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Posted on Thursday 14th May 2015 | Steve Thomas

A beginner's guide to Swiss history and culture

At Alpine Property Investments, we like to give people looking for chalets and apartments in the Swiss Alps an idea about what they can look forward to from Alpine culture.

In our last blog post, we gave you an introduction to four of the most popular Swiss foods, including traditional dishes like rosti and birchermüesli. This week, we're continuing our journey into the culture of the Swiss Alps by providing you with a beginner's guide to the history and culture of Switzerland, starting with the Swiss flag.

The flag

Along with the Vatican, Switzerland is the only other European state to have a square flag. The Swiss flag is a white, unilateral cross on a red background, which many historians believe comes from one of three competing legends: the Reichssturmfahne, which dates back to the Roman Empire in the 12th century; a Roman legion called the Thebans who were martyred together in 286AD; or the Arma Christi, which are objects associated with Christ. The flag in its current form was introduced in 1889, and today you will see it flying proudly across regions in the Swiss Alps.

The language

Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. The most widely spoken is German, either in the Swiss dialect or in the standard form, with French in second place; Italian and Romansh are the third and fourth most commonly spoken languages respectively. Each language is confined roughly to its own region of Switzerland, so German, Italian, and French are all spoken in different Alpine regions. The one you most probably haven't heard of is Romansh, which is a romance language descended from the Roman Empire.

The culture

Switzerland's cultural makeup is unlike that of any other country in Europe. Although there is a strong sense of Swiss national identity, its culture is characterised by both diversity and traditional Swiss customs. This is particularly true of the Alpine areas, which have a unique cultural heritage based around traditional Alpine customs and modern skiing and mountaineering cultures. For example, in the Swiss Alps, it is still common to see and hear the sound of the alphorn, the traditional Swiss instrument that was used to communicate across the vast mountain ranges before modern communications. The balance between old and new is maintained perfectly in Switzerland, and so people looking at property for sale in the Swiss Alps can expect to enjoy the best of both traditional and modern Swiss culture.

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