|A High Country
Switzerland is a tiny country located in central Europe. It is surrounded on all sides by land, or landlocked. Two mountain ranges separate the Swiss from their neighbors. They are the Jura Mountains and the Alps. The mountains have also helped keep Switzerland out of wars. The Swiss have not taken part in a war since 1515. When Switzerland was founded in 1291, it had three cantons, or states. Gradually 20 more cantons were added that form regions very different from one another. In western Switzerland most people speak French and call their county Suisse. To the north, most people speak German and call the
country Schweiz. In the southeast, Italian-speaking Swiss
call it Svizzera. All of these languages can be heard in
Bern, Switzerland's capital.
Working in the Alps
Since there is not much land in Switzerland that is good
for growing crops, farmers in the Jura Mountains herd
cattle. They are famous for their dairy products, especially their cheese. However, the most important part of the economy is manufacturing. Switzerland is famous for
handmade clocks, tools, and furniture. Their most famous
goods are Swiss watches. Medicines, dyes, and textiles
are other important exports. Early transportation of goods
was difficult using roads through steep mountain passes.
In 1872, engineers began work on the first tunnel through
the Alps. This made shipping easier. Two new tunnels are
being built for railroads which will cut down on pollution
from cars. These tunnels will be completed by 2006.