Last week we shared a few interesting facts about one of our favorite European Countries, Switzerland. And this week we thought we would share a little bit of Swiss history!
One of the first significant parts of Swiss history began in 58BC when one of Julius Caesar's army's settled in the land. The name of their tribe was the Helvetian tribe, and this is why Switzerland was given its first original name of Confederation Helvetian. The Swiss still refer to this name a lot. You will see on the Swiss coins a CH, and most of the cars that you will drive past will have a sticker on their back bumper that says CH.
In the 14th Century the Swiss were invaded and taken over by the Habsburg's (an empire that was ruled out of Austria). The well-known story of William Tell is said to be the beginnings of the Swiss eventually driving the Habsburg's out of Switzerland and re-claiming their independence. When the Habsburg's Bailiff Gessler would visit Lucerne he would place his hat in the main square and order everyone who passed it to bow. William Tell refused to bow to the Bailiff's hat, and so was eventually arrested. The Bailiff learned that Tell was a great archer, so he decided to have a little fun with him instead of throwing Tell directly into jail. He told Tell to show up at the weekly town gathering with his bow and his arrow, and that if he could shoot an apple off the top of his son's head, the he would be set free. So, William Tell showed up with his bow and two arrows. He successfully shot the apple off the top of his son's head and the crowd went wild! The Bailiff said to Tell, ‘I will stick to my word and set you free, but I am curious to know why you bought two arrows instead of one.' Tell replied ‘if I shot my son, the second one was for you'. The Bailiff was furious with this response, and ordered Tell back in prison. So the Bailiff's men put Tell in a boat to sail to the prison. That night there was a wild storm, and the guards not knowing the waters well, let Tell steer the boat to safety. Tell managed to escape then came back into town and convinced the people to revolt against the Habsburg monarchy and claim their independence. This is said to be the first movement the Swiss made to become independent again.
The Swiss have also been very well known in History for being the Neutral Country. In 1864 a Swiss man named Henry Dumont started the Red Cross after visiting South America and experiencing the horror injured soldiers were enduring. The Red Cross was created to be neutral during war to help all injured soldiers no matter who they were fighting for. The Swiss remained Neutral during WWI and WWII. In the mid-1990's however, there was suspicion that the Swiss assisted the Germans during WWII to launder money via Swiss bank accounts and also being found guilty of holding onto the money of deceased victims of the holocaust. The investigation cost the Swiss millions of dollars, and these days most Swiss bank accounts are not as secure as they used to be as a result of the banks being fearful of the fines set in place after the investigation. Switzerland continues to stay neutral and is the only country is Western Europe that has opted not to join the European Union.
Europe seems to be the hot destination to book a tour to at this time of the year, so we thought we would share a few facts about one of our favorite European Countries: Switzerland!
Did you know that the Swiss speak 4 main languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh (a local language with 5 dialects which these days is rarely spoken).
The capital of Switzerland is Bern, and the country has a population of approx. 7 million people. 70% of the country is mountainous and uninhabitable; therefore they have very little natural resources. Surprisingly though, 1 in 7 Swiss nationals are millionaires. Switzerland has one of the highest incomes per capita in the world. The Swiss have made most of their millions through the creation of Pharmaceutical drugs and machinery. One of the largest Chocolate companies in the world, Nestle was founded in Switzerland by a pharmacist whose original product was a baby formula. The Swiss are now really famous for their Chocolate!
Here are a few examples of some very successful Swiss creations:
The Smart Car: The Smart Car is as long as a regular car is wide, so you can parallel park it with the front of the car to the curb.
The Swatch Watch. The Swatch Watch was invented by the Swiss in 1981 in an effort to compete with the Japanese digital watch. The idea worked, with 100 million swatch watches being sold over a period of 10 years.
Switzerland is a land-locked country, so they have no Navy, but they definitely have an army that is argued to be the best in the world. They say that the Swiss army can gather 630 thousand men in only 24 hours. All Swiss Males aged 18-35 must serve at least one year in the Swiss army. This might be a reason why the Swiss are really big hunters. Most Swiss say that you will find a hunting gun in every Swiss household. Swiss hunting is the reason they created one of their most famous dishes. When hunters would go out for days at a time, their wives would pack them food and drink to take with them. The typical pack was filled with bread, cheese and wine.
After a few days hunting the bread would go stale, so the hunters started warming up the cheese, mixing it with some wine and dipping their stale bread into the concoction. This is now known as the famous Swiss dish, Fondue.
It is not always possible to spend days in each destination you visit in Europe, so it can be beneficial to plan stops at places that are perfect for to visit for a few hours while passing through. At TravAddict we think the principality of Liechtenstein is one of these.
The principality of Liechtenstein is just 161 square kilometres and has a population of around 24 000. Prince Hans-AdamII is the head of state, ruling this tiny country which was colonised by the Thaetians after 800BC and conquered by the Romans in 15 BC. The present dynasty took control in 1699. The prince is Europe’s wealthiest monarch and is highly regarded by his citizens. He invites them to his castle on their 18th birthday, and also welcomes guests of the public on Liechtenstein’s national day. It has close ties with Switzerland, which represents Lichtenstein abroad, and the Swiss franc is Liechtenstein's legal currency. Liechtenstein distinguishes itself by being the only independent country outside the Arab world in which women are not allowed to vote or to participate in public affairs. You can’t miss the center of town, and it is a fun place to stop for lunch.