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Canton of Obwalden

Flag of the canton
Area:491 km²
Obwalden is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the centre of Switzerland. The population is 32,700 (2001). The capital is Sarnen.


Highest elevation: Titlis 3238 m


First settlements in Obwalden date back to the Celts and the Romans. After 700 AD the Alemanni moved into the area. In 1291 Obwalden joined Nidwalden to form an alliance with Uri and Schwyz. In the 13th and 14th century Obwalden established its own local governance, despite having had a joint assembly with Nidwalden up to around 1330.

Location of the canton
In 1403 Obwalden joined Uri to invade the Leventina area (today located in the canton of Ticino) to establish new markets for cheese and cattle. Around 1500 many people in Obwalden worked as mercenary soldiers. Some of these soldiers accumulated wealth and held many offices. During Napoleon's occupation between 1798 and 1803 Obwalden lost its independence, but for the first time ordinary people gained fundamental political rights. In 1815 the monastery of Engelberg and the municipaly of the same name joined Obwalden.


Within the Swiss Confederation Obwalden is a half canton. This gives Obwalden all the rights and duties of full cantons, with the exception that the canton can only send one deputy to the Council of States. The small size of the canton allows a small government with only five members.


Small and middle-sized businesses dominate the economy of Obwalden. Many of them are specialists in areas such as miniature engines, synthetics, medical equipment or nano technology.

Traditional areas are still of great importance. Particulary forestry and related businesses are significant, as is agriculture. Agriculture in Obwalden is specialized in integrated dairy and meat farming. The farms are still family run.

Tourism is a major sector. Many facilites built for tourism now benefit the local industry and the population. One quarter of the population is directly or indirectly employed in the tourism sector.


The central location in Switzerland meant that Obwalden was able to establish itelf as a significant tourist location in the 19th century. Two of the mountains, namely Pilatus and Titlis, are the main attractions. Winter sports, in particular skiing and snowboarding, attracts many tourist. The main resorts are Engelberg, Melchsee-Frutt, Lungern-Schönbüel, Mörlialp and Langis. During the summer hiking and mountaineering are the main attractions.


Traditional culture in Obwalden has been kept alive by many local organizations. There is traditional music, carnival, dances, costumes, theaters and festivals. There are also a number of modern artists, including Josef Garovi (composer), Caspar Diethelm (compser), Julian Dillier (poet), Franz Bucher (painter), Kurt Sigrist (sculptor) and Alois Spichtig (sculptor)


There are seven municipalities: Sarnen, Kerns, Sachseln, Alpnach, Giswil, Lungern und Engelberg. The capital Sarnen is subdivided into Sarnen-Dorfschaft, Kägiswil, Schwendi/Wilen and Ramersberg. The autonomy of the municipalities in Obwalden is significant. Two thirds of the tax revenues flow to the municipalities, which for example pay for education without grants from the canton.

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