The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately 1,200 kilometres across eight Alpine countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
The term Alpine states or Alpine countries refers to the territory of eight countries associated with the Alpine region, as defined by the Alpine Convention of 1991: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
France, officially the French Republic, is a unitary sovereign state and transcontinental country consisting of territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories.
Slovenia, officially the Republic of Slovenia, is a nation state in southern Central Europe, located at the crossroads of main European cultural and trade routes.
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The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided.
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory describing the large-scale motion of seven large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of the Earth's lithosphere, since tectonic processes began on Earth between 3 and 3.5 billion years ago.
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Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the deposition and subsequent cementation of that material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water.
The Matterhorn is a mountain of the Alps, straddling the main watershed and border between Switzerland and Italy.
Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,810 m is the highest mountain in the Alps.
The Alpine region area contains about a hundred peaks higher than 4000 metres.
The altitude and size of the range affects the climate in Europe; in the mountains precipitation levels vary greatly and climatic conditions consist of distinct zones.
Wildlife such as ibex live in the higher peaks to elevations of 3,400 m, and plants such as Edelweiss grow in rocky areas in lower elevations as well as in higher elevations.
An ibex is any of several species of wild mountain goat, distinguished by the male's large recurved horns, which are transversely ridged in front.
Leontopodium nivale, commonly called edelweiss, is a mountain flower belonging to the daisy or sunflower family Asteraceae.
Evidence of human habitation in the Alps goes back to the Palaeolithic era.
A mummified man, determined to be 5,000 years old, was discovered on a glacier at the Austrian–Italian border in 1991.
By the 6th century BC, the Celtic La Tène culture was well established.
The Celts were people in Iron Age and Medieval Europe who spoke Celtic languages and had cultural similarities, although the relationship between ethnic, linguistic and cultural factors in the Celtic world remains uncertain and controversial.
Hannibal famously crossed the Alps with a herd of elephants, and the Romans had settlements in the region.
Hannibal Barca was a Carthaginian general and statesman who is widely considered one of the greatest military commanders in history.
In 1800 Napoleon crossed one of the mountain passes with an army of 40,000.
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw an influx of naturalists, writers, and artists, in particular the Romantics, followed by the golden age of alpinism as mountaineers began to ascend the peaks.
The golden age of alpinism was the decade in mountaineering between Alfred Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Edward Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, during which many major peaks in the Alps saw their first ascents.
In World War II, Adolf Hitler kept a base of operation in the Bavarian Alps throughout the war.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although conflicts reflecting the ideological clash between what would become the Allied and Axis blocs began earlier.
The Alpine region has a strong cultural identity.
The traditional culture of farming, cheesemaking, and woodworking still exists in Alpine villages, although the tourist industry began to grow early in the 20th century and expanded greatly after World War II to become the dominant industry by the end of the century.
The Winter Olympic Games have been hosted in the Swiss, French, Italian, Austrian and German Alps.
The Olympic Winter Games is a major international sporting event that occurs once every four years.
At present, the region is home to 14 million people and has 120 million annual visitors.