Swiss valley


It is a small country in west central Europe. It is bordered on the west by France, on the north by Germany, on the east by Austria, and on the south by Italy. The tiny principality of Liechtenstein lies between Switzerland and Austria. Each of the four major bordering countries has had an influence on Swiss culture.

The Swiss people are an ethnic mix consisting mainly of native German, French, and Italian speakers, and most towns have two or even three correct names in those languages. The country has an area of 41,3 km². Its largest city is Zürich, and the capital is Bern.

Switzerland’s official name is Confoederatio Helvetica. The Helvetii, an ancient Celtic people who occupied what is now western Switzerland, were defeated by the Roman army of Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. As a province of Rome, the region became known as Helvetia. The name Confoederatio Helvetica, an ethnically and linguistically neutral term that recalls this ancient history, is testimony to an enduring desire to forge unity among a diverse population. The name Switzerland (French Suisse; German Schweiz; Italian Svizzera), the nation’s widely recognized but unofficial designation, is a variation on Schwyz, a territory that in 1291 became the first member of the present-day confederation. The Swiss flag, a red square with a centered white cross, is a variation on the traditional flag of the Schwyz region.


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This image reveals Lake Geneva and the elongated valley between the Jura Mountains of France and the high Bernese Alps of Switzerland. Crescent-shaped Lake Geneva, 70 km long, is noted for its deep-blue, remarkably transparent waters and seiches, tidal fluctuations that suddenly change the lake’s water level. The Rhone River enters the lake from the Bernese Alps to the east and exits the lake at its south end through the city of Geneva. North and west of Lake Geneva are the Jura Mountains (visible along the northern edge of the photo) that extend in northeast-southwest, narrow, parallel ridges. Their rounded crests and summits are covered with pine forests and good pasturelands. Hydroelectric plants scattered throughout the mountains supply power to pulp and paper, textile, watchmaking, and woodworking industries. The Jura Mountains are a popular year-round resort area. East of Lake Geneva are the snow-capped Bernese Alps (visible along the eastern edge of the photo) that afford some of the finest winter sports and mountaineering terrain in the world. The Bernese Alps, consisting primarily of granite and metamorphic rocks that are extremely resistant to erosion, have an overlay of sedimentary formations that have buckled up and folded. Subsequently scoured by glaciers, the mountains are now marked by deep valleys, knife-edged ridges, and steep walls that rise abruptly from lower slopes. Surrounded by vineyards northeast of Lake Geneva is Neuchatel, an elongated lake 39 km long and 6 to 8 km wide (NASA, October 1994).


Switzerland map




A Swiss valley. The country is famous for its beautiful landscape.



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