Country information Switzerland Switzerland is a unique and most of all picturesque country settled in the heart of Europe. Boarded by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Lichtenstein, Switzerland is nowadays very well known for the majestic Alps and beautiful lakes, great chocolate and strong cheese, expensive watches and the four different languages spoken within the country. German is by far the most widely spoken language, apart from French, Italian and Romansh. Some say Swiss German is some form of dialect of German, others argue that is a language on its own, so far linguists have not come to a conclusion. But this is not the only puzzling thing about Switzerland. Even though the country is nestled in the middle of Europe, Switzerland is not part of the European Union and remains to this day independent and neutral in global political decisions (since 1515). The neutrality was possible to develop because of the inaccessible mountains which not only created particular living conditions, but also provided the area with protection and a great deal of freedom. The state of Switzerland as we know it today only assumed its current form in 1848. Geographically Switzerland is a harmonious tableau of beautiful images, a slideshow of epic proportions that is easy to step into, and travellers have been seduced ever since the days of the Grand Tour and Alpinism‘s Golden Age in the 19th century, and the birth of winter tourism in the Alps in the 1930s. From the intoxicating chink of Verbier glitterati hobnobbing over Champagne to the reassuring bell jangle of silky black Val d‘Hérens cattle being mucked out in the Valais, Switzerland mixes rural and urban with astonishing ease, grace and precision. Population: Approximately 8 million. Out of these numbers, around 30 % do not have a Swiss passport Capital: Berne Languages: German 65.6 %. 19 of the country’s 26 cantons are predominantly (Swiss) German-speaking. French 22.8 %. Spoken in the western part of Switzerland, the ‘Suisse Romande’. Italian 8.4 %, spoken in the southern part of Switzerland, the ‘Ticino’. Raetho-Rumantsch 0.6 %, a Latin based language spoken only in one canton, Graubünden. Graubünden also speaks German and Italian and is the only trilingual canton in Switzerland. Geography: 41'200 km2 with 1484 lakes and 140 glaciers. Time zone: CET + 1h Currency: Switzerland remains with the Swiss franc, usually indicated as CHF. While Switzerland is not part of the European Union and thus is not obliged to convert to the Euro, many prices are nonetheless indicated in euros so that visitors may compare prices. Merchants may accept euros but are not obliged to do so. Change given back mostly in Swiss francs. Insurance: A personal international health insurance is strongly recommended, a personal travel insurance including coverage of personal accident, sickness, loss or damage to luggage and personal eff ects and cancellation charges is advisable.