Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe, where it is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.
The Swiss Confederation has a long history of neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815. Switzerland is also the birthplace of the Red Cross and home to a large number of international organizations.
Switzerland is known for its mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) but it also has a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes. The highest point is Dufourspitze at 4,634 m while Lake Maggiore is only 195 m above sea level.
Switzerland showcases three of Europe's most distinct cultures. To the northeast is the beer-drinking, sausage-eating German-speaking Switzerland; to the south-west the wine drinking and shopping spills effortlessly into France; in the south-east the sun warms cappuccino-sippers loitering in Italian-style plazas; and in the center: classic Swiss flugelhorns and mountain landscapes. Binding it all together is a distinct Swiss mentality.
It is a peaceful, prosperous, and stable modern market economy with low unemployment and a highly skilled labor force. The banking systems, the chocolates and the “Swiss made” watches, carry the trade mark of quality.