Although Austria is rarely in the headlines these days, it was once part of a dominant European power. Following is an overview of this postcard country.
An Overview of Austria for Travelers
With its prime location in mainland Europe, Austria was a major player in economic, military and political terms when it was known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Alas, this role was significantly diminished after World War I when victorious allies divided the empire. A much smaller Austria came onto the scene and has developed into an ideal travel and relocation destination.
Famous Austrians dot the historical record. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven were mavericks in music. In psychology, a certain Sigmund Freud made just a slight impact. Currently, the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was born in Austria.
The official name of the country is Republic of Austria. It covers a relatively small area of land, 32,000 square miles. The capital is beautiful Vienna, which has a population of just over 1.6 million people. Other cities of note include Salzburg and Innsbruck which has hosted a winter Olympics. The country is predominantly a mountainous one and has a climate categorized as continental with plenty of rain and snowfall. Summers in the mountains of Austria are simply dazzling. You can pull up pictures on the Internet or simply watch the movie, The Sound of Music.
The people of Austria are known as “Austrians.” The total population for the country is just over 8 million people, and barely growing each year at a rate of .4 percent. The ethnicity of Austrians breaks down as 98 percent German with a mix of neighboring country natives mixed in. The dominant language is German. Roman Catholic is the faith of 73 percent of Austrians although 12 percent claim no religion at all. The literacy rate in this well-developed country is 98 percent. Life expectancy for women is 81.7 years while men average 75.9.
As this overview of Austria demonstrates, the country has seen all sides of the power ledger. Regardless, Austria is a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage and is definitely worth a visit.
More about Austria
So you want to travel to Austria. Well, you’ve made a wise choice. Austria is considered one of the top year-round travel destinations. Because of its beautiful Alps, winter sports are quite popular in Austria, providing Austria with high tourist attendance in the winter and giving you a reason to travel to Austria any time of the year.
If you want to travel to Austria, here are some quick facts you should know when you go.
Austria – The Region
A land-locked country, Austria is located in Central Europe. It is a mountainous country with an area of 83,855 km2. Austria consists of nine provinces: Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Carinthia, Styria, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Burgenland, and Vienna. Approximately 99% of Austrians are of Germanic ethnic origin and 78% are Roman Catholics. As for the terrain, the Alps occupy the southern and western regions of the country, and numerous forests, valleys, lakes, and rivers can be found throughout Austria.
When you travel to Austria, it’s important to have an idea about the weather and Austria’s seasons. Austria has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Summers are generally warm and pleasant with cool nights. Rain does occur during the summer season but the showers are normally short. Austria’s winters are sunny, with reliable and frequent snowfalls. Winters are also cold and accompanied by warm and dry winds in some parts. However the weather overall is changeable throughout the year, so when you travel to Austria, pack appropriately.
When you travel to Austria, you’ll quickly realize why Austria is widely recognized for its rich cultural past and present. Austria’s affluence of artistic achievements is obvious in its architecture and structures like the Stephansdom (Saint Stephen`s Cathedral), Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, the “Goldene Dachl” in Innsbruck, Melk Abbey, and the “Loos-Haus” or the “Hundertwasser-Haus”. Austria is also the birthplace of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss Jr., Johann Strauss Sr., and Johannes Brahms. Like most European countries, Austria has a rich culture and affluence that awaits anyone who decides to visit.
If you pre-plan your activities for your trip to Austria, here’s a heads up. Because of Austria’s mountainous terrain, two of the more popular activities for tourists tend to be skiing in the winter and hiking. There are a number of different resorts to fulfill your skiing desires. If you prefer flat terrain to hills, cross-country skiing opportunities are also available anywhere where there’s sufficient snow and few buildings. As for hiking, there are thousands of kilometers of hiking trails that will allow you to explore the Alps and its breathtaking views. If you’re looking for things to do when you travel Austria, skiing in the winter and hiking are two very popular and exciting Austrian activities for tourists.
Austria has a lot to offer travelers and those who want to travel Austria. From its rich culture to mountain activities, Austria is the answer to those who want to travel in Europe year-round.
Best of Austria
Austria simply can’t be beat when it comes to beauty. You’ve seen the country in the Sound of Music, but the cities of Vienna, Salzburg and the alpine town of Halstatt are just as nice.
Vienna is a city with a ridiculous amount of history. The home of the waltz, Habsburg Palaces and an unrivaled musical past. Walk for an evening through the cobblestone streets in the center city and you can almost hear a famous composer at work. In fact, many of the walking areas are lined with small orchestral ensembles playing their way through the evening. Elbowing in on their act, of course, are those unique artist who dress in a period piece and then stand in one position for what seems time eternal. Buddhist monks would be envious if they believed in envy.
The only downside to Vienna is the expense. It is very expensive. If you are going to spend some time in the city, be ready to pay for the privilege.
Salzburg is one of my favorite cities and I always try to hit it when I am traveling through Europe. The real home of Mozart, Salzburg is Vienna without less of the hustle and bustle. A walk through the shopping district will leave you breathless and, sometimes, penniless, but it is a worthwhile go. Salzburg is a city where you can drink bear with monks, take in an opera or just walk through exquisite rose gardens. Unfortunately, it gives Vienna a run for its money when it comes to being expensive. Yes, pun intended.
Halstatt is the little town in the Alps that puts the Sound of Music to shame. Located roughly an hour outside of Salzburg, the easiest way to reach it is by train. The train travels well up into the Alps and drops you off by the side of a lake. You plop down in a little hut and wait for the ferry from Halstatt to appear. The ferry then halls you across the lake to a Alpine town with no cars – Halstatt. It is like stepping into the past. People are friendly, prices are reasonable and romance is on the hoof. Swans swim along the outdoor cafes dotting the lake and, well, it is pretty dang nice. If you are looking for a little romance, Halstatt is definitely worth your consideration.
Zell am See
Zell…am…See. The name just rolls off the tongue, but it pails in comparison to the place. Often described as heaven on earth, Zell am See is a dream location in the mountains of Austria. With towering mountains on one side and a lake on the other, the town looks like something out of a postcard. If you pull up photographs of the town, you’ll swear they have been touched up with a software program. This town is simply that beautiful. In the winter, Zell am See is all about skiing with numerous resorts for glacier skiing. In the summer, one can lounge on a boat on the lake or hit the mountains for hiking, camping and rock climbing. The Krimml Waterfalls are extremely impressive. Zell am See isn’t the cheapest of travel destinations, but it should top the list if money isn’t a concern. The best month to go is December when skiing is good and winter festivals occur in the town.
Built on the Inn River, Innsbruck was the home to the 1976 Winter Olympics. And for good reason. As with much of Austria, the town is picturesquely set against mountains and ripe with street cafes and surrounding areas that look like something out of the movie Heidi. As the Olympic designation would suggest, the town is a good launching point for hitting the slopes, but there is much more to it. The historic district has the cobblestone atmosphere you’ve come to expect from town in the Alps. In addition to atmosphere, you can visit historic locations such as the tomb of Emperor Maximilian 1.
Bad Gastein definitely gets a nomination for name of the year. It just sounds like a town where bikers would hang out. Admittedly, it is hard to image Austrian Hells Angels, but you get my drift.
Bad Gastein is an old Austrian village without the droll modern fixtures of Innsbruck. Built overlooking a valley, the town has some incredible views. Historically, Bad Gastein is the spa town of Austria with emperors and other VIPs taking in treatment. For atmosphere, the town feels like it hasn’t changed since the 19th century. If you’re looking for old world Austria, this is the place. Make sure to hurry though as the town is supposedly grabