Friday, October 26, 2012

Capitol, Geography and Currency in Switzerland


I always thought the capitol of Switzerland was Zurich, but in fact it is Bern.

Bern, the fourth most populous city in Switzerland, has a population of 125,681. The Bern area includes 43 municipalities with a population of 353,300..

Bern is a shoppers delight with one of the longest covered shopping promenades in the world and 6.3 km of shopping arcades with a mixture of cafés, restaurants, theaters, museums, and shops. Bern is a shoppers paradise where everything is accessible on foot - no rental card needed.

Goethe, a famous German writer, artist, and politician called Bern the prettiest city he has ever seen.

Bern History

Founded on a peninsula surrounded by a river on three sides and protected with steep river banks, Duke Berchtold V. von Zähringen had a well protected location which helped it flourish. In 1353, it joined the young Swiss Confederation. In 1798, the river and steep banks weren't enough protection and French troops occupied it during the French Revolutionary wars. In 1831, the city became the capital of the Canton of Bern and in 1848 it additionally became the Swiss Capital. The Parliament Building from where Switzerland is governed is in the hearth of the Old Town.

The old town of Bern has a romantic feel with buildings that haven't changed in 500 years. The sandstone arcades and the cobbled streets take the visitor back into Bern's storied past.

On the other side of the river, Bern is a very modern city with lots of shops, restaurants, and public transportation. Like many modern cities with medieval centers, auto traffic is restricted from the old town, giving the casual pedestrian the right of way.

As you must know, while Chocolate wasn't discovered in Switzerland, leave it to the Swiss to perfect this delicious natural product by creating milk chocolate and the many famous brands found throughout Switzerland. As I drove into Bern in 1980, I recall being overwhelmed with the fragrance of Chocolate. A marvelous sensation, since I love chocolate so much.


Switzerland is divided in three major geographical areas with protective mountains on the north and south:
  • Alps: 60%
  • Plateaus: 30%
  • Jura Mountais: 10%

The beauty of the mountains and nature is just magnificent, it took my breath away. Everywhere you look is just  amazingly beautiful. 

This diversity creates wide variances in the climate and depends on the time of the year. While some parts of Switzerland has weather that will remind you of Siberia, other parts can be balmy like the Mediterranean.


The Swill Franc of Switzerland is one of the most stable currencies in the world and is often used as an international benchmark in the world of finance. While Bern is the official capital of Switzerland, Zurich could be considered the financial capital, not only of Switzerland, but of all Western Europe.

Foreign currency exchange
While getting currency from an ATM (e.g. Capital One)  that doesn't charge a currency exchange fee is the best alternative for travelers, if you just exchange currency, check out the train station in Switzerland. Exchange of foreign currency here entails no commission and the exchange rates are the same as the major banks.

If you go the ATM route, all major cities and towns in Switzerland have many banks with ATMs that accept foreign cards and dispense Swiss currency. Similarly, most hotels, shops and restaurants in the big towns and cities of Switzerland accept major international credit cards. Just look for the Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club logo's.

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