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Austria

Austria

Austria is a German-speaking country in Central Europe known for its famous composers, mountain villages, and capital located along the Danube River.

austria-flag

Quick Facts

Capital: Vienna

Population: Approx. 8.7 million

Key Cities: Salzburg, Vienna, Innsbruck, Graz, Linz

Official Language: German, Hungarian, Slovenian, Croatian

Major Religions: Roman Catholic

Geography

Bordering Countries: Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland

Size: 32,286 sq. miles

Lowest point: Neusiedler See at 377 ft.

Highest point: Grossglockner at 12,460 ft.

Austria is a landlocked country (surrounded by land on all sides) in Central Europe. It’s slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Maine and about eight times smaller than the state of Texas.

People often divide Austria into three parts:

The Alps (high mountain ranges that cover almost 70 percent of the country).

The Alpine Foreland (which includes smooth, hilly areas of land).

The area North of the Danube River (mostly made up of a low mountain range).

Dozens and dozens of lakes can be found in Austria’s mountain ranges, with Lake Neusiedler being the largest.

Major rivers include the Drau, Enns, Inn, Mur, Raab, and especially the Danube, the second longest river in Europe.

lake-neusiedler

The country’s climate varies. In the north and east, winters are cold, summers are hot, and there’s an average amount of rainfall each year.

The southeastern parts of Austria have longer, hotter summers. In the west, weather is less extreme. Winters are mild (not too cold) and summers are warm.

The western part of Austria also receives more rain and has more animal and plant life. There are about 43,000 native species of animals in the country.

Austria is especially popular for birdwatchers. You can find over 320 species of birds around the National Park Neusiedler See alone.

Common mammal species include boars, badgers, deer, foxes, and marmosets.

History

The area that is now known as Austria was first occupied by Celtic tribes until being conquered by the Roman Empire.

When the Roman Empire fell, it was again ruled by local tribes until being conquered by the emperor Charlemagne in 788. In 976, the land became known as Austria under the rule of Leopold of Babenberg.

The Babenbergs were ambitious and transformed Austria from wilderness to an important center of medieval culture. In 1278, the Habsburg family took control of Austria after the last Babenberg died.

The Habsburg Empire ruled Austria for the next 700 years, although they did briefly lose part of the country to Hungarian rule.

During this time, the Habsburg Empire became one of the most powerful in all of Europe. The Habsburgs expanded their empire through both war and marriage to other royal families (mostly marriage).

habsburg-empire

In 1914, the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was shot and killed. This was one event that caused World War I (WWI), which also led to the end of Habsburg rule in Austria.

After the war ended, Austria became the Austrian Republic. The economy was very bad after WWI, so Austria received a loan from the League of Nations.

In March of 1938, Austrian Nazis took over the government and German troops occupied Austria, making it part of Germany.

Many Jewish Austrians fled the country or were killed during the Holocaust.

At the end of WWII, Austria was divided into American, British, French, and Soviet zones. It didn’t regain full independence until October of 1955.

At this time, Austria declared “permanent neutrality,” meaning they wouldn’t take any side in future wars.

Today, Austria’s government is made up of a president, chancellor, and Parliament. Austria’s Parliament is divided into two chambers: the national council (Nationalrat) and the upper house (Bundesrat).

Austria is a member of the United Nations and the European Union.

Economy

Austria’s most important industries are food and luxury commodities, mechanical engineering and steel construction, chemicals, vehicle manufacturing, and tourism.

Agriculturally, Austria is a source of organic farming. Major products include grains, potatoes, sugar beets, dairy products, cattle, and pigs.

It has its own petroleum and natural gas and is a leader in the field of hydroelectric power in Europe. Austria is also notable for its handcrafted jewelry, ceramics, and glassware.

hydroelectric-power

Austria is one of the fourteen richest countries in the world and has a high standard of living. Its economy is closely tied to Germany, its main trading partner.

Currency in Austria is the Euro, a common natural currency for 15 European nations.

Culture

Several languages are spoken in Austria, but over 90% of citizens speak German. English is taught in all schools as a second language. About 75% of Austrians are Roman Catholic.

Austrians are typically very family-oriented, eating meals together in the evenings and visiting grandparents or participating in other family activities on the weekends.

Food in Austria is diverse, with German, Hungarian, Czech, and Italian influences. Lunch is usually the main meal of the day and involves a soup course and a meat course, often with vegetables, dumplings, noodles, or potatoes.

Many Austrians take a midafternoon break in a coffeehouse, a very popular institution in Austria, where they eat breakfast, snacks, or a light lunch.

Evening meals are usually small: cold meats, cheese, or smoked fish.

Music is a major part of Austria’s culture, especially classical music and folk songs. There are many festivals and celebrations dedicated to music.

The Salzburg Festival celebrates the composer Mozart and is the most famous Austrian event. Held in the city of Salzburg, the festival features musical and dramatic performances.

Another famous Austrian event is Weichnachtsmarket, or Christmas Market, held in the capital city of Vienna. Christmas Markets feature festive cookies, drinks, crafts, and carols.

Famous Austrians

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart- composer
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger- actor/politician
  • Boris Kodjoe- actor
  • Franz Schubert- composer
  • Wolfgang Puck- chef

wolfgang-puck

Fun Facts

Aside from Germany, Austria is the only country where German is the official language.

Austria’s slopes are famous for their powdery snow. Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are popular.

In Austria, people say, “Guten appetit!” before beginning a meal. Before starting to drink, they toast by clinking glasses while making eye contact.

More Europe facts.