Switzerland is one of the most sought after destinations in the world and visitors are drawn to Switzerland’s diverse landscape as well as activities; spectacular Alpine scenery, cozy mountain chalets, dazzling ski runs, window boxes spilling over with red geraniums, tidy cities set on serene lakes, elegant grand hotels. Though you’ll undoubtedly encounter these along the way, they don’t present a complete picture of this modern country. Switzerland may guard its neutrality and assert its independence, but it is very much an active participant in the world. Switzerland, get natural!
If you’re going for the scenery or for the skiing, there are few places that can equal it (in quality or high prices). And there are few places as clean, safe and orderly as Switzerland. Likewise, few countries have such diversity in terms of culture and language: German is prevalent in Zurich and the northern, central and eastern regions; French in Geneva and the western region; Italian in Lugano and the southern region; and Romansh in St. Moritz and the southeastern region. Despite its varied cultures and linguistic traditions, Switzerland is one of the most politically and economically stable countries in the world.
Switzerland takes its name from the canton of Schwyz, one of the founder cantons of the Swiss Confederation. It was in the 14th century that the name Switenses was first given to the people living in the lands of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, in Central Switzerland. In the year 1291 these three cantons formed a little Confederation called Sweiz.
By 1386, the date of the Battle of Sempach, the name Sweiz was being used by German historians, while outside the country the people were being referred to as Swaiceri or Sweizer; neither name being always used in a very flattering manner.
But in the 14th century, when the Confederation was extended by the incorporation of new memberstates, the people called themselves “Eidgenossen” or confederates, a name which was commonly used until the end of the 16th century. Later they were simply called Swiss, and since the 17th century that has been the official name for the people of Switzerland.
Despite the fact that the highest peaks of the Alps can get snow year-round, Switzerland isn’t as cold as most people think. Spring, summer and autumn are all quite comfortable. June and July are when the alpine wildflowers are usually at their peak, but summer is also noted for lots of tourists. We suggest visiting in May unless skiing is part of your itinerary—many resort hotels close down for the month. Take a sweater year-round; a light raincoat and folding umbrella might come in handy, too.