A series of lower mountain ranges run parallel to the main chain of the Alps, including the French Prealps in France and the Jura Mountains in Switzerland and France. The secondary chain of the Alps follows the watershed from the Mediterranean Sea to the Wienerwald, passing over many of the highest and most well-known peaks in the Alps. From the Colle di Cadibona to Col de Tende it runs westwards, before turning to the northwest and then, near the Colle della Maddalena, to the north. Upon reaching the Swiss border, the line of the main chain heads approximately east-northeast, a heading it follows until its end near Vienna.
Due to the ever-present geologic instability, earthquakes continue in the Alps to this day. Typically, the largest earthquakes in the alps have been between magnitude 6 and 7 on the Richter scale. Geodetic measurements show ongoing topographic uplift at rates of up to about 2.5 mm/a in the North, Western and Central Alps, and at 1 mm/a in the Eastern and South-Western Alps. The underlying mechanisms that jointly drive the present-day uplift pattern are the isostatic rebound due to the melting of the last glacial maximum ice-cap or long-term erosion, detachment of the Western Alpine subducting slab, mantle convection as well as ongoing horizontal convergence between Africa and Europe, but their relative contributions to the uplift of the Alps are difficult to quantify and likely to vary significantly in space and time.
The Alpine regions are multicultural and linguistically diverse. Dialects are common and vary from valley to valley and region to region. In the Slavic Alps alone 19 dialects have been identified. Some of the Romance dialects spoken in the French, Swiss and Italian alps of Aosta Valley derive from Arpitan, while the southern part of the western range is related to Occitan; the German dialects derive from Germanic tribal languages. Romansh, spoken by two percent of the population in southeast Switzerland, is an ancient Rhaeto-Romanic language derived from Latin, remnants of ancient Celtic languages and perhaps Etruscan.
Farming has been a traditional occupation for centuries, although it became less dominant in the 20th century with the advent of tourism. Grazing and pasture land are limited because of the steep and rocky topography of the Alps. In mid-June, cows are moved to the highest pastures close to the snowline, where they are watched by herdsmen who stay in the high altitudes often living in stone huts or wooden barns during the summers. Villagers celebrate the day the cows are herded up to the pastures and again when they return in mid-September. The Almabtrieb, Alpabzug, Alpabfahrt, Désalpes ("coming down from the alps") is celebrated by decorating the cows with garlands and enormous cowbells while the farmers dress in traditional costumes.
Cheesemaking is an ancient tradition in most Alpine countries. A wheel of cheese from the Emmental in Switzerland can weigh up to 45 kg (100 lb), and the Beaufort in Savoy can weigh up to 70 kg (150 lb). Owners of the cows traditionally receive from the cheesemakers a portion about the proportion of the cows' milk from the summer months in the high alps. Haymaking is an important farming activity in mountain villages that have become somewhat mechanized in recent years, although the slopes are so steep that scythes are usually necessary to cut the grass. Hay is normally brought in twice a year, often also on festival days.
Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Liechtenstein are often referred to as the alpine countries because much of their territories are geographically and culturally dominated by the alps. The regional provinces of Bavaria, (Germany) and South Tyrol (Italy) also offer a distinctly Alpine flair. 041b061a72