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The Swiss Confederation is a landlocked country located in Central Europe. It consists of 26 cantons with Bern as the seat of the federal authority. Switzerland borders Germany to the north, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east, Italy to the south and France to the west. There are four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Switzerland is one of the most densely populated European countries with 8,5 million inhabitants and an area of 41.285 km².
The Alps constitute about two third of the Swiss territory and are of great importance both historically and geopolitically. Nowhere in Europe are as many mountains higher than 4.000m – 73 mountains, 19 of them at the border to Italy. The Alps also form an important central European climate and water divide. Most of the Swiss tourism takes place in the Alpine regions.
The clock and watch industry, representing Swiss quality, steadiness, uniqueness, precision, tradition, design and innovation, mechanical engineering and the textile industry are the major economic sectors in Switzerland. Moreover, it is famous for producing precision instruments and for products of the chemicals and pharmaceutical industry. Medical technology gains more and more importance. Most of the Swiss are employed in the trade, the health and the education sector as well as in the banking and insurance sector. Science and research is of high importance in Switzerland: 10 universities and two technical universities, the ETH Zurich and the EPF Lausanne, world famous institutes like the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) or the European laboratory of the US high-tech group IBM have seats in Switzerland.
For about 150 years tourism has been an important economic factor in Switzerland due to its location in the heart of Europe, its moutainscape and beauty. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century skiing in the Swiss mountains was already very popular. As the tourist resorts and the ski areas (Arosa, Adelboden, Bettmeralp, Brigels – Breil, Chur, Davos, Engelberg, Grindelwald, Riederalp, Villars-Sur-Ollon …) developed, Switzerland became one of the best known winter sports nations. In summer more than 50.000 km of hiking trails inspire vacationers and mountaineers.