Switzerland - This country is known for its beautiful, snow-capped mountains and freedom-loving people. The Alps and the Jura Mountains cover more than half of the country, but most of the inhabitants live on the plateau that extends across the middle of the country between the two mountain ranges.
The Swiss have a long tradition of freedom. About 700 years ago, people in what is now central Switzerland agreed to help each other stay free from foreign rule. Gradually, people in nearby areas joined them in what came to be known as the Swiss Confederation.
The Swiss show great pride in their long independence. In the early 1500's, Switzerland established a policy of not taking sides in the many wars that raged in Europe. During the two World Wars of the 20th century, Switzerland remained an island of peace.
Switzerland's attraction has drawn many from other countries, and today only about a fifth of the population are native-born.
The climate of Switzerland varies greatly from area to area because of the wide variety in altitude. Atlantic air held up by the mountains sometimes produces a fog bank that can cover the entire Swiss Plateau like a sea of clouds.
Some of Switzerland's higher elevations receive over 100 inches (250 centimeters) of precipitation per year. Above 6,000 feet (1,800 meters), snow covers the ground at least six months a year, making Switzerland a popular location for world-class skiing.