The Alpine Region
The Alpine Region is situated in Central Europe. It occupies an area of about 200,000 sq km and has a population of about 14 million people. The region covers the territory of eight countries – Austria, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, France, Slovenia and Switzerland. The first permanent Alpine settlements occurred after the last glacial period, approximately 15,500 years ago.
Climate. The Alps play an important role of climate barrier which impedes the movement of air masses in a north – south direction. Therefore, the climatic conditions along the northern and southern slopes of the mountain range vary considerably.
The Alpine Region falls in the southern-most parts of the temperate climate zone. However the whole area has its own local microclimate, which is characterized by specific features. The climate of the Alps is mainly dependent on the altitude.
Areas with low altitude tend to have very warm summers, snowy winters and variable transitional seasons while the summer temperatures in high-lying areas are usually quite lower, and winters – colder and longer.
The western parts of the Alps as a whole are characterized by a slightly milder climate. Summer temperatures are lower, while winters are much warmer.
During the summer months the Alps receives plenty of sunlight thanks to its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.
Waters. Due to summer’s heavy rains, abundant snowfall in winter and melting glaciers, the Alpine Region is one of the richest in waters on the planet. A number of large and small rivers spring from this region.
Some of the largest and most famous include the Rhine, the Rhone, the Po and most of the tributaries of the deep-water Danube River. Alpine’s fast-flowing rivers are an important source of clean electricity.
The Alps is a region full of lakes, many of which are of glacial origin. Most famous are the Lake Geneva, Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, Lago di Lugano, Lago di Garda, Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Constance (also known as Bodensee), Lake Lucerne and many others.
Relief. Speaking about the Alpine Region is completely unnecessary to mention that it has a strong mountainous relief. The Alps is a young fold mountain range.
The Alps are not volcanic region. This is because the mountain chain is located at a distance from the end of the continental plate.
The region is spectacular – an impressive combination of sharp mountain ridges and deep, sheltered valleys, carved by the power of glaciers. The Alps are high mountains. The highest point of the region is Mount Blanc.
It is located in the western parts of the Alps on the border between France and Italy. It rises to a height of 4808 meters and is the highest point in Western Europe, but not on the continent (the Caucasus Mountains are higher).
Matterhorn Peak is considered the most popular because of its shape. Viewed from a distance its form resembles a pyramid. It is located on the border between Italy and Switzerland, and is a world famous tourist attraction.
Nature. Alpine’s landscapes are spectacular and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world. High mountain peaks are covered with snow cap throughout the year. The snow line is at about 2800 m in the Southern Alps and around 2500 m in the north.
The slopes are covered with sparkling green mountain meadows and dense, fresh, emerald pine forests. Adorable valleys, covered with a carpet of Alpine flowers and greenery, are sheltered between impressive mountain slopes that rise steeply into the sky.
The Alps can boast a very diverse fauna. Here you can see brown bears, lynxes, wolves, foxes, weasels, mountain goats, rabbits, beavers as well as a wide variety of birds (owl, golden eagle, alpine swift and many others).
Population. The high-lying parts of the Alps are sparsely populated but the plains and valleys at the foot of the mountains have created ideal conditions for the development of some large and beautiful cities.
Best known in the Alpine Region are Geneva, Zurich, Bern, Lausanne, Innsbruck, Vienna, Munich, Milan, Turin, Verona, Nice, Monaco and others. The most common languages are German, French, Italian, Romansh and Slovenian.
The population of the region consists almost entirely of Catholics. Typical feature of the population in the region is the high life expectancy. This is the result of higher living standards, good health policy, a cleaner environment and lower levels of stress among the local population.
Economics. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Alpine region is the most developed on the planet. Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein are legendary for their wealth.
The same goes for the Principality of Monaco which, like Switzerland, is known as a millionaire’s tax haven. Germany, France and Italy are among the most powerful economies in the world and their richest provinces are situated in the Alps.
Slovenia is still lagging behind the other countries in the region, but enjoys the highest living standard in Eastern Europe. The economy of the Alps is versatile. The region produces watches and chocolate, develops high technology and modern industry.
It produces also high quality food, especially dairy products. Five of the eight countries in the region are members of the European Union. The Alpine Region uses two currencies – Euro and Swiss franc. Particularly important is the service sector.
Health, education, finance and tourism are not only leading in the region, but also among the most prosperous in the world. Important for the Alpine countries is the development of transport.
Although local infrastructure is perfect, its development meets a number of difficulties in such a mountainous terrain. Numerous tunnels cross the Alps making faster and more convenient traveling with car, but also for rail transport.
Tourism. The Alpine region is among the leading tourist destinations on the planet. Here you will find some of the most famous ski resorts in the world.
Each year the perfect ski slopes, beautiful scenery and high-quality service attract crowds of wealthy tourists who do not want to compromise the tourism product quality.
Alpine’s resorts are world famous not only as a skier’s paradise. They are world leaders in congress tourism. Davos that hosts the World Economic Forum is a typical example.
When to visit the Alps? The Alps are year-round tourist destination that will not disappoint you no matter the season.
Most tourists come here to ski, but many people do not know that there are some year-round ski slopes. The reason lies in the combination of high altitude and low temperatures that prevent melting of snow even in July and August.
What clothes should I wear? The Alps fall in the temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and what clothes will be needed depends entirely on your plans – what time of year you are planning to travel and at what altitude you wish to climb and stay.
For example, in the lower parts of the Alps in summer the daily temperatures are usually between 25 and 30°C. If you are planning to visit any of the Alpine villages at high altitudes is good to have warm clothing even in high summer. It is easier in winter, because during the winter months it’s cold everywhere.