Visiting Switzerland is an experience, with stunning Alpine peaks and gentle valleys, charming villages, and historical architecture. The country is the home of many beautiful medieval castles, which are maintained in perfect condition, spired cathedrals, and abbeys, and centuries-old houses, beautifully restored. The country is small, covering just 15,444 square miles, just a little smaller than New Jersey.
Switzerland is a crossroads of cultures, a mix of French, German, and Italian. The Swiss are usually fluent in several languages. A diverse country, it has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Romansh is spoken in the southeastern area of the country, with only about 5% of the population speaking the language. The language is believed to be a combination of Latin and Rhaetian, the language of the original settlers. Most people speak a combination of French and German, along with fluent English – a considerable advantage for English-speaking tourists!
Every region is different in resources, with wooden buildings in the north, stone structures to the south, and in the central region, a mix of both. Each village is distinctly different, and when traveling the country, enjoying the architecture is a never-ending adventure into the aesthetic designs from various times of history.
The Swiss government has taken significant steps to protect its historic buildings and sites and has 270,000 historical monuments, 75,000 of which are protected by law – about one in every 30 structures. From famous natural landmarks such as the Matterhorn to sparklingly clean mountain lakes, castles, and churches, the country is known the world over as being among the most beautiful and well-tended in Europe. The Swiss value cleanliness and the country is virtually spotless, has one of the best environmental records globally, with the river water so clean that it is drinkable. Street sweepers are busy around the clock, and it is rare to encounter rubbish anywhere.
Traveling the country is a journey through various times in history. Still, for even more, you can visit one of the many museums, such as the Landesmuseum (the Swiss National Museum), to see prehistoric artifacts, art created during the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods, along with Swiss clocks, armor, weapons, and folk costumes. Platforme 10 in Lausanne’s art district is a former train station, an architectural wonder in its own right, which has been transformed into an art museum featuring 10,000 works by 19th and 20th century artists.
The Flavors of Switzerland
Swiss food varies from the traditional in tarts, quiches, sausage dishes, potato pancakes (rosti), and fondue, a melted cheese dish eaten by dipping bread into a shared pot with a special fork, to dozens of fine-dining restaurants that have earned Michelin stars. You may want to try Alplermagronen, the Swiss version of American mac ‘n’ cheese, although richer and served with applesauce, or zopf bread, traditional meat pies, or take advantage of the combination of cultures at one of the many French, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Indian restaurants in the cities, but whatever you do, don’t forget the chocolate! It really is that good.