelled on average by rail, which makes them the keenest rail users. The network is administered mainly by the Federal Railways, except in Graubünden, where the narrow gauge railway is operated by the Rhaetian Railways and includes some World Heritage lines. The building of new railway base tunnels through the Alps is under way to reduce the time of travel between north and south. Swiss private-public managed road network is funded by road tolls and vehicle taxes. The Swiss autobahn/autoroute system requires the purchase of a vignette (toll sticker)—which costs 40 Swiss francs—for one calendar year in order to use its roadways, for both passenger cars and trucks. The Swiss autobahn/autoroute network has a total length of (as of 2000) and has, by an area of , also the one of the highest motorway densities in the world. Zürich Airport is Switzerland's largest international flight gateway, which handled 20.7 million passengers in 2007.
Switzerland signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and ratified it in 2003. With Mexico and the Republic of Korea it forms the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG). The country is heavily active in recycling and anti-littering regulations and is one of the top recyclers in the world, with 66% to 96% of recyclable materials being recycled. In many places in Switzerland, household garbage disposal is charged for. Garbage (except dangerous items, batteries etc.) is only collected if it is in bags which either have a payment sticker attached, or in official bags with the surcharge paid at the time of purchase. This gives a financial incentive to recycle as much as possible, since recycling is free. Swiss health officials and police often open up garbage for which the disposal charge has not been paid and search for evidence such as old bills which connect the bag to the household/person they originated from. Fines for not paying the disposal fee range from CHF 200–500.
Demographics[[File:Sprachen CH 2000 EN.svg|thumb|250px|Official languages in Switzerland:
Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has four official languages: German (63.7% total population share, with foreign residents; 72.5% of residents with Swiss citizenship, in 2000) in the north, east and center of the country; French (20.4%; 21.0%) to the west; Italian (6.5%; 4.3%) in the south. Romansh, a Romance language spoken locally by a small minority (0.5%; 0.6%) in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, is designated by the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French and Italian (Article 4 of the Constitution), and as official language if the authorities communicate with persons of Romansh language (Article 70), but federal laws and other official acts do not need to be decreed in this language. The federal government is obliged to communicate in the official languages, and in the federal parliament simultaneous translation is provided from and into German, French and Italian.
The German spoken in Switzerland is predominantly a group of Alemannic dialects collectively known as Swiss German, but written communication typically use Swiss Standard German, whilst the majority of radio and TV broadcast is (nowadays) in Swiss German as well. Similarly, there are some dialects of Franco-Provençal in rural communities in the French speaking part, known as "Suisse romande", called Vaudois, Gruérien, Jurassien, Empro, Fribourgeois, Neuchâtelois, and in the Italian speaking area, Ticinese (a dialect of Lombard). Also the official languages (German, French and Italian) borrow some terms not understood outside of Switzerland, i.e. terms from other languages (German Billette from French), from similar term in another language (Italian azione used not as act but as discount from German Aktion). Learning one of the other national languages at school is obligatory for all Swiss, so most Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual.
Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 22% of the population. Most of these (60%) are from European Union or EFTA countries. Italians are the largest single group of foreigners with 17.3% of total foreign population. They are followed by Germans (13.2%), immigrants from Serbia and Montenegro (11.5%) and Portugal (11.3%). Immigrants from Sri Lanka, most of them former Tamil refugees, are the largest group among people of Asian origin. In the 2000s, domestic and international institutions have expressed concern about what they perceive as an increase of xenophobia, particularly in some political campaignings. However, the high proportion of foreign citizens in the country, as well as the generally unproblematic integration of foreigners, underlines Switzerland's openness.
HealthIn 2006 life expectancy at birth was 79 years for men and 84 years for women. It is among the highest in the world.
The Swiss citizens are covered by a compulsory universal health-insurance coverage, permitting access to a broad range of modern medical services. The healthcare system compares well with other European countries and patients are largely satisfied with it. However, spending on health is particularly high, with 11.5% of GDP (2003) and, from 1990, a steady increase is observed, reflecting the high prices of the services provided With aging populations and new healthcare technologies, health spending will likely continue to rise.
