Graubunden is the easternmost canton in Switzerland. It is also the largest Swiss canton. It has international borders with three countries: Italy to the south, Austria to the north and east, and Liechtenstein to the north. To the northwest is the canton of St. Gallen, to the west are the cantons of Uri and Glarus, and to the southwest is the canton of Ticino. The canton of Graubunden is home to several famous resorts, including St. Moritz, Klosters, and Davos.
This canton is home to three Swiss ethnic groups, and it is the only canton where three languages are native and still spoken. Those languages are Swiss German, Italian, and Romansh. Romansh is believed to have evolved from the Latin spoken by Romans who once occupied the area. It is closely related to French and other Romance languages. Graubunden is the only canton where Romansh is still spoken.
Most of this canton used to be part of the Roman province of Raetia, established in 15 BCE. The canton capital is Chur. In 1798 the lands in Graubunden joined the Helvetic Republic. At that time the canton was called Raetia. It became part of Switzerland in 1803. Graubunden's constitution was established in 1892.
Geographically, the canton takes up 7,105 square km (2,732 square miles). About one-third of the land is productive land. Forests cover some 20% of the total area. Graubunden is almost all mountainous, and takes in the highlands of the Inn and Rhine valleys. Much of the scenic land in Graubunden is part of the Ela Nature Park or the Swiss National Park.
Part of the mountainous area formed by a thrust fault was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The highest peak in the canton is Piz Bernina, which rises 4,049 meters, which is 13, 284 ft. The second highest peak is Todi at 3,614 meters. Glaciers are also a significant part of this canton. The central part of Graubunden contains some of the deepest valleys in Europe.
The cantonal constitution was last revised in 2003. The preamble refers to the purpose of the canton as promoting social justice and prosperity, preserving the natural environment, and promoting the continuation of cultural variety and the canton's tri-lingual tradition. One unusual feature of Graubunden is that it allows for foreign residents to vote at the municipal level if approved by the local governments. The district of Bregaglia in 2009 became the first municipality in the canton to grant voting rights to foreigners.
Graubunden has a population of about 189,000, and 28,000 are foreigners. Catholics make up 47% of the population, while Protestants make up 41%, while the other 12% belong to other faiths.
Along with its three official languages of Swiss German, Romansh, and Italian, some 7% speak Western Lombard, which is a language spoken in parts of Italy that is considered a separate language with some commonalities with French. It is not considered an Italian dialect, though many refer to it as such.
Romansh actually refers to a group of related dialects that are spoken in southern Switzerland. A standardized form of the language has been slowly accepted since its standardization in 1982. Romansh is one of the four national languages of Switzerland. In 1996 Romansh was declared an "official language." This means that Romansh speakers may correspond with the federal government in the standardized form of the language and receive an answer in the same language.
In Graubunden, the two mainstays of the economy are tourism and agriculture. The forests and pastures are part of the agricultural economy, and sheep and goats are the main users of the pastures. Tourism is focused on the cities of Davos, Laax, and St. Moritz, but tourist resorts are found throughout the canton. In the capital, Chur, there is industry, and wine production. Chestnut and corn are grown in the southern valleys of Poschiavo and Mesolcina.
As in the rest of Switzerland, the canton of Graubunden is well served by public transport, including rail lines and buses. The Rhaetian Railway is a narrow gauge railway network that serves most of the interior of the canton, and the cantonal government is its primary owner.
If you visit Graubunden, you should try Bundnerfleisch, a form of dried beef, and Bundner Nusstorte, a honey and nut pie. Capuns is a specialty that is a meal of salad leaves, cheese, and meat. Graubunden has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the tectonic arena mentioned above, the Albula/Bernina rail line, and the Benedictine convent of St. John.