The 1st August is a national holiday in Switzerland, because it marks the day in 1291 on which the three original confederates of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden (now Obwalden and Nidwalden) met on the Rütli meadow and agreed to free their country from Habsburg rule. This is seen as the forming of the Helvetic Federation, which is now known as Switzerland.
Today seems like as good a day as any to share some random facts about the country I’ve called home for over twenty-two years, and so I’ve blatantly copied some information across from the national commuter newspaper “20 Minutes” to add to some of my own factlets.
- The country is governed by the Federal Council, made up of elected representatives from all over the country. Of all the members in history, only one has been from one of the original three cantons which founded the country: Ludwig von Moos, between 1959 and 1971.
- Switzerland has no capital city, mainly because each canton has its own capital and much of the political an organisational power and decision-making is carried out at a local level. Bern is the “federal city”, so named because it is where the Federal Council and parliament buildings are located.
- The largest canton is Graubünden with an area of 7,105 km2. The smallest is Basel City with an area of 37km2. Only 4,000 fewer people live in Basel City than live in the whole of Graubünden.
- Twice as many people live in Switzerland now as at the beginning of the twentieth century: 8.7 million.
- Due to the location in the middle of Europe and thanks to the range of altitudes across the country, the temperature can vary by around 80°C across the course of the year. The lowest formally recorded temperature (-41.8°C) was in La Brèvine in 1987, and the highest was 41.5°C in Graubünden in 2003. The hottest day I’ve personally experienced was in Thun in the extreme summer of 2003, when an unofficial temperature display by the lake showed about 43°C. The coldest was -26°C on the plateau adjacent to the Jungfraujoch observatory.
- The former national anthem of Switzerland “Rufst Du, mein Vaterland” (“You’re calling, my Fatherland”), which was used at official events until the end of the 1950s, will be musically very familiar to Brits.