Switzerland

Driving Directions Switzerland

SWITZERLAND is a landlocked country in central Europe, sharing its borders with France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Germany. It is dom­inated by the Alps, which occupy over 60 percent of the total land area.

A second lower mountain range, the Jura Mountains, occurs in the west of the country. These two leading east-west mountain chains divided by the Rhine and Rhone rivers, and between them lies a plateau region at the height of about 396 meters or 1,300 feet above sea level.

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Switzerland has many spectacular lakes, most of them nestling at the foot of the mountains and some quite large. They include Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), Lake Lugano and Lake Constance, which straddle neighboring borders, and Lake Lucerne, Lake Zurich, Lake Neuchátel and Lake Thunersee. Northern Switzerland is the industrial part of the country and where its most important cities located.

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The climate is either continental or mountain-type. Summers are generally warm and winters cold, and both are affected by altitude.

Coniferous forests cover the lower mountain slopes while deciduous trees flourish in the valley bottoms and around the lakes. In all, about a quarter of the total land area is forested, and timber is a valuable natural resource, although some woodlands have been adversely affected by air pollution. Above the tree line, alpine flowers grow in spring and summer in high meadows that traditionally provide summer grazing for cattle, goats, and sheep.

Much of Switzerland is unsuitable for agriculture, however, and most farms are relatively small, family-run enterprises that receive government subsidies. Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry reared, and grapes, apples, barley, potatoes, wheat, and sugar beet are among the fruits and crops grown. Dairy products, mainly chocolate and Emmenthal and Gruyére cheese, are valuable export products. The grapes used to produce about 125 million liters or 33 million gallons of wine each year. Freshwater fish, notably salmon and trout, are abundant in Switzerland’s lakes, rivers, and streams and are harvested annually.

Switzerland has few mineral resources, but its lakes and rivers enable it to generate abundant hydroelectric power. Most raw materials and food imported. Switzerland is an affluent country whose people enjoy a high standard of living. It is renowned for the excellent quality of its manufacturing, particularly of watches and clocks, precision tools and machines, and engineering products. Pharmaceuticals, textiles, handcrafted products, service industries, and tourism are other important areas of the economy.

It is as the premier center for international banking, however, that Switzerland is perhaps most respected and renowned, with Zurich being the central city involved in this activity.

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