The canton of Schwyz is located in central Switzerland with Lake Zurich in the north, Lake Lucerne in the West, and The Alps in the south. The entire canton is home to only about 150,000 people. The canton’s capital is Schwyz and that’s where the canton gets its name. Covered in forests, and breathtaking mountains, and flanked by two beautiful lakes, the canton of Schwyz is a heaven on earth. There is so much to know about this canton. Here are some of the cool facts about this canton.
Switzerland Gets its Name from Schwyz
The earliest seeds for a united country of Switzerland were laid in 1921, when the cantons of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden came together and formed a pact to form the Swiss Federation. The confederation expanded to include a total of 13 cantons by the 16th century. Schwyz has always been an important element of Switzerland. In fact, Switzerland’s German name is die Schweiz, which is derived from Schwyz. The canton’s name itself dates back in time to the 10th century.
But, where does the name come from?
The oldest mention of Schwyz is in the records dating back to 972. The records are in Latin and the canton’s name appears as ‘villa Suittes’. There are many different variations of this name, which started appearing after the 13th century. These included Switz, Schwitz, Schweitz, and so on. There are multiple theories that try to explain where this name originated from and the debate is yet to be settled.
One of the most famous theories on the subject is that Schwyz derives its name from one of its founders, who went by the name of Switer or Suito. This used to be mentioned in Swiss textbooks until the first part of the 20th century.
Another theory behind the name comes from the translation of the word in Old High German. In this language, ‘seuden’ meant ‘to burn’, which referred to the part of the forest that had to be burned down to make place to build it.
The Masses Did Not Like the Name
What started as the name of the canton was later used to refer to the entire region covered under the Old Swiss Confederacy. But, people hated it. So, why did the name stick? Well, that’s because of an interesting turn of events. During the Swabian war, the Swabians started abusing the Swiss by calling them Schwyzer. After 1499, the people found an identity with the name and adopted it as their own.
The Flag of Switzerland Too Comes From this Canton
There is a lot of debate on the origin of the cross and the red background in the Swiss flag. The most widely accepted explanation is that the Swiss flag has been derived directly from the Coat Of Arms of the canton of Schwyz. The flag of Schwyz too used to be solid-red in the early 15th century. Sometime during that time, a symmetrical white cross appeared on the flag of Schwyz. Over the centuries, the flag underwent a lot of transformation. But, the cross and the red background have remained through the time.
It’s All the Same in German
If you are pronouncing the name of the country and the name of this canton in Swiss German, then you will come across an interesting coincidence. Both the names are homophonous. This means that both the names sound the same when spoken in this language.
Schwyz Have Paid a High Cost for Their Prosperity
The canton of Schwyz has not always been a prosperous state. In fact, the canton has always been a rural area. The poverty of the canton forced its men to serve as soldiers in the neighboring countries’ armies after the 16th century. These soldiers quickly gained a solid reputation for their bravery and gallantry. Their reputation as courageous warriors fetched them higher income and the soldiers used to return home quite wealthy. It is this wealth that allowed them to build excellent idyllic houses that stand tall even today. In fact, one of the main features of the town of Schwyz are these magnificent houses.
The Home of the Swiss Army Knife
Everyone knows about Swiss Army knives. But, what most people don’t know is that these world-famous pocket knives come from the canton of Schwyz. Called the ‘Offiziersmesser’, these knives were produced initially in Ibach. This is a village in the canton of Schwyz, and is only one and a half kilometers from the Schwyz town center. Up to 2005, the knife was produced by Wenger SA, and now Victorinox AG is its worldwide manufacturer.
Offiziersmesser is a German name, and evidently not easy to pronounce. In World War II, the American citizens faced the same problem. So, to ease their conversations, they started calling it the Swiss Army Knife.
A classic Swiss Army Knife, of course, has a blade, along with other highly functional items like screwdrivers, scissors, can opener, and what not. All these attachments are jammed inside the red handle of the knife. The cross on the handle is the company logo and also the coat of Arms of Switzerland. Swiss Army Knife is truly an iconic product from Switzerland. Such is its fame that the tourist areas around Schwyz are known as the Swiss Knife Valley.
A Booming Economic Zone
The fiscal policies implemented by the canton are visionary. This has made it an important center of commerce in the country. The canton holds a total equity value of CHF 70 million. Moreover, the globally renowned credit rating firm has given it the highest possible rating of AAA. The growth in GDP for the canton of Schwyz has been above the national average and it continues to attract businesses and individuals from all across Switzerland and beyond.
The economy of the canton is hugely dependent on agriculture. In fact, the local brown breed of cattle in Schwyz is renowned worldwide. Earlier, the population of the canton used to work in the textile industry. But, with time, the industry has lost its relevance. Today, only some areas near the capital have any kind of textile industry left. The new industry of choice in the canton is that of fine furniture. It is a high margin business and it is big in the canton at the moment.
Offers the Highest Quality of Life in the Entire Europe
That is some distinction for the canton Schwyz. The canton has a lot to offer. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains, villages, and forests, while providing its residents all the facilities required to live a modern lifestyle. It is a forward-looking canton, which is steeped in the history of Switzerland. There is a thriving industry, and finding a job or even starting a business is easy in this canton. The crime rate in the canton is also very low. This means that the canton of Schwyz provides a well-rounded lifestyle to its citizens. No wonder people want to live here. Almost 16% population of the canton is comprised of foreign nationals. The population has been growing at a steady rate of over 12%, and 10% of it can be attributed to immigration.
The German Dominance
Almost 90% of the population of the canton of Schwyz speaks German. The second most widely used language, Serb-Croatian is spoken by a measly 2% population. Another 2% speak Albanian. The rest of the population speaks French, Italian or Romansh. So, if you are planning a trip to the canton, make sure that you learn some words in German, or at least take a German to English guide with you. Though some people may speak English, you do not want to depend solely on that.
The Hölloch Cave
This is for the ones who love a splash of adventure in their life. This is for the travelers who love to disconnect from the humdrum of the civilization and venture into the unknown. You will be heading into a dark cave. So you will get the necessary safety instructions – a hard hat with a torch, and a pair of your best hiking shoes. The Hölloch cave can be explored alone or with a group, with public tours leaving throughout the day.
The Oldest Alpine Forest
If you want to breathe in history, then there is no better place than Bödmerenwald. This is one of the oldest Alpine forests in the world. There are many trails that you can follow through the forest. The forest covers a total area of 550 hectares. The thick forest is not easy to navigate, because of which large parts of this area are untouched by humans. Isn’t that just incredible?
The best time to visit the Bödmerenwald is during the months of June and July. During autumn, the grass turns orange, and the leaves in the forest turn red. It is indeed a magical sight. Another fact that you should know while visiting Bödmerenwald is that you are in a spruce subalpine forest, and the only one of its kind in the country.
In 1984, the forest was given the status of a reserve. Since then, it has been under constant supervision of scientists. Multiple studies have been conducted here to understand the flora and fauna of the forest. The findings have further proved that this is a truly unique forest.
Meet the Chamois
Even a regular evening walk in Schwyz can turn into a memorable experience if you know where to look. There is a pass right between the Mythen Mountains. This is where herds of chamois are frequently spotted.
The Zwischenmythen viewing point nearby is marked with a big metal cross and you cannot miss it. From this one point, you can see across Schwyz, Lake Lucerne, and Lake Lauerz.
Alpine Cheese Pass Stoos
When you are going on a mountain hike that has cheese in its name, you simply cannot expect anything less than amazing. And Schwyz does not disappoint. There are different trails across the mountains that can take you across different mountain farms and help you in learning about the different varieties of cheeses that are prepared in these mountains. With your cheese pass, you can stop at as many as 6 Alpine inns and taste the different cheese varieties available there. These hikes can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours, depending on the trail you choose.
Walking Through the Last of Ice Age
In the canton of Schwyz, you can walk through glacier trails in Seebodenalp. Find more about the last few remains that date back to the ice age. As much as it is beautiful, this trail will also help you appreciate nature and how important it is to preserve it. There are around 15 panels that run through the length of the trail and give you information about the biodiversity in the area, landscaping, forest protection, landscaping, spring water, and more. There are lots of benches, and lounge chairs along the way for the people to sit and take in the beauty that surrounds them. There are also lots of fireplaces and rest stops on the trail as well to help you refill and re-energize.
Work the Canoe in Schwyz
This is probably one of the most novel ways of exploring the breathtaking sites that Switzerland has to offer. Lake Lucerne is the most important lake in the country and it touches this canton as well. This canoe tour can be as long as you want it to be.
The Gersauerbecken basin of the Lake Lucerne is the route for your canoe ride. Gersauerbecken is actually a glacial valley with the mighty Alps all around it. The canoe ride is divided into three sections, and you can start your ride in any of the three. You will come across historically significant places like Schillerstein and the beautiful Brunnen resort. There are many beautiful sights along the way, so prepare to be amazed.