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Impressions of Switzerland

All too often trivially associated with watches, cheese, chocolate and bank accounts, Switzerland is far more than that. A country which has gradually and solidly emerged from an Oath Alliance in the early 1300s of three small farming communities on the Eastern shores of the Vierwaldstättersee (aka Lake Luzern), contemporary Switzerland is a patchwork of four language zones, in majority speaking a peculiar local version of German, but also French in the West and South-West, Italian in the Ticino region bordering Lombardy and yet another Latin language called Romansh in parts of the East. With each of these language communities come a distinct culture and atmosphere, which one clearly senses while travelling from valley to valley, from lake to lake. Whenever attempts were made in Swiss history to establish a strong central authority challenging local autonomy, Cantons resisted, on occasion even in civil war mode. And when Protestant Reformation reached Switzerland in the 1520s, some Cantons were tempted to go along with the movement, while other Cantons rejected it with resolve. And yet, there is a strong common Swiss identity, which has gradually been building up since the 14th century, as more and more Cantons joined the Oath Alliance or Confederation, spontaneously and as a way of securing common protection against foreign ambitions, be they German, Austrian or French. But let us not get carried away too much by the tricks of history and the whims of the past. While understanding the historical background which still resounds in the streets and on the squares of countless quaint medieval town centres, the appeal of discovering Switzerland is above all also in finding out with awe how these towns and villages have nestled so harmoniously in their amazing Alpine surroundings of lakes, deeply carved valleys, whirling wild water rivers, steeply sloping green meadows and eternally snow-capped mountain tops. So, immerge yourself in it all, forget about your watch, do actually waste some of your precious time on the delights of cheese and chocolate and, well, with the general cost of living in Switzerland, you may want to forget about your bank account too. Maybe associating Switzerland with watches, cheese, chocolate and bank accounts is not that trivial after all...

Romandy & Ticino

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