Click on the colored areas of the map to access a travelogue. The colors indicate different regions of Switzerland -- scroll down for explanation and introduction for each location. (Original map comes from the CIA World Factbook)
Introduction. What you probably know about Switzerland -- Swiss bank accounts, the role of Switzerland in major international institutions (the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent), Swiss fondue, Swiss knives, the Swiss Alps (and those low-sounding Alp-horns), Swiss chocolate, Swiss watches, and Swiss neutrality.
How much you probably don't know about Switzerland will surprise you. Switzerland is truly an international country with four very distinct regions speaking four different languages, each carved out from the shreds of the Thirty Years War of the 17th Century and maintained ever since. The west is Francophone, including the prominent cities of Geneva (Genève) and Lausanne on Lake Geneva, but also including resort towns like Montreaux and Neuchâtel. The south is Italian, almost indistinct in culture and flavor from Italy herself. The north and center are Germanic, and include the capital of Bern (Bären), Lucerne (Luzern), and Zurich. Finally, the east near Austria and Liechtenstein is the province of Graubünden whose citizens speak Romantsch, a Germanic language with a lot of Italian and Latin influence. Each language is represented on their (incredibly gaudy) money, and each sector has its street signs in different languages.
Switzerland is dominated by small towns, many sitting on gorgeous Alpine lakes amidst beautiful mountainous backdrops. The townfolk are very friendly and the atmosphere inviting. Many of these towns have retained their oldest structures (city walls and towers), helped by the fact that Switzerland has not been attacked in a good long time.
Switzerland's reputation as a very regulated society dates back to the post-Thirty Years War period when Calvinism, a strongly pious form of Protestantianism, became the dominant religion of the country. The Swiss enacted prohibitions on alcohol consumption, other vices, working on Sundays, etc. The effects of these laws are still felt -- visitors will find Switzerland to be mostly locked up on Sundays, and the prices of beer and wine will seem extremely high. The Swiss are more formal and sophisticated people than most I've seen, and are prone to dress up more formally whenever they go out.
Finally, the decor in Swiss cities is very colorful and ornate. The facades of the buildings in Lucerne and Schaffhausen are bright and elaborate. The fountains of Bern are sometimes comical with their loud, grotesque figurines. And the architecture in very rich Zurich is erudite and imposing. It's simply a beautiful place to visit. But be warned, nothing in Switzerland is a bargain!
Travelogues by Region. The coloring of the locations on the map above indicate different regions in Switzerland, as shown below.
Links. The below links connect you to external sites in a new window. All links are official sites sanctioned by the national, state, or local governments unless otherwise indicated. These links will open to the local language home page (either French, German, Italian, or Romantsch), which will offer an icon or link to an English-language section (normally limited content). If an English language link is not available, click on the "Tourismus" or "Turismo" section. This is for the tourism page, which should have English content available. Links updated 29 December 2005.
Note 1. The Basel home page is available in German, English, and French. The links to access these other pages are given in a text icon at the upper right of each page that looks like this: D | E | F. Click on the "E" letter for the English pages (D for German, F for French).