The United Nations declared 2002 "The International Year of the Mountains". To mark this occasion, the Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai took the initiative to partner the two regions Jungfraujoch-Top of Europe with the Huangshan Mountain in China. The Huangshan Region is a UNESCO World Heritage, as is the Jungfrau-Aletsch Region. The partnership is growing.
High-ranking Chinese and Swiss delegations visited their partner mountains
Both the Jungfrau and the Mt. Huangshan have been listed as UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites. The official ceremony confirming the partnership took place in the "Sphinx" hall, the highest point of the Jungfrau. A delegation consisting of 23 members of the provincial government of Anhui, PR China, visited the Jungfrau for the signing of the official documents on May 6, 2002. The delegation was lead by Anhui Provincial Governor Mr. Xu Zhonglin. The document was signed by Mr. Xu Liquan and Mr. Hu Xuefang for the Chinese partners and on the Swiss side by Mrs. Elisabeth Z?lch, Director of the economic department of the Canton of Bern and Dr. Krneta, Chairman of the board of Jungfrau Railways. In their speeches, both the Governor and Mrs. Zoelch pointed out the importance of a partnership in terms of touristic development.
A Swiss delegation headed by Mr. Adolf Ogi, former President of Switzerland, visited Huangshan from July 26 to 29 for the return signing ceremony and partnership visit. The Anhui Governor, Mr. Xu Zhonglin and Mr. Adolf Ogi both witnessed the agreement during an elaborate ceremony on July 27, 2002.
The Swiss Ambassador to China Mr. Dominique Dreyer, the Swiss Consul General in Shanghai, Mr. Hans Jakob Roth, Mr. Xin Futan, Vice President of Chinese People's Institute for foreign affairs and former Chinese Ambassador in Switzerland also attended the celebration on Mt. Huangshan.
Not only on paper
However, the signing of the partnership agreement was only a first step towards a deeper cultural exchange between the two regions. A gallery with pictures taken in the region of Mt. Huangshan are already on public display in the exhibition rooms on the Jungfrau. And photos from the Jungfrau region are also shown in Huangshan. Further projects will see the exchange of students between Interlaken and Huangshan City and the broadcasting of television advertisements through local TV-Stations. Visitors to the two mountains can also produce their own video-postcards on a specially designed terminal, which they then can send to friends through the web site www.sistermountains.com.
The search for a partner
Jungfrau Railways have been closely watching the development of the Chinese touristic market for over ten years. In 1997 active work towards a touristic development started. The idea of searching for a suitable partner in China dates back to 1999. Urs Kessler, Director of Marketing & Operations of Jungfrau Railways explains: "When we realised that Jungfrau would soon be included in the list of the UNESCO World Natural Heritages sites, we started to search for a partner with equal characteristics. When the Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai approached us with the idea of partnering these two mountains, I was immediately convinced of the choice. It was also important for us that the partner mountain should be widely known as a touristic attraction. Mt. Huangshan, which in 1990 was honored with the UNESCO certificate as a "Natural Monument" and is also listed as a World Natural Heritage Site, was really the ideal partner for us."
The partnership is growing
This partnership is steadily growing as several delegations have visited their partner region and further projects are maturing. In October 2003, a delegation led by Interlaken Mayor Mr. André Morgenthaler visits Huangshan. A letter of intent between Huangshan City and Interlaken on establishing friendship relations between the two cities is being signed on this occasion between the Mayors of the two cities. The agreement foresees exchanges in the fields of tourism, economy, education, culture as well as in other fields. A program of exchanges of high school students where Swiss and Chinese students will visit each other's schools is also in the making. A first delegation of Swiss high school students just visited China in the early days of October 2003. Huangshan and Jungfraujoch are also actively co-operating in the field of tourism promotion as each mountain is also promoting its sister-mountain.