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About Switzerland

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Switzerland the country and its Cantons - Official languages - the CHF Swiss currency - Swiss Neutrality - the Swiss Confederation - Swiss History

Official Languages Official country flag Currency

German spoken by 64%
Schweiz or
official admin. language

French spoken by 24%
La Suisse or
Confédération Suisse
official admin. language

Italian spoken by 11%
Svizzera or
Confederazione Svizzera or
Confederazione Elvetica
official admin. language

Romansh spoken by 1%
Svizra or
Confederaziun Helvetica

Political System
Democracy, federation of states
(cantons & half-cantons)

Federal Capital
Bern with seat of parliament and the federal government

Switzerland the country- Official flag - Swiss Neutrality

The Swiss Confederation
CH for short - stands for
Confoederatio Helvetica (Latin)
comprises 26 confederated cantons and half-cantons (federal member states). There are roughly 3000 municipalities (cities, towns, villages, hamlets)Cantons of Switzerland- Official flags of Cantons

The Swiss Franc - CHF

also referred to as the 'Swissie'
valued between

Currency Symbol
CHF for short; stands for:
Confoederatio Helvetica Franc (Latin)

National holiday observed on
1st of August

Official languages
German, French, Italian

GDP in 2013 per records World Bank
USD58'996.90 per inhabitant
equiv. 467% of the world's average

Working Population ~4mio. (2004)

Largest Cities
Zurich 392'000 (1.9mio metro area)
Geneva 198'000
Basle 175'000
Berne 126'000
Lausanne 122'000
Lugano 67'000 (152'000 agglomeration)

Surface Area: 41'285km2

Population: 8,2mio (2015)

Religions: Christianity: 46% Roman Catholics, 40% Protestants; 14% other Christian denominations and religions: Judaism, Islam

A landlocked country of central Europe

extending for about 135 miles (220 km) from north to south and for about 220 miles (350 km) at its widest extent from west to east. Switzerland is bordered on the west by France, on the north by Germany, on the east by Austria and Liechtenstein, and on the south by Italy. With more than two-fifths of its area comprising the main ranges of the Alps and with few natural resources other than waterpower, Switzerland has managed to fashion unity out of diverse races, religions, and languages; for about 700 years it has maintained the world's oldest democracy. The capital is Bern. Area 15,940 square miles (41,285 square km). Pop. (2015 est.) 8,240,000.

Landlocked amid the mountains of central Europe, Switzerland is a nation separated into three major linguistic regions: German throughout much of the northern, central, and eastern portions, French to the west, and Italian in the south. The canton of Valais has both French and German speakers. In addition, there is one minor linguistic group, Romansh, spoken in some areas of the canton of Graubünden.

From 1848 to the Present
The turning point, then, in modern Swiss history was 1848. Before that date internal conflict was a fact of Swiss political life; since then there has been an absence of major internal crises along ethnic and religious lines, and the country has prospered. With political stability, the Swiss could spend a greater portion of their time and efforts developing industry, agriculture, and communications.

Swiss Neutrality
Switzerland remained neutral during the Franco-Prussian War, and neutrality was maintained during World War I in spite of the country's ethnic division. Because 40 percent of all the food consumed was imported, Switzerland was dependent on the goodwill of neighboring countries for the maintenance of its food supply. Although many sectors of the economy suffered severely because of the war, others, such as machine manufacturing, watch making, textiles, food processing, and agriculture, flourished.

The Prehistoric Period to the Swiss Confederation

Dynastic Switzerland
The Swiss area became united again in the 11th century under a German-dominated Holy Roman Empire; however, the gradual decline of the empire gave rise to a loose confederation of quasi-independent states, enabling feudal dynasties of the Zähringen, Savoy, Kyburg, and Habsburg families to emerge as territorial powers by the beginning of the 13th century. During the 11th and 12th centuries new cities were founded by these families to provide secure stopping places for the increasing numbers of merchants associated with rapidly expanding trade in western Europe. Many of the fortified centers had the dual function of defending newly acquired territories as well as serving as outposts for further dynastic expansion. The Zähringens founded strategic towns between Lake Constance and Lake Neuchâtel. Bern was sited on the easily defended great bend of the Aare River; Fribourg was located on a loop of the entrenched Sarine River where a key trade route crossed the river; and the walled city of Murten (Morat) became the western outlying settlement of the dynasty. Under the Kyburgers, who were established in northeastern Switzerland, the settlements of Winterthur, Zug, Aarau, and Baden received town status. In the west the Savoys extended their domain from Geneva to Moudon and Yverdon on the western end of Lake Neuchâtel and up the Rhône valley into Valais.

Celtic Switzerland
During the Iron Age, from 850 BC on, the area that was to become Switzerland was inhabited by Celts in the west and Rhätians in the east. A rough boundary between the tribes ran from Lake Constance to the Gotthard by way of the Linth valley. The Helvetii, one of the most powerful of the Celtic tribes, controlled much of the area between the Jura and the Alps. Because of pressures from Germanic tribes, they attempted to migrate to southwestern Gaul in 58 BC but were denied permission by the Romans. Defeated in the opening campaign of the Gallic Wars by Julius Ceasar, the Helvetii survivors returned to their Swiss lands as dependent but privileged allies of Rome, thus filling a vacuum that otherwise might have precipitated further Germanic encroachment.

Remaining Challenges
The historical evolution of Switzerland may be delineated in three broad phases. First, the inhabitants had to adapt their life to a rugged and mountainous physical landscape. Second, they had to defend their territory against the aggressions of powerful surrounding peoples. Third, they had to fashion an economic system that could provide a livelihood for the country's inhabitants. For the most part, the Swiss have succeeded admirably in these three phases.

Economic Conditions after World War II. For a long period after World War II, the Swiss economy worked at full steam, with very little unemployment. Because of the recession in the early 1970s, however, steps were taken to restructure and rationalize Swiss industry, especially construction and watch making, and for the return of foreign laborers to their native countries. All told, more than 400,000 jobs were eliminated between 1973 and 1976. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s more than one million Swiss residents were foreigners. Unemployment at 3%.

The history of Switzerland, a complex series of events, provides the background for an understanding of the country's present-day cultural differences. Because of its central location in western Europe and pass routes through the Alps, which linked French and German lands with the Italian peninsula, Switzerland was coveted by surrounding powers. Swiss history, played out on the battlefields of Alpine Europe, was to a great extent the saga of local peoples trying to prevent foreign aggressors from taking control of their territory.

Roman Switzerland
From AD 101 to 150 Celtic, Rhaetian, and Roman peoples lived together in almost unbroken peace. The Romans enlarged the old Celtic settlements and built new towns such as Augusta Raurica (now Augst), on the Rhine east of Basel; Dunum (Thun), at the head of Lake Thun (Thuner See); Novodunum (Nyon), on the shores of Lake Geneva; Aventicum (Avenches), near Lake Morat; Eburodunum (Yverdon), on the southwest shore of Lake Neuchâtel; Octodurum (Martigny), on the northern approach of the Great St. Bernard Pass; and Turicum (Zürich), where the Limmat flows north out of Lake Zürich (Zürichsee). They improved water supplies and constructed arenas and theatres, the best examples of which may be seen at Augst and Avenches. Villas, a type of fortified farmstead, were built, providing the bases for agricultural exploitation and for spreading of Roman influence into the surrounding countryside.

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