Swiss knowhow

Swiss delights:


Switzerland is a small mountainous country and never had any colonies in cocoa-growing countries in South America or Africa. It may seem surprising that it has become one of the world’s leading chocolate manufacturers through the impact of the great Swiss Chocolate pioneers Francois-Louis Cailler, Philippe Suchard, Rudolphe Lindt and Theodor Tobler.


Hard cheese, soft cheese, cottage cheese, cheese made in mountain chalets, cheese made in valley factories, cheese shaved into rosettes, cheese boxed in red pine, cheese melted in wine to make fondue, hot cheese dribbled over potatoes to make raclette... There's much more to Swiss cheese than making holes!

Swiss made:

Watches – watch making industry in “the watch valley”

The watchmaking industry has been one of constant innovation, demanding ingenuity, dexterity, design skill, patience and good business sense. The watch making industry is concentrated in west Switzerland, a part which the tourism authorities have named “watch valley”. Swiss watchmaking today is dominated by Swatch. It is thanks to Swatch that the industry recovered from a catastrophic drop in sales in the 1970s when the new quartz technology allowed cheap production from the Far East to take over the market. For the general public the name Swatch is nowadays to cheerful fashion watches, cheap enough to enable customers to buy a new one according to season or to mood. The Swatch Group is the biggest watch company worldwide thanks to its luxury brands Omega, Breguet and Blancpain. Other famous brands of Swiss watches are Rolex and Breitling.

Typically Swiss – Swiss style:

Different languages and dialects
Switzerland has four national languages.

is by far the most widely spoken language, 17 of the 26 cantons are monolingual in German (64 %)
is spoken in the western part of the country, the “Suisse Romande”. (20 %)
is spoken in the south part of Switzerland, in the canton Ticino. (6.5 %)
Rhaeto- Rumantsch:
is only spoken in the trilingual canton Graubünden. The other two languages spoken there are German and Italian. (0.5 %)

The language spoken in German-speaking Switzerland is quite different from standard German, it is broken up into numerous local dialects.

Each canton makes its own decision for school about which language will be taught from what age onward. Many people speak their mother tongue and English and understand a second national language.

Swiss summits – The Alps

The Alps span some 200 kilometers (125 miles) and cover nearly two thirds of Switzerland’s total surface. There are 48 mountains which are 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) or higher about 1,800 glaciers. Most of the tourism is concentrated in the Alps which provide recreation and relaxation. Mountain railways have been constructed as well as sports centres, hotels and vacation homes. The many mountain passes in the Swiss Alps have always been ideal ways of crossing the mountains by car and offer a spectacular natural experience when the weather is nice. Nearly all the mountain passes are closed in winter, only few are kept open. San Bernadino and Gotthard are open in winter due to road tunnels.

Big water sources - lakes and rivers

Thanks to its geographical-climatic situation, Switzerland is also called the water castle of Europe. The Swiss rivers flow into the North Sea (Rhine, Aare, Reuss), into the Mediterranean (Rhone, Ticino), and into the Black Sea (Inn).

The Rhine Falls, a few kilometres downstream of Schaffhausen, are the largest in Europe.

Especially charming are the many small and big lakes. Switzerland has over 1,500 lakes. The biggest lakes are Lake Geneva and Lake Constance which lie on the border to France and Germany. The biggest lakes which lies wholly within Switzerland is Lake Neuchâtel. Probably Lake Lucerne and Lake Zurich are the best known lakes.

Heidi’s Switzerland – story about a girl of the Alps

The most famous Swiss literary creation is undoubtedly Heidi, who, as the main character of one of the most popular children's books ever, has come to be a symbol of Switzerland. The Heidi anime was an extremely popular TV series in many countries all over the world.

Her creator was Johanna Spyri (1827-1901). She spent her childhood in the village of Hirzel (approx 20 km south of Zurich), where also some of her less known works are on display in the “Johanna Spyri Museum”.

The region “Heidiland” is a very nice region for holiday and recreation. It is around the health resort called Bad Ragaz, a village approx 100 km southeast of Zurich. Already 150 year ago Johanna Spyri made a cure in Bad Ragaz and this region inspired her during the many walking-tours for the Heidi story. Relive the story where it is supposed to have happened: in the “Heididorf” village and house, now a centre and museum, nearby the village Maienfeld. Follow the marked Heidi trail through an idyllic scenery to Heidialp, via Heididorf and past the Heidifountain.

Barry – about the St Bernhard Dog, one of the largest dog breeds

Visit the Bernhard museum and kennels at the Great St Bernhard Pass (Elevation 2 469 m) with its three superb little mountain lakes. Switzerland’s mascot dog spends the summer on the mountaintop of the same name and love all of the neary 60000 visitors every year.

The dogs from this area, known as St.Bernhards, were bred to be large enough to handle deep snow and to scent out lost persons. Barry (1800-1814) was a famous St. Bernhard that worked as a mountain rescue dog. He lived at the monastery at the Great St Bernhard and was responsible for saving over 40 lives.

Today the dogs are still traditionally bred by the monks as well as by various other breeders.

William Tell – Legend of the swiss hero

At a time soon after the opening of the Gotthard Pass, when the Habsburg emperors of Vienna sought to control Uri and thus control trans-Alpine trade, a new bailiff, Hermann Gessler, was despatched to Altorf. The proud mountain folk of Uri had already joined with their Schwyzer and Nidwaldner neighbours at Rütli in pledging to resist the Austrians’ cruel oppression, and when Gessler raised a pole in the central square of Altorf and perched his hat on the top, commanding all who passed before it to bow in respect, it was the last straw. William Tell, a countryman from nearby Bürgler, either hadn’t heard about Gessler’s command or chose to ignore it; whichever, he walked past the hat without bowing. Gessler seized Tell, who was well known as a marksman, and set him a challenge. He ordered him to shoot an apple off his son’s head with his crossbow; if Tell was successful, he would be released, but if he failed or refused, both he and his son would die. The boy’s hands were tied. Tell put one arrow in his quiver and another in his crossbow, took aim, and shot the apple clean off his son’s head. Gessler was impressed and infuriated – and then asked what the second arrow was for. Tell looked the tyrant in the eye and replied that if the first arrow had struck the child, the second would have been for Gessler. For such impertinence, Tell was arrested and sentenced to lifelong imprisonment in the dungeons of Gessler’s castle at Küssnacht, northeast of Luzern. During the long boat journey a violent storm arose on the lake, and the oarsmen – unfamiliar with the lake – bengged with Gessler to release Tell so that he could steer them to safety. Gessler acceded, and Tell cannily manoeuvred the boat close to the shore, then leapt to freedom, landing on a flat rock (the Tellsplatte) and simultaneously pushing the boat back into the stormy waters. Determined to see his task through and use the second arrow, Tell hurried to Küssnacht. As Gessler and his party walked along on a dark lane called Hohlegasse on their way to the castle. Tell leapt out, shot a bolt into the tyrant’s heart and melted back into the woods to return to Uri. His comrades were inspired by Tell’s act of bravery to throw off the yoke of Habsbrug oppression in their homeland, and to remain forever free.

The William Tell statue on the Rathausplatz, Altorf’s main square, is one of Switzerland’s most photographed monuments.