UrbanisationBetween two thirds and three quarters of the population live in urban areas. Switzerland has gone from a largely rural country to an urban one in just 70 years. Since 1935 urban development has claimed as much of the Swiss landscape as it did during the previous 2,000 years. This urban sprawl does not only affect the plateau but also the Jura and the Alpine foothills and there are growing concerns about land use. However, from the beginning of the 21st century, the population growth in urban areas is higher than in the countryside.
Switzerland has a dense network of cities, where large, medium and small cities are complementary. The plateau is very densely populated with about 450 people per km2 and the landscape continually shows signs of man's presence. The weight of the largest metropolitan areas, which are Zürich, Geneva-Lausanne, Basel and Bern tend to increase. In international comparison the importance of these urban areas is stronger than their number of inhabitants suggests. In addition the two main centers of Zürich and Geneva are recognized for their particular great quality of life.
Switzerland has no official state religion, though most of the cantons (except Geneva and Neuchâtel) recognize official churches, which are either the Catholic Church or the Swiss Reformed Church. These churches, and in some cantons also the Old Catholic Church and Jewish congregations, are financed by official taxation of adherents.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Switzerland, divided between the Catholic Church (41.8% of the population) and various Protestant denominations (35.3%). Immigration has brought Islam (4.3%, predominantly Kosovars, Bosniaks and Turks) and Eastern Orthodoxy (1.8%) as sizeable minority religions. The 2005 Eurobarometer poll found 48% to be theist, 39% expressing belief in "a spirit or life force", 9% atheist and 4% agnostic. Greeley (2003) found that 27% of the population does not believe in God.
The country is historically about evenly balanced between Catholic and Protestant, with a complex patchwork of majorities over most of the country. One canton, Appenzell, was officially divided into Catholic and Protestant sections in 1597. The larger cities (Bern, Zürich and Basel) are predominantly Protestant. Central Switzerland, as well as the Ticino, is traditionally Catholic. The Swiss Constitution of 1848, under the recent impression of the clashes of Catholic vs. Protestant cantons that culminated in the Sonderbundskrieg, consciously defines a consociational state, allowing the peaceful co-existence of Catholics and Protestants. A 1980 initiative calling for the complete separation of church and state was resoundingly rejected, with only 21.1% voting in support.
CultureThe culture of Switzerland is influenced by its neighbours but over the years a distinctive culture with some regional differences and an independent streak has developed. In particular, French-speaking regions have tended to orient themselves slightly more on French culture and tend to be more pro EU. In general, the Swiss are known for their long standing humanitarian tradition as Switzerland is the birth place of the Red Cross Movement and hosts the United Nations Human Rights Council. Swiss German speaking areas may perhaps be seen more oriented on German culture, although German-speaking Swiss people identify strictly as Swiss because of the difference between High German and the Swiss German dialects. Italian-speaking areas can have more of an Italian culture. A region may be in some ways strongly culturally connected to the neighbouring country that shares its language.The linguistically isolated Romansh culture in the eastern mountains of Switzerland is also robust and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition.
Many mountain areas have a strong highly energetic ski resort culture in winter, and a hiking (wandering) culture in summer. Some areas throughout the year have a recreational culture that caters to tourism, yet the quieter seasons are spring and autumn when there are fewer visitors and a higher ratio of Swiss. A traditional farmer and herder culture also predominates in many areas and small farms are omnipresent outside the cities.In film, American productions constitute most of the programme, although several Swiss movies have enjoyed commercial successes in recent years. Folk art is kept alive in organisations all over the country. In Switzerland it is mostly expressed in music,dance, poetry, wood carving and embroidery. The alphorn, a trumpet- like musical instrument made of wood, has become alongside yodeling and the accordion an epitome of traditional Swiss music.
LiteratureAs the Confederation, from its foundation in 1291, was almost exclusively composed of German-speaking regions, the earliest forms of literature are in German. In the 18th century French became the fashionable language in Bern and elsewhere, while the influence of the French-speaking allies and subject lands was more marked than before.
Among the classics of Swiss German literature are Jeremias Gotthelf (1797-1854) and Gottfried Keller (1819-1890). The undisputed giants of 20th century Swiss literature are Max Frisch (1911-91) and Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-90), whose repertoire includes Die Physiker (The Physicists) and Das Versprechen (The Pledge), released in 2001 as a Hollywood film.
Prominent French-speaking writers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Germaine de Staël (1766-1817). More recent authors include Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878-1947), whose novels describe the lives of peasants and mountain dwellers, set in a harsh environment and Blaise Cendrars (born Frédéric Sauser, 1887-1961). Also Italian and Romansh-speaking authors contributed but in more modest way given their small number.
The probably most famous Swiss literary creation, Heidi, the story of an orphan girl who lives with her grandfather in the Alps, was one of the most popular children's books ever and has come to be a symbol of Switzerland. Her creator, Johanna Spyri (1827-1901), wrote a number of other books around similar themes.
MediaThe freedom of the press and the right to free expression is guaranteed in the federal constitution of Switzerland. The Swiss News Agency (SNA) broadcasts information around-the-clock in the three national languages—on politics, economics, society and culture. The SNA supplies almost all Swiss media and a couple dozen foreign media services with its news.
Switzerland has historically boasted the greatest number of newspaper titles published in proportion to its population and size. The most influential newspapers are the German-language Tages-Anzeiger and Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ, and the French-language Le Temps, but almost every city have at least one local newspaper. The cultural diversity accounts for a large number of newspapers.
In contrast to the print media, the broadcast media has always been under greater control of the government. The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, whose name was recently changed to SRG SSR idée suisse, is charged with the production and broadcast of radio and television programs. SRG SSR studios are distributed throughout the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios while the television programs are produced in Geneva, Zürich and Lugano. An extensive cable network also allows most Swiss to access the programs from neighboring countries.
SportsSkiing, snowboarding and mountaineering are among the most popular sports in Switzerland, the nature of the country being particularly suited for such activities. Winter sports are practiced by the natives and tourists since the second half of the 19th century with the invention of bobsleigh in St. Moritz. The first world ski championships were held in Mürren (1931) and St. Moritz (1934). The latter town hosted the second Winter Olympic Games in 1928 and the fifth edition in 1948. Among the most successful skiers and world champions are Pirmin Zurbriggen and Didier Cuche.
Like other Europeans, many Swiss are fans of football and the national team or 'Nati' is widely supported. Switzerland was the joint venue with Austria in the Euro 2008. Many Swiss also follow ice hockey and support one of the 12 clubs in the League A. In April 2009, Switzerland hosted the 2009 IIHF World Championship for the 10th time. The numerous lakes make Switzerland an attractive place for sailing. The largest, Lake Geneva, is the home of the sailing team Alinghi which was the first European team to win the America's Cup in 2003 and which successfully defended the title in 2007. Over the last few years tennis became an increasely popular sport while some athletes such as Martina Hingis and Roger Federer have been multiple Grand Slam singles champions. Roger Federer has won 15 Grand Slam Titles and is currently unchallenged ATP number one tennis player.
Motorsport racecourses and events were banned in Switzerland following the 1955 Le Mans disaster with exception to events such as Hillclimbing. However, this ban was overturned in June 2007. During this period, the country still produced successful racing drivers such as Clay Regazzoni, Jo Siffert and successful World Touring Car Championship driver Alain Menu. Switzerland also won the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in 2007-08 with driver Neel Jani. Swiss motorcycle racer Thomas Lüthi won the 2005 MotoGP World Championship in the 125cc category.
Traditional sports include Swiss wrestling or "Schwingen". It is an old tradition from the rural central cantons and considered the national sport by some. Hornussen is another indigenous Swiss sport, which is like a cross between baseball and golf. Steinstossen is the Swiss variant of stone put, a competition in throwing a heavy stone. Practiced only among the alpine population since prehistoric times, it is recorded to have taken place in Basel in the 13th century. It is also central to the Unspunnenfest, first held in 1805, with its symbol the 83.5 kg stone named Unspunnenstein.
FoodThe cuisine of Switzerland is multi-faceted. While some dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages. Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental.
Chocolate had been made in Switzerland since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level. Also a breakthrough was the invention of milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter.
Swiss wine is produced mainly in Valais, Vaud (Lavaux), Geneva and Ticino, with a small majority of white wines. Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas (called Fendant in Valais) and Pinot Noir. The Merlot is the main variety produced in Ticino.