Europe : Alps
The Alps are a range of mountains in Europe caused by uplift in the European Plate as it is impacted by the African Plate moving north; they stretch from Italy through France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and into the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia.
The highest peaks in Europe (outside of the Caucasus mts.) are located in the Alps. Mont Blanc (4810 meters), Dufourspitze (4634 meters) and the world famous Matterhorn (4478 meters) are just three of the 82 official alpine four-thousanders.
Many areas of the Alps are covered by eternal snow and ice. The largest glaciers are located in the Valais and Bernese Alps of Switzerland. The Aletsch Glacier with its 23 kilometers length and 900 meters depth is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Liechtenstein are often referred to as the alpine countries because their territories are dominated by the alps.
The alps are home to some of the largest and most well known ski areas in the world, much like the mountains themselves they can be found across multiple countries in some cases making it possible to ski into another nation.
Major Ski areas:
- St. Anton and Lech
Tourism (and the economy in general) is very much geared towards Skiing, snowboarding, and other Winter sports throughout most of the Alps. In ski resorts despite a new focus on summer time activities such as hiking or golf some of the hotels and other facilities may close. This increase in summer time sports such as Mountain Biking, Golf, Parapenting, or Whitewater Kayaking is now fulling the growth of the alps as a year round tourist destination. The Alps have always been popular as a mountaineering and hiking destination, but clearly this is nowhere near as lucrative for the locals, as the tourist invasion during the winter season.
The alps skirt, straddle, or wholly encompass 7 european nations: France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. Each of these has their own national language and a myriad of local dialects. However in most major towns or tourist destinations some English will be spoken. In general languages thus follow national borders but this is not always the case! German is the official language in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein and large portion of central, northern and eastern Switzerland. It is also spoken in Italy's South Tyrol. French is spoken in southern and western Switzerland, France and along the French frontier in Italy as well. Slovenian, in addition to Slovenia is spoken by a minority in northeastern Italy around Trieste and the Italian-Slovenian frontier. Lastly, a tiny portion of France speaks Italian across the frontier near the city of Nice.
Beautiful alpine scenery.
The best things to do in the Alps will vary from region to region, but in general mountain sports would be the thing to do!
- Go skiing or snowboarding. Winter Sports (e.g. Winter sports in Austria, Winter sports in Switzerland)
- Climb mountains or go hiking.
- Go mountain biking. In many places you can take bikes up the ski lifts during the summer.
- Go Whitewater kayaking or rafting.
- Go Paragliding
- Play snow golf
Fondues of many types
Due to the fact the alps hold relatively few major metropolitan areas violent crime is relatively low in this expansive region. In the larger towns and cities normal levels of crime will exist but these are nothing that can not be accounted for with a little common sense. Most commonly crime is relegated to the level of petty theft, pick-pockets etc.