Swiss Fact of the Week

14 March is Albert Einstein’s birthday – one he shares with 22,729 people living in Switzerland. Einstein was born in Germany in 1879, moved to Switzerland in 1895 and became Swiss soon afterwards. In 1933 he emigrated to America, where he died on 18 April 1955.

St Nicholas of Flüe is the patron saint of Switzerland. He was born on 21 March 1417 in Sachseln (OW) and was married with 10 children before becoming a hermit. He apparently survived 19 years without any food or water and was canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1947.

The Swiss Psalm was adopted as the official Swiss national anthem on 1 April 1981. It was composed as a church hymn in 1841 by Alberik Zwyssig, a priest from Uri; the German lyrics were written by Leonhard Widmer from Zurich.

Europe’s highest train station sits at Jungfraujoch 3454m up. That it is there at all is thanks to Swiss architect Adolf Guyer-Zeller, who sadly never saw his dream finished. He died on 3 April 1899, 13 years before the train line opened.

The first bancomat (ATM) in Switzerland was installed in April 1968 at the Zürcher Kantonalbank in Bahnhofstrasse 9 in Zürich.

Switzerland’s first branded product – Swiss Schabziger cheese – was created by a law passed on 24 April 1463 in Glarus. Its distinctive green colour comes from the addition of the blue fenugreek herb.

Two cantons still hold an annual open-air parliament, or Landsgemeinde, where voters gather in the town square to elect the council and vote on community issues. In Appenzell Innerrhoden it’s at the end of April, in Glarus on the first Sunday in May.

The A1 is Switzerland’s longest motorway, running for 400km from the French border near Geneva to St Margrethen on the Austrian border. Its first 8km opened on 10 May 1962 between Bern Wankdorf and Schönbühl.

Switzerland won the first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 with Lys Assia and then again in 1988 with Céline Dion, both singing in French. It has received the dreaded nul points three times in the finals.

The Helvetica font was designed by Max Meidinger from Zurich. It was originally called the Haas-Grotesk when launched in 1957 but the name was changed to Helvetica in 1960.

The Euro 2008 finals were co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria, but the Swiss only won one game (against Portugal). In fact, the Swiss team has never progressed beyond the group stage at any Euro finals.

The Toilet Duck is a Swiss creation! It was the brainchild of Walter Düring and first came to life on 18 June 1980 as the WC-Ente at the Düring factory in Dällikon, Canton Zurich.

When Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on 28 June 1712, his home town of Geneva was a city-state and not officially part of Switzerland. The Swiss philosopher was buried in Paris after his death in 1778.

The ‘Miracle of Bern’ refers to the football World Cup Final played at Wankdorf Stadium in Bern on 4 July 1954. The favourites, Hungary, were unexpectedly beaten 3-2 by West Germany.

The Matterhorn was finally conquered on 14 July 1865 by Edward Whymper, along with three other British climbers and three Swiss guides. Four of the group fell to their deaths during the descent to Zermatt.

Thomas Cook took his first guided tour to Switzerland in the summer of 1863. The party left on 26 June, travelling by boat, train, carriage, donkey, and on foot to Lucerne before returning to England on 16 July. Mass tourism had begun.

Switzerland has twice hosted the Olympics, both times the Winter Games in St Moritz (1928 and 1948), and is home to the International Olympic Committee, in Lausanne.

Only two countries have competed at every single one of the modern Olympic Games, Summer and Winter: Great Britain and Switzerland.

Switzerland’s best Summer Olympics was 1924 in Paris, where it won 25 medals (7 gold, 8 silver, 10 bronze) and came sixth overall.

August is mountain month in Switzerland: Jungfrau (1811), Dufourspitze (1855) and the Eiger (1858) were all first conquered in August.

Nowhere in Switzerland is further than 69km from the national border. Uttigen near Thun in Canton Bern is the furthest away.

In the Second Battle of Zurich (25-26 September 1799) France defeated Russia & Austria. It was one of the last big battles fought by foreign armies on Swiss soil.

James Bond is actually half Swiss. His (fictional) mother is Monique Delacroix from Canton Vaud.

Protestant Zurich was defeated by the Catholic cantons at the Battle of Kappel am Albis on 11 October 1531. Chief Reformer, Zwingli, died in battle.

There are more pigs than people in Canton Lucerne – 423,185 pigs to 377,610 people, making Lucerne the canton with the highest pig population in Switzerland.

The first traffic lights in Switzerland arrived in Geneva in 1935, while the first parking meters in Europe were installed in Basel in 1952.

The highest cantonal capital is Appenzell at 775m above sea level; the lowest is Bellinzona at 227m.

On 23 November 1847 the Federal army beat that of the Sonderbund at the Battle of Gisikon, Canton Lucerne. It was the last big clash of the short Swiss civil war and sealed the defeat of the Catholics.

December is the 9th most popular month for weddings in Switzerland, with 5.6% of the annual marriage total. August is top with 12.6%.

The Swiss President changes on January 1st every year. The new president for 2013 is Ueli Maurer, who is also the Defence (and Sports) Minister.

Heinrich Pestalozzi was born in Zurich on 12 January 1746. His view of education being based on social and practical skills as much as academic changed the way people view the development of children.

Audrey Hepburn died of cancer on 20 January 1993. She is buried in the village of Tolochenaz, VD, near Lake Geneva, where she lived.

On 3 February 2002 the Swiss voted to join the United Nations, 16 years after resoundingly rejecting membership.

The first meeting of the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded took place on 17 February 1863 in Geneva. It would go on to become the Red Cross.

The Swiss hotelier Cäsar Ritz was born on 23 February 1850 in Niederwald, Canton Valais. He went on to create the famous hotel brand in Paris and London.

At the Battle of Grauholz (BE) on 3 March 1798 France defeated Canton Bern, paving the way for Switzerland’s defeat. A monument beside the A1 motorway now marks the site.

The Pope’s Swiss Guard must be Catholic, single, male, under 30, over 1.74m tall and have an ‘irreproachable reputation’. And Swiss, of course.

The 5-franc coin is the largest Swiss one in circulation. It weighs 13.2g, is 2.35mm thick and has a diameter of 31.45mm. The man on the coin is not William Tell but a shepherd.

There are 288 cinemas in Switzerland, with Canton Bern having the most (57). Appenzell Innerrhoden is the only canton with no cinema.

The population of Switzerland in 1863 was 2.5 million people (with 4.3% foreigners) and 944,000 cows.

There are 40,105 British nationals living in Switzerland, making them the 10th largest group of immigrants

French speakers make up 22.6% of the Swiss population; in 1863 it was 23.4%