We all know Switzerland for its cheese, chocolate, watches, knives, and shady bank accounts. Want to learn more about this amazing, beautiful, peaceful and rich country? Read on for three fast facts you might not know about lovely Swiss Land!
(When I say fast facts I literally mean “fast” – I type this from Bucharest and am only here for a couple of days, need to budget time for exploring!)
1. Geneva is the most “international” city in Europe.
With over 40% of its residents coming from outside the country, Geneva holds the spot as the most internationally diverse city in Europe. As a politically neutral country with hoards of riches, Switzerland and Geneva specifically has positioned itself to house a vast array of international organizations. As such, many foreigners have made Geneva their permanent homes, and a revolving door of diplomats and other foreign workers come and go as their work dictates.
Besides the wealth, Geneva is an ideal location to host international because of it’s proximity to France, Germany, and Italy. It is also just a ridiculously beautiful city.
Among the International Organizations that call Geneva home are the International Labor Organization, World Health Organization, International Organization for Migration, World Meteorological Organization, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
I got a chance to tour the Red Cross Museum while in Geneva. It is incredibly well put together, and provides a great snapshot of the history and current work of the Red Cross.
After spending a week in Geneva, I can see why it has become a haven for expatriates. The natural beauty, peacefulness, and opportunities to work for a variety of international organizations make Geneva an awesome sweet spot for working abroad.
2. The Swiss Alps comprise almost all the highest mountains of the Alps.
Switzerland is a mountaineer’s dream. With over 60,000 km of hiking trails, gorgeous valleys, and massive peaks to conquer, there is truly something for outdoor lovers of all types.
As seen at the top of this post, the Matterhorn is one of the highest peaks in the Swiss Alps (4,478 m) First climbed in 1865, the huge and picture-esque mountain tragically claimed the lives of four of the first seven climbers as they descended. Despite this, Matterhorn quickly became a hot spot for adventurous climbers. At first it was mostly rich British travelers, but pretty soon climbers from all over the world were eager to tackle the ambitious ascent. Teddy Roosevelt even made the climb in 1880 when he was just 22 years old.
This influx of tourism breathed life into tiny Zermatt, the most accessible town to the Matterhorn, where Dad and I stayed last weekend.
Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Alps, Zermatt has been settled for hundreds of years due to the fertile land ripe for agriculture and cultivating livestock. But the last 150 years have been a boon to the tourism and hospitality industries, making Zermatt a choice destination for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer. Dad and I are of the latter sort, so we did a couple excellent hikes on the only full day we had in the city.
There are no cars allowed in the town, the only way to reach the city is by train. The only vehicles roaming the streets are tiny electric-powered cabs. As such there is little noise, the town is super walkable, and the air is noticeably cleaner.
There are also tons of cable cars and trains to take you up the various peaks. We took a train to the Gornergrat, which we were told had the best views of the Matterhorn and surrounding peaks. Though it was a bit cloudy, the lookouts still provided some breathtaking views of the snow-capped Swiss Alps.
So if you’re an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman (the latter isn’t a real word, apparently?) and are looking for an Alpine adventure, I would highly recommend Zermatt (0r Interlaken, where I went four years ago and can also vouch for).
3. 7 billion chunks of Toblerone are produced each year – all in Bern.
Okay I wasn’t going to make a post about Switzerland and NOT talk about the chocolate, right? After all, Toblerone is a household name regarded around the world for their delicious and unique chocolate bars.
The capitol city of Bern is the home of production for Toblerone. Each year its factories churn out billions of triangle-shaped chocolate chunks that reach the bellies of people all over the globe.
I made a day trip to Bern and made noticed the zounds of Toblerone shops lining the streets, among other cool shops.
Bern is also home to two bears that overlook the city in a “bear pit” called the Barengruben. Featured on the city’s coat of arms, the bears act as fierce, emblematic protectors of the city.
Einstein also called Bern home for a short period between 1903-1905. The house he lived in with his wife and son has been converted into a museum, which I paid a visit to.
Sadly, he left Bern and made a name for himself a mere three years before Toblerone was established in 1908.
Natural beauty, a diverse population, outdoor adventures, and chocolate. What else could you want in a destination?
This was going to be five facts, but a well-traveled and hilarious Irishman in my Bucharest hostel just offered me a rum/coke and conversation. So you only get three. Deal with it :).