Switzerland, Austria, & Liechtenstein

Landlocked in the center of Europe are the two main states of Switzerland and Austria. Sandwiched on the border of these two states is the ministate of Liechtenstein.

Notice the countries that touch Switzerland, including tiny Lichtenstein.
Notice the countries that touch Switzerland, including tiny Liechtenstein.

This region is dominated by the Alpine ranges. Switzerland, officially known as the Swiss Confederation, is divided into twenty-six cantons (states). Because of its location and close ties with neighboring countries, four languages are spoken in Switzerland: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.

Romansh is one of the descendant languages of the spoken Latin language of the Roman Empire! Romansh originates from the spoken Latin brought to the region by Roman soldiers, merchants, and officials following the conquest of the modern-day Grisons area by the Romans in 15 BC.

The traditional Romansh-speaking parts of Switzerland (dark green)
The traditional Romansh-speaking parts of Switzerland (dark green)

Typically, one language predominates in any given canton.

Where’s Andrew: Speaking Romansh in Switzerland

Berne is the country’s capital, and Geneva, Zurich, and Basel are the other major cities. Switzerland’s land area is just slightly larger than the US state of Maryland.

Switzerland has more than 1500 lakes and contains 6% of Europe’s stock of fresh water. The largest lake is Lake Geneva, in western Switzerland shared with France. Because of the mountains, skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering are among the most popular sports.

The Matterhorn straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy.
The Matterhorn straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy.
Banner in the Sky book

A book set in the Swiss Alps is Banner in the Sky, by James Ramsey Ullman.
” At sixteen, Rudi is determined to pay tribute to the man he never knew, and complete the quest that claimed his father’s life. And so, taking his father’s red shirt as a flag, he heads off to face the earth’s most challenging peak. But before Rudi can reach the top, he must pass through the forbidden Fortress, the gaping chasm in the high reaches of the Citadel where his father met his end. Rudi has followed Josef’s footsteps as far as they will take him. Now he must search deep within himself to find the strength for the final ascent to the summit—to plant his banner in the sky. “

Internationally, Switzerland is well known for its political neutrality. The UN European offices are located there. The Red Cross and the main offices of many international organizations are located in Switzerland. Swiss culture is thought to have benefited from Switzerland’s neutrality. During times of war and political turmoil, creative people found refuge within the Swiss borders. Swiss banking practices and policies are known throughout the world, and Swiss banks have benefited greatly from the country’s politically neutral status. Banking is one of the country’s top employers and sources of income. The Swiss people enjoy a high standard of living.

Alphorn players in Switzerland
Alphorn players in Switzerland

There is an emphasis on science in Swiss culture with good historical reason: the field of modern chemistry originated in Switzerland. The Bernoulli family, famed for their significant contributions to mathematics over many years, hails from Basel. The Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, one of the top-ranked universities in the world, has produced an unusually high number of Nobel Prize winners. Albert Einstein, though born in Germany, relocated to Switzerland and later became a Swiss citizen.

Everything You Need to Know About Switzerland
Note: This video is 14 minutes long.

The cuisine of Switzerland is multifaceted. While some dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages. Chocolate has been made in Switzerland since the 18th century. The Swiss are the world’s largest consumer of chocolate!

Fondue is melted cheese, into which bread or other items are dipped.
Fondue is melted cheese, into which bread or other items are dipped.
Raclette is an alpine cow milk cheese that is commonly used for melting.
Rösti is a Swiss potato dish that is sort of like a cross between a potato pancake and hash browns.
Rösti is a Swiss potato dish that is sort of like a cross between a potato pancake and hash browns.
The Swiss are famous for chocolate!
The Swiss are famous for chocolate!

Switzerland is also famous for the St. Bernard, a large working dog from the western Alps that was originally bred for rescue.

Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard

Austria

Austria is a largely mountainous country because of its location in the Alps. Austria is larger than its neighbor Switzerland and is similar in area to the US state of South Carolina. Austria has various Alpine ranges, with the highest peak at 12,457 feet in elevation. Only about a fourth of the land area is considered low lying for habitation. The Danube River flows through the country, including the capital city of Vienna. Austria has a well-developed social market economy and a high standard of living.

Austria
Austria

For more than six hundred years, beginning just before the dawn of the fourteenth century, Austria was tightly associated with its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs. The Hapsburgs came to power in a new way with the formation of the Austrian Empire in 1804. In Germany’s rise to power before World War II, Hitler annexed his native Austria to Germany. Austria regained its independence a decade after the war ended and joined the EU in 1995.

Mr. History: A Super Quick History of Austria

Austria is a German-speaking country, and nearly the entire population self-identifies as ethnic Austrian. The Turks are the largest single immigrant group in Austria, closely followed by the Serbs.

Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg, Austria

Austria is predominantly Roman Catholic and was home to many monasteries in the Middle Ages, influencing a strong Austrian literary tradition. Austria’s best-known cities are its capital of Vienna and Salzburg and Innsbruck.

Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck, Austria

Vienna was the center of the Habsburg and Austrian Empires and earned a place as one of the world’s great cities. It is famed for its baroque architecture; its music, particularly waltzes; and theater. The Habsburgs were great patrons of the arts, and hence music, drama, and art thrived for centuries in Austria. The country has been home to many famous composers and musicians and is the setting for the story behind the movie The Sound of Music. Austria has a worldwide reputation in music and the arts. Some famous composers associated with Austria are:

  • Joseph Haydn
  • Franz Liszt
  • Franz Schubert
  • Johann Strauss
  • Mozart (He spent much of his career in the Austrian captial of Vienna.)

Traditional clothing of Austria includes:

Austrian tract (traditional garments)
Austrian tract (traditional garments)
A loden cape is made from the coarse, oily wool of mountain sheep.
Tyrolean hat
Tyrolean hat
Dirndl – a traditional dress

Austria is a beautiful place, as you can see via this video:

touropia: 10 Best Places to Visit in Austria – Travel Video

Some Austrian foods are:

Kaiserschmarrn
Kaiserschmarrn is a light, caramelized pancake made from a sweet batter. It’s fried and usually sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Tafelspitz is boiled veal or beef in broth, served with horseradish and minced apples.
Tafelspitz is boiled veal or beef in broth, served with horseradish and minced apples.
Sachertorte
Sachertorte is a dense chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam on top and coated with dark chocolate icing.
Wiener schnitzel is a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet.
Wiener schnitzel is a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet.

Liechtenstein is a German-speaking microstate tucked in between Switzerland and Austria. It is Europe’s fourth-smallest country, with an area of just over 160 square kilometers (62 square miles) and a population of about 38,557.

The entire western border of Liechtenstein is formed by the Rhine River.

Liechtenstein used its low corporate tax rates to draw many companies and became one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Steg in the Principality of Liechtenstein
Steg in the Principality of Liechtenstein

Despite its limited natural resources, Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens; it has developed a prosperous, highly industrialized free-enterprise economy and boasts a financial service sector as well as a living standard that compares favorably with those of the urban areas of Liechtenstein’s much larger European neighbors. The country’s population enjoys one of the world’s highest standards of living.

Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Vaduz, Liechtenstein

According to the Constitution of Liechtenstein, Catholicism is its official state religion:

The Catholic Church is the State Church and as such shall enjoy the full protection of the State— Constitution of Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein offers protection to adherents of all religions and considers the “religious interests of the people” a priority of the government. In Liechtenstein schools, although exceptions are allowed, religious education in Roman Catholicism or Protestantism (either Reformed or Lutheran, or both) is legally required.

Liechtenstein follows a policy of neutrality and is one of the few countries in the world that maintain no military.

Rick Steves’ Europe: Little Europe: Liechtenstein

Key Takeaways:

✎ Switzerland and Austria are dominated by the Alpine ranges.
✎ Switzerland is well known for its political neutrality.
✎ Austria was tightly associated with its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs.
✎ Austria has a worldwide reputation in music and the arts.
✎ Liechtenstein is a German-speaking microstate tucked in between Switzerland and Austria. It enjoys one of the world’s highest standards of living.

Next: Germany & France

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Image and additional information credits:

Austria topo map
By Themanwithoutapast on en.wikipedia – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=950640
Tracht
By David Monniaux – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=131981
Tyrolean hat
By Clément Bucco-Lechat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22857811
dirndl
By Karl Gruber / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51299329
Loden cape
By KingaNBM – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45644521
Switzerland map
CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15342003
Languages of Switzerland
By Maproom – KARTE_schweiz_sprachen.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36179365
Engadine
By Biovit – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6222458
Alpine horns
By Paebi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=351207
Fondue
By EquatorialSky at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Msh210 using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7034640
Rosti
By Benutzer:Mussklprozz, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=667819
Raclette cheese
By Pierre Guinoiseau from Lyon, France – Raclette, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36744148
Swiss chocolate
By Chocolat Frey AG – Chocolat Frey AG, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81235844
Matterhorn painting
By Edward Theodore Compton – Edward Theodore Compton auf Art Directory Source:[1] Image:[2], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7502140
Kaiserschmarrn
By Takeaway – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42341737
Sachertorte
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4570315
Tafelspitz
By RobertK – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1069045
Wiener Schnitzel
By Jennifer Woodard Maderazo – Flickr: Wiener Schnitzel!, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19421813
Salzburg, Austria
By Zairon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51364703
Innsbruck
By SharkshockUSA – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77927802
St. Bernard
By Benduiker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7545920
Lichtenstein
By OCHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32296308
Liechtenstein info
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein scenery
By Asurnipal – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79695145
Vaduz
By spaceman117, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56441381

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