Archaeological evidence shows that the area that is now Switzerland was inhabited as early as 40,000 BC . As the Alpine glacier melts, more and more artifacts are being found of hunting civilizations dating back to 4500 BC. Switzerland became a cross roads for many nomadic cultures.
The development of modern Switzerland can be traced back to a confederation of several Alpine valley communities from the Middle Ages. Originally called cantons, today Switzerland's twenty-six Cantos make up the country.
For such a small country Switzerland has taken center stage in the world with it's:
- Political neutrality
- Unparalleled banking system,
- Idyllic landscapes
- Marvelous skiing
Switzerland is also renowned for its cheeses, chocolate, watch making, Saint Bernards and, you guessed it, Swiss army knives.
Today, Switzerland's population is about 7 million very diverse people.
It is composed of four major ethnic groups: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Yep, that is right, Romansh, a small group of Swiss people, (1%) speak a language call Romansh. It isn't clear what sets them apart, other that the language.
But the real news is that Switzerland is located at the crossroads of Europe. Isn't it ironic that the white cross on the Swiss flag could also be seen as a road crossing? Although a small country, it is the meeting point for three of Europe's major cultures, German, French and Italian. It is a country known for its stability, multiculturalism, and prosperity.
Swiss political history never consolidated into a single monarchy. Instead, the different members of the confederation governed political affairs. In today's political system, many powers are still left in the hands of the cantons.
Switzerland's present boundaries were fixed in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna. Switzerland was neutral (refused to take sides) in World War I (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945). Its neutral stance has also kept it from joining the United Nations.
The Swiss live in a democracy where the average citizen often has greater influence than in other countries. A unique example of direct democracy found in parts of Switzerland is the Landsgemeinde (People's Assembly). Citizens gather under the open sky on a Sunday in spring to pass laws and elect officials by a show of hands.