The Alps are a large mountain range stretching across the southern part of Central Europe. They stretch across eight countries: France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany and Slovenia. The Alps mountains are known for their stunning nature, including high peaks, snow-capped peaks, beautiful valleys, lakes and rich flora and fauna.
The Alps are a popular tourist destination for outdoor activities, winter sports (skiing), mountaineering, hiking and eco-tourism. Many resorts and national parks are located in this region.
Among the most famous peaks of the Alps are Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Eiger, Grossglockner and others.
The Alps also play an important role in the region’s economy, including agriculture, tourism, ore mining and power generation thanks to its mountain rivers.
Europe’s highest mountains
Despite their apparent impregnability, the Alps have been developed by man since antiquity.
In the fall of 1991, German tourists discovered a human mummy in the Eztal Valley at an altitude of 3200 m, which was mistaken for the remains of a dead mountaineer. It was later determined that a tragedy had indeed occurred in this place.
As determined by carbon analysis, the man, who was named Etsi after the place of discovery, lived in the Alps 5,300 years ago, in the Neolithic era. Studies have proved that Etsi was born near the modern Italian village of Velturno (north of the city of Bolzano), and then moved 50 kilometers north.
Scientists managed to find out a lot about Etsi he was a small height (about 160 cm), lived to about 45 years and kept a good physical shape. When the mummy found clothes and shoes made of hides, stone weapons, bows and arrows, even a supply of germicidal mushrooms ancient man was well equipped for traveling through the mountains. And, as the “investigation” established, he died not from disease or the elements. Etsi was killed by some pursuers on the body of the mummy were found traces of wounds, one of which is recognized as fatal.
Now the mummy is stored in a specially built in the city of Bolzano Archaeological Museum, where the hall for Etsi maintained a special temperature regime.
Studies have allowed to make many conclusions about the life of ancient people in the Alps – so, Etsi himself, according to the analysis of hair, most likely had something to do with the processing of copper – he was found an excellent copper axe. Etsi’s clothes and shoes were made with great skill – and the bow, which he made before his death, quite corresponded to the current sports models. It also became clear that Etsi’s tribesmen knew how to preserve crops The tragedy occurred in the spring, and in the stomach of the mummy found grains of wheat and thorn bones.
Why Etsi died remains a mystery – on his belongings found the blood of four other people, and in the hand of the mummy was clutched stone dagger. There is a version that he carried on his shoulder a wounded tribesman, whose blood remained on his cloak, and was killed by pursuers from a hostile tribe, but sold his life dearly among the enemies also had victims.
The history of Europe is inconceivable without the Alps – they have constantly become the scene of the most important events.
The Alps, especially the Alpine mountain valleys and lakes, were inhabited by people at the end of the Paleolithic period – more than 10 thousand years ago. For example, the age of a bone flute recently found by archaeologists in a cave in the Swabian Alps has been determined to be 35,000 years old.
Through the Alps in 218 B.C. led his troops in 218 B.C. Carthaginian commander Hannibal according to various data, his transition lasted from 15 to 33 days. What pass used the famous enemy of Rome, still not established whether Mont-Senis, or Mont-Genevre, or Little St. Bernard. Hannibal told his soldiers that these mountains were the walls of Italy and of Rome itself, and by overcoming this obstacle his army would surely secure victory over Rome. However, the Alps were unmerciful to the great commander – he lost half of his army and almost all the elephants.
And in January 1076 Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, in order to meet Pope Gregory VII in Canossa and beg for the lifting of the excommunication, with a tiny retinue was forced to make the hardest crossing of the Alps.
The Alps became an area of increased tourist attention two hundred years ago, today the number of people who want to come here continues to grow – the ecology of the region is under threat.
The Alps have been developed by man for so long that today their natural ecosystem is almost entirely dependent on the environmental discipline of the Alpine countries. The desire to preserve the nature of the Alps is reflected in the creation of a large number of national parks.
The adjective “alpine” has long since become a nominal term. Today, when climbing a peak somewhere outside Europe, a person does not think about why he is called a “mountaineer”, and his hobby is called “mountaineering”, his climbing staff is called “alpenstock”. High-altitude meadows have long been called “alpine,” and scientists widely use terms such as “alpine folding.”
The Alps have long been seriously developed and explored, and today this mountain system is a favorite vacation spot not only for Europeans, but also for fans of mountain recreation all over the world. The pressure on the ecological system of the Alps is constantly increasing Preserving the nature of the Alps, without prohibiting human access to them, can only be done through the joint efforts of all Alpine countries.
In order to pursue a coordinated policy for the conservation and protection of the Alps, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland signed the Alpine Convention with the European Union. In 1998, the convention was ratified by the treaty countries. The convention covers the widest range of issues – protection of the natural environment and landscape conservation, agriculture in mountain areas, spatial planning and sustainable development, transportation, mountain forests, energy, soil conservation and tourism, as well as a special protocol on dispute settlement.
By the way, since 2003 the Secretariat of the International Alpine Convention has been located in Innsbruck, in the building of the “Golden Roof”, the symbol of the city, built by Emperor Maximilian I on the occasion of his marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza. And then, in 1494, this building, covered with copper gilded tiles, was considered the center of Europe.
One of the initiators of the Alpine Convention is the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps, a non-governmental organization of the Alpine states, which has been operating for more than 50 years and includes more than 100 associations and eight national delegations. Its projects range from the preservation of the biogenetic diversity of cultivated plants and the use of green energy to programmes for the protection of cultural heritage. Today, the Commission is evaluating projects within the framework of the Alpine Convention. For example, a Swiss project to expand the Swiss National Park has been approved.
The Alpine Convention provides for a harmonized policy for the large-scale development of tourism infrastructure. Joint activities to maintain national parks in the Alpine territories allow not only to receive numerous tourists, but also to preserve the flora and fauna of the Alps. The neighboring national parks, Italy’s Gran Paradiso and France’s Vanoise, are successfully preserving the population of the ibex, which is no longer in danger of extinction.
The history of the Gran Paradiso Park dates back to 1856, when Victor Emmanuel II, King of Piedmont and Sardinia, and later of Italy, became concerned about the conservation of mountain deer. By order of the king, the deer in the territory of the created reserve were guarded by a guard – in the park tourists still walk along the paths and bridges paved for the king’s guards. In 1919, the king donated the reserve from his personal possessions to the state, with the condition of creating a National Park, which was organized in 1922.
- The Alps, the highest mountain system in Western Europe.
- States where the Alps are located: France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Hungary.
- The largest cities: Grenoble (France), Zurich, Bern (Switzerland), Innsbruck (Austria), Bolzano (Italy).
- The most important airports: Kloten International Airport (Zurich), Kranebiten International Airport (Innsbruck), Grenoble Airport, Bolzano Airport.
- The largest rivers: sources of the Rhine, Rhone, Po, Adige, right tributaries of the Danube.
- The largest lakes: Constance, Geneva, Como, Lago Maggiore.
- Length: 1200 km.
- Width: from 50 to 260 km.
- Area: 190,000 km2.
- Highest point: Mount Mont Blanc, 4810 m.
Climate and weather
- At altitudes up to 800 m the climate is moderately warm, on the southern slopes – Mediterranean, from 800 to 1800 m – temperate, humid climate, up to an altitude of 2200-2300 meters – subalpine climate, cold, with a long snow fall, up to the border of eternal snows – alpine belt with cold climate.
- Average temperature in July at average altitudes: +6ºС… +10ºС, January: – -10ºС. +10ºС, January: -10ºС…-15ºС.
- Average annual precipitation on windward western and north-western slopes: 1500-2000 mm, in some places up to 4000 mm.
- One of the most important recreational areas of Europe – mountaineering, tourism, skiing.
- Hydropower: almost all industry in northern Italy, industry and agriculture in Switzerland and Austria, aluminum industry in southeastern France are powered by Alpine rivers.
- Industry: the Alps belong to the industrialized countries of Europe – almost the entire spectrum of heavy and light industry is represented in the major Alpine cities.
- Agriculture: cultivation of fruits, vegetables and cereals, meat and dairy farming.
- Vanoise National Park (France)
- Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy)
- Val Grande National Park (Italy)
- Stelvio National Park (Italy)
- Swiss National Park
- Berchtesgaden National Park (Germany)
- Hohe Tauern National Park (Austria)
- Bolzano (Italy): Cathedral, Church of Calvario, Archaeological Museum
- Innsbruck (Austria): Hofburg Landhaus, Ferdinandeum Museum, Ambras Castle, Old Town Hall, City Tower, St. Jakob Cathedral
- Salzburg (Austria): Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg Cathedral, St. Peter’s Monastery, Hellbrunn Palace, Leopoldskroni Palace, Klessheims Palace, Mirabel Palace.
- Vaduz (Liechtenstein): Three Sisters Castle, State Museum
- St. Gall’s Monastery (Switzerland)
- Bern (Switzerland): Bern Historical Museum, Cathedral, Zitgloggeturm Bell Tower, Untertorbrücke Bridge, Art Museum, Niederkirche Church, Bear Pits Enclosures
- Lucerne (Switzerland): Kapellbrücke Bridge, Jesuit Church, Museummauer Wall, Town Hall, Hofkirche Church, Rothenburgerhaus, Dying Lion Monument.
- Grenoble (France): Stendhal Museum, Saint Laurent Crypt, Notre Dame Cathedral, Museum of Fine Arts
- Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany)
- The Monastery of St. Gall (St. Gallen) was founded as early as 613 and gathered many educated monks from Britain and Ireland. The art school of the monastery and the manuscripts executed and illustrated in the monastery were valued throughout Europe. Founded under Abbot Waldo (740-814), the monastery library is still in operation and has 160,000 items, including a plan of the monastery drawn up at the beginning of the IX century. In 1983, the monastery was inscribed by UNESCO on the list of World Heritage Sites as “a perfect example of a large monastery of the Carolingian era”.
- The Alpine country of Switzerland has the densest transportation network in the world: the total length of railroads is more than 5000 km. To enable a locomotive to pull a train uphill, cogged rails and cogged wheels were invented a hundred years ago.
- The “birthday” of mountaineering is considered to be August 8, 1786, when French doctor Michel-Gabriel Paccard and his guide Jacques Balma conquered Mont Blanc.