10 Special Cases Unique facts about Switzerland

Switzerland is a country of great diversity thanks to its geographical location and linguistic and cultural heritage. This has given rise to various unique situations in terms of the country's languages, dialects, transport systems, geography, politics, and recreational activities.

1. Switzerland has no official capital city – Berne is merely the "federal city," meaning it is home to the most important federal institutions. This was a result of a compromise reached in 1848 to ensure that no city would become too strong.

2. Bivio in the canton of Graubünden is the only trilingual (German, Italian and Romansh) municipality in Switzerland and the only village north of the Alps where Italian is spoken.

3. The Appenzell region abounds with special cases. The two semicantons  are the only ones in Switzerland not connected to the SBB rail system or the highway system. In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, parking is free and there are no traffic lights.

4. The Alemannic dialect is spoken throughout German-speaking Switzerland – except in Samnaun in the canton of Graubünden, where a southern Bavarian dialect is spoken. Stadtbaseldeutsch or the German spoken in the city of Basel is another special case: It is the only Swiss dialect that belongs to the northern Alemannic dialects.

5. The Aare is not just a Swiss river – it also carries French water from the Orbe, the source of which is just across the border. It is also not entirely true that the Rhine begins in Switzerland: One of its 14 source rivers, the Reno di Lei, originates in Italy.

6. The Swiss railways all run on normal or narrow gauge. The only exception: In Neuchâtel, a broad-gauge funicular railway of just over 300 meters in length connects the university with the train station.

7. The Piz Bernina (4,049 m) is the only 4,000-meter peak in the Graubünden Alps, and in fact in all of the Eastern Alps. All of the other 4,000-meter peaks in Switzerland are located in the Bernese Oberland or in Valais.

8. Swiss German is practical: It has no future or simple past tenses, and no genitive. Well, almost. In some locations in Valais, the inhabitants have maintained the Old High German genitive endings: Psinntsch di no der flottu Tago im letschtu Jaar? ("Do you remember the nice days we had last year?").

9. When it comes to card games, French cards are used west of the so-called "Brünig-Napf-Reuss line" and German-Swiss cards are used east of it. Exceptions to this are the canton of Graubünden and parts of Thurgau, where the inhabitants prefer French cards.

10. There are only two countries in the world with square flags: the Vatican and Switzerland.

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Source: Credit Suisse Bulletin No. 6 / 2012

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