The central and eastern Alps are rich in traditions dating back to pre-Christian (pagan) times, with surviving elements amalgamated from Germanic, Gaulish (Gallo-Roman), and Raetian culture.
The main drainage basins of the Alps are those of the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube and the Po.
The highest and most densely settled mountain belt of Europe, the Alps occupy an area of approximately 80,000 square miles (200,000 sq km) and are home to some 20 million people.
The lower regions and larger towns of the Alps are well accessed by motorways and main roads, but higher passes and by-roads can be treacherous even in summer.
The Alps are popular both in summer and in winter as a destination for sightseeing and sports.
Other important rivers draining the Alps include the Var, Adige and Piave.
The "moths" are an artificial group, defined only as everything in the order that is not a butterfly.
A gap in these mountain chains in central Europe separates the Alps from the Carpathians off to the east.
The tapestry of the Alps—its beauty, unique culture and diversity of wildlife—contribute greatly to Europe and the many nations this range traverses.
Within the Eastern Alps, the most widely used subdivision is the Alpenvereins-Einteilung, which divides the region into about seventy small areas.
Several glaciers are located in the Alps, the longest of which is the Aletsch Glacier in the Bernese Alps.
The border between the Central Alps and the Southern Limestone Alps is the Periadriatic Seam.
The Northern Limestone Alps are separated from the Central Eastern Alps by the Grauwacken Zone.
The Alps form a part of a Tertiary orogenic belt of mountain chains, called the Alpide belt, that stretches through southern Europe and Asia from the Atlantic all the way to the Himalayas.
A multitude of airports around the Alps (and some within), as well as long-distance rail links from all neighboring countries, afford large numbers of travelers easy access from abroad.
The Alps arose as a result of the collision of the African and European tectonic plates, in which the western part of the Tethys Ocean, which was formerly in between these continents, disappeared.
Central Alps history involves the formation of the Swiss Federation, while the political history of the Eastern Alps can be considered almost totally in terms of the advance or retreat of the house of Habsburg.
The Alps are a classic example of what happens when a temperate area at lower altitude gives way to higher elevation terrain.
From this point, the history of the Alps region can be followed through the historical battles for power and control among the nations in the area.
The Alps do not form an impassable barrier; they have been traversed for war and commerce, and later by pilgrims, students, and tourists.
Human interference has nearly exterminated them in many areas, and, except for the beech forests of the Austrian Alps, forests of deciduous trees are rarely found.
The higher regions of the Alps were long left to the exclusive attention of the people of the adjoining valleys, even when Alpine travellers (as distinguished from Alpine climbers) began to visit these valleys.
The traditional economy of the Alps throughout history has been based upon rearing cattle involving seasonal migration between valley and high pastures.
de Saussure (1740-1799) in the Pennine Alps, and the Benedictine monk of Disentis, Placidus a Spescha (1752-1833), most of whose ascents were made before 1806, in the valleys at the sources of the Rhine.
Some of the continent's last remaining forests of a most natural state are in the Alps ecoregion.
Very few large lakes are found within the body of the Alps, but a number are situated around the edge, particularly in areas formerly covered by glacier tongues.
Crystalline basement rocks, which are exposed in the higher central regions, are the rocks forming Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and high peaks in the Pennine Alps and Hohe Tauern.
Little is known of the early dwellers in the Alps, save from the scanty accounts preserved by Roman and Greek historians and geographers.
See Northern Calcareous Alps, Central Eastern Alps and Southern Calcareous Alps for details.