Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a landlocked country situated at the confluence of Western, Central and Southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities based in Bern. Swiss law does not designate a capital as such, but the federal parliament and government are located in Bern, while the federal courts are located in other cities.
Switzerland is home to several offices of international organisations such as the WTO, the WHO, the ILO, the headquarters of FIFA, the UN's second-largest office, as well as the main building of the Bank for International Settlements. It is also the birthplace of the Red Cross, one of the world's oldest and best known humanitarian organisations.
Since the Reformation of the 16th century, Switzerland has maintained a strong policy of armed neutrality; it has not fought an international war since 1815 and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world.
- James Bond: If you can't trust a Swiss banker, what's the world come to?
- There is no more beautiful scenery or climate for summer travel than Switzerland presents. The people are industrious and honest, simple and frugal in their habits, and would be very poor with all this, if it were not from the travel through their country. I wish their suprlus population would emigrate to the United States.
- Switzerland is only bearable covered with snow... like some people are only bearable under a sheet.
- Graham Greene, as quoted in Travels With My Aunt
- [I]n Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, and they had 500 years of democracy and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
- Switzerland is a small, steep country, much more up and down than sideways, and is all stuck over with large brown hotels built on the cuckoo clock style of architecture.
- Ernest Hemingway, The Toronto Star Weekly (4 March 1922).
- Yet the real explanation lies a little deeper; after all, the simple existence of competitors, and of bitter feelings between warring groups, was evident in Japan, India, and elsewhere, but that of itself had not prevented eventual unification. Europe was different in that each of the rival forces was able to gain access to the new military techniques, so that no single power ever possessed the decisive edge. The services of the Swiss and other mercenaries, for example, were on offer to anyone who was able to pay for them. There was no single center for the production of crossbows, nor for that of cannon—whether of the earlier bronze guns or of the later, cheaper cast-iron artillery; instead, such armaments were being made close to the ore deposits on the Weald, in central Europe, in Málaga, in Milan, in Liège, and later in Sweden. Similarly, the proliferation of shipbuilding skills in various ports ranging from the Baltic to the Black Sea made it extremely difficult for any one country to monopolize maritime power, which in turn helped to prevent the conquest and elimination of rival centers of armaments production lying across the sea.
- Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-1900 (1987)
Letitia Elizabeth Landon, The Fate of Adelaide (1821), Title poem, opening lines.
- Romantic Switzerland! thy scenes are traced
With characters of strange wild loveliness,
Beauty and desolation, side by side;
Here lofty rocks uprise, where nature seems
To dwell alone in silent majesty;
Rob'd by the snow, her stately palace fram'd
Of the white hills; towering in all their pride,
The frost's gigantic mounds are lost in clouds,
Like to vast castles rear'd in middle air.
The ice has sculptur'd too strange imagery—
Obelisks, columns, spires, fantastic piles;
Some like the polish'd marble, others clear
As the rock crystal, others sparkling with
The hues that melt along the sunborn bow.
- Centuries later knights on horseback were to learn a similar lesson in fighting from the massed infantry of Swiss soldiers who, like the Greek hoplites before them, fought with and for each other as equals. We now think of the Swiss Guards who stand on duty at the Vatican in their multicoloured Renaissance uniforms as a charming detail and Switzerland as peaceful and bucolic, home to good chocolate, discreet banks and, as the character Harry Lime in The Third Man unkindly says, the cuckoo clock. For 200 years, until a square was finally broken in 1515, the Swiss formations, bristling with pikes and sheltering archers with their deadly crossbows, were the terror of Europe and the key to victory, at least for anyone who could afford to hire them. ‘Pas d’argent, pas de Suisse,’ as the saying went.
- Margaret MacMillan, War: How Conflict Shaped Us (2020)
- The Swiss are offended at being called gentlemen, and have to establish the proof of their low origin, in order to qualify them for stations of importance.
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1669)
- Original French: Les Suisses s’offensent d’être dits gentilshommes, et prouvent leur roture de race pour être jugés dignes de grands emplois.
- Alternate translation: The Swiss are offended at being called gentlemen, and prove the mean extraction of their race, in order to be deemed worthy of great places.
- Alternate translation: The Swiss are offended at being called gentlemen, and prove themselves plebeians in order to be judged worthy of great employments.
- I am certain that the only permanently safe attitude for this country as regards national preparedness for self-defense is along its lines of universal service on the Swiss model. Switzerland is the most democratic of nations. Its army is the most democratic army in the world. There isn't a touch of militarism or aggressiveness about Switzerland. It has been found as a matter of actual practical experience in Switzerland that the universal military training has made a very marked increase in social efficiency and in the ability of the man thus trained to do well for himself in industry. The man who has received the training is a better citizen, is more self-respecting, more orderly, better able to hold his own, and more willing to respect the rights of others and at the same time he is a more valuable and better paid man in his business.
- In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!