-THE ALPS 493. Switzerland.—The Alps mountain system curves like an arch from the Medi terranean, near Nice, around the north of Italy, to the Adriatic Sea at Trieste. The Alps also reach eastward nearly to Vienna.
The central Alps spread out into several ranges with valleys between, making room for Switzerland to be a real mountain nation. The Swiss people show the world how to live in mountains, how to care for mountains, and how to enjoy mountain life.
In Switzerland, some of the valleys open to the west towards France. Most of the people of that part of Switzerland are French. In the valleys opening north, many of the people are German. In the valleys opening south, they are Italian. Thus the people who live in Switzerland speak French, German, and Italian, and the Swiss Govern ment has to publish notices in the three languages. But no matter what language a man may speak, he is extremely loyal to Switzerland, and he will tell you that he is Swiss.
The Swiss Government is a democracy. Its people have attained a high state of civilization. In few countries, if in any, are people more nearly equal than in Switzer land. Few Swiss are very rich, and few are very poor. Nearly everyone can read and write, and • most of the people are well educated and trained to do things requiring much skill.
494. Agriculture.—The Swiss take' good care of their beautiful, rugged little country, So much of their land is only cold, snowy mountaintops that they must make the little good land they have do a great deal for them, since there are many people and but few resources. The valley lands are in well tilled fields of wheat, potatoes, oats, and barley. On the lower slopes are many orchards, which make large yields. Vine yards, which require much heat, thrive on some of the hillsides that face south and overlook lakes. The lakes act as a mirror and throw the warm rays of the sun upon the vineyards. Hay is grown on many lower mountain-slopes that are too steep to be used for fields or orchards. The people often irrigate these steep hayfields by turn ing streams of melted snow upon the fields to water the crops. In a place like this a
crop of hay must be cut with a scythe.
Above the orchards and fields the inountain sides are used for forest and pasture. Valley farmers follow their herds of cows and goats as they climb higher and higher to get the rich pasture that quickly springs up after snow melts. The cowherd lives in a rude summer camp, and goes from camp to camp until the cows are back again to spend the winter in the valley barn.
In winter, the Swiss farmer takes his sled and hauls the haystacks from the lower slopes to the barn. He also hauls firewood and sawlogs from the wooded slopes.
Dairying is one of the chief industries of Switzer land. In one year during the World War she exported 75,000,000 pounds of cheese. This amounted to eleven dollars for every man, woman, and child in Swit zerland. We have no ex port in the United States that amounts to so much per person as do dairy products for the Swiss. In some Swiss valleys every bride receives a cow for a wedding present.
495. Forestry.—On some of the Swiss mountainsides, trees have been carefully tended since the time of Columbus. Swiss trees receive the regular and skilful care that a farmer would give to a crop of corn. For centuries the forests have been protected from fire, and the trees cut as they were ready. Many a stone wall in Holland rests on a foundation of piles made of Swiss tree trunks. The logs were taken down the Rhine in boats that had brought up wheat, corn, and cottonseed meal.
In bad weather, when the people must stay indoors, they often do wood-carving. They carve chairs, wooden spoons, and salad forks, toy animals, and many other things which we find in American toy stores.
496. The avalanche of sliding snow is one of the dangers of Swiss mountain life. At times travelers or even entire villages are buried in this sudden snowslide. On some of the mountains, ava lanches occur so often that people have to be very careful where they build their houses, and in certain valleys the people scarcely leave their villages all winter long, for fear of being buried by a snowslide.