Austria is a little country in the heart of Europe with a spectacular combination of cultural and natural attractions.
Austria flaunts its heritage in exuberant fashion. Vienna’s bombastic Habsburg palaces and Salzburg’s baroque splendour are worthy, but dig deeper and you’ll unearth Stone Age settlements, Roman archaeological sites at Carnuntum and medieval festivals. In the country where Mozart composed and Strauss taught the world to twirl, you won’t need to search hard for culture – it waltzes right up to you.
|Official name:||Republic of Austria|
|Area:||83,872 km2 or 32,383 sq mi|
|Lowest Point:||Neusiedler See (Lake Neusiedl) 115 m|
|Highest Point:||Großglockner 3,798 m|
Celtic and Roman Days
The area of today’s Austria was already settled in as early as 8,000 BC. Around 400 BC, Celtic tribes from Western Europe settled in the eastern Alps and a Celtic state, Noricum, developed around the region. From the 7th century BC one of the main regions of Celtic occupation was in modern Austria, centered around Hallstatt, a large prehistoric salt-mining area.
The Roman Empire
The Romans arrived in 200 BC and by 15 BC they dominated the area. The main Roman settlement in Austria was Carnuntum, which became the capital of the Roman province of Pannonia in today’s Lower Austria, 30km from Vienna. You can get a glimpse into this history today in the large outdoor museum and archeology park.
From Ostarrichi to Austria
By the latter half of the second century AD, various German tribes were expanding their territory to make a devastating invasion of Roman territories. By the mid-500s, the Bavarians controlled large areas between the eastern Alps and the Wienerwald region. Around 800 Charlemagne, king of the Franks and later Roman emperor, established an area in the Danube valley is known as Ostmark (Eastern March). In 996 of Ostmark was called “Ostarrichi”, a clear forerunner of the modern German word “Österreich”.
Between 976, when Leopold von Babenberg was Margrave of Ostmark and 1246, the Duchy of Austria was just one of the extensive possessions of the Babenberg family. In the 12th century Henry II moved his residence to Vienna, which has been the capital of the country ever since.
Also in the 12th century, the Cathedral of Saint Stephan („Stephansdom“) was completed, which until today is a landmark for the city.
Beginning of the Habsburg Rule
In 1273, Rudolf I came to the crown, beginning six centuries of Habsburg rule in Austria. The centerpiece of their kingdom was the imperial palace in Vienna.
The Habsburgs increased their influence and power through strategic alliances and marriages. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Habsburgs began to accumulate other provinces in the vicinity of Austria.
The Turkish threat, which included unsuccessful sieges of Vienna in 1529 and in 1683, prompted Poland, Venice, and Russia to join the Habsburg Empire in repelling the Turks. In the late 1690s, command of the imperial forces was entrusted to Prince Eugene of Savoy. Under his leadership, Habsburg forces won control of all but a small portion of Hungary by 1699.
With the completion of the Turkish threat, arts and culture experienced an increase. Magnificent buildings such as Schloss Schönbrunn (World Cultural Heritage) or the Salzburger Cathedral were built. Under the rule of Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) the Habsburg possessions were reformed and united. After Maria Theresa’s death in 1780,, her son Joseph II, one of the so-called “enlightened monarchs“, continued reforms pursued by his mother.
From Biedermeier to the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau)
The French Revolution of 1789 and the advent of Napoleon, which ensured a French possession of many Austrian regions, proved to be a major threat to the Habsburgs. During the Congress of Vienna (1814/15), which was held in order to redraw the continent’s political map after the defeat Napoles, Austrian Chancellor Metternich tried to reconsolidate Austrian power. In 1848 the French philosophy of middle-class revolution reached Austria, but the revolt was quickly crushed, and Emperor Franz I and Metternich responded by cutting civil liberties and imposing strict censorship. As a result, people retreated to their houses, concentrating on the domestic and non-political, social life stopped.
The second part of the Biedermeier period was marked by growing urbanization and industrialization, leading to a new urban middle class. People began to meet again, and art was loved.
In the late Emperor Franz I was eventually pressured to abdicate in favor of his nephew, Emperor Franz Joseph I, whose 68-year reign was one of Austria’s longest. Together with his wife Elizabeth, the legendary “Sisi”, he shaped Vienna to become one of Europe’s key centers of art and culture.
Johann Strauss, the King of Waltz, was celebrated throughout the world for his wonderful musical compositions. Sigmund Freud was the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology, a movement that popularized the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior. Around 1900 in Vienna Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) peaked with noted artists painters Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. A walk along the Vienna Ringstrasse boulevard with its magnificent buildings, a visit to the Sisi or Sigmund Freud Museum or Österreichischen Galerie Belvedere gives a good overview of this era.
The 20th Century
Filled with ethnic tension and locked into a rigid system of alliances of the 19th century wars, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was a disaster waiting to happen. The necessary spark was the assassination of Austrian Archduke and heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 in Sarajevo. Austria’s declaration of war against Serbia marked the beginning of World War I. Emperor Franz Joseph died in 1916, and after the end of the war in 1918 the first Republic of Austria was created, ending 640 years old Hapsburg dynasty. The young republic suffered massive inflation, unemployment, and near economic collapse. In 1933, the weak coalition government between the Christian Social and Socialist parties manner when Engelbert Dollfuss became chancellor in 1932 as leader of a rightist coalition government, which is designed to solve the problems caused by depression. In May 1934 Doffluss declared martial law to protect Austria from Hitler. In July Dollfuss was shot and killed by the Nazis in an attempted coup.
On 12 March 1938 German troops marched into Austria and the country was incorporated into the German Reich of Adolf Hitler. After completion of the Second World War in 1945, Austria was restored to its 1937 borders and occupied by the victorious Allies – the United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France.
The 21 Century
On May 15th, 1955, Austria declared its permanent neutrality. Thanks to its location near the “Iron Curtain”, Austria quickly developed into a nerve center between east and west. After the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the 1968 Prague Spring Invasion, Austria provided asylum to refugees. In 1995 Austria joined the European Union.
Vorarlberg’s capital is delightfully located at Lake Constance, Central Europe’s third largest lake, and offers a dense cultural programme coupled with a wide range of outdoor activities.
Despite being Austria’s smallest provincial capital, this former seat of the Esterhazy noble family range, home to some 13,000 inhabitants, has plenty to offer its guests.
The Styrian capital Graz, whose roots date back to the Roman age, lies on both sides of the River Mur, and is well-known for its striking buildings and architectural highlights.
Past and future meet seemlessly in the heart of the Alps as Innsbruck’s world-famous sights, which testify to the Tirol province’s great past, stand alongside post-modern international architecture to create a fascinating blend.
For summer holidaymakers in particular, Klagenfurt is ideally located by Lake Wörthersee, one of Europe’s largest and warmest alpine lakes. The city is however enjoyable throughout the year with its Mediterranean climate, sunny winter days, colorful autumn and a mild spring.
The capital city of Upper Austria is enjoying its year in the cultural spotlight as 2009 European Capital of Culture.
Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is dominated by churches, castles and palaces. Its picturesque old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.
Austria’s capital offers a unique blend of imperial traditions and stunning modern architecture. It is famous for its cultural events, imperial sights, coffee houses, cozy wine taverns, and the very special Viennese charm.