Switzerland isn’t the only country where you can find towns called Bern, Zurich or Geneva. Over the years Swiss emigrants have settled in every continent, and often named their new homes after their old ones.
Journalist Petra Koci was fascinated when she discovered just how many such places there are, and decided to track some of them down. She travelled all over the world in her search for towns and villages bearing names from all three of Switzerland’s official languages – German, French and Italian.
She has published a book, Weltatlas der Schweizer Orte, describing her discoveries.
The history of the “Swiss” places could hardly be more diverse. Some have developed into thriving towns, proud of their Swiss connection, while in others the Swissness has almost completely disappeared.
Berne, Indiana even has a model of the Zytglogge, the famous clock tower landmark in the original Bern.
Two Italian-speaking cities have given their names to very different places. The Villa Lugano quarter is a rough area of the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires where the only reminder of Switzerland is its station built in Swiss style, while Locarno Springs is part of a rural settlement in Australia, where many descendants of Ticinese families still live.
In Algeria, the village once called St Maurice has changed its name completely, and only a few buildings hint at the Swiss presence. The villages established by Swiss along the Volga have also lost their names - but have kept a hint of their origins. Basel is now Vasilyevka (Vasiliy is the Russian equivalent of the name Basil), and Unterwalden is Podlesnoye – both meaning “under the forest”.
And strangest of all, Koci found a Zurich in the Netherlands that has no Swiss connection at all: the name is derived from an old Friesian word meaning “southern shore”.
Pictures: Benno Gut, from: Petra Koci: Weltatlas der Schweizer Orte, Zurich: Limmat Verlag, 2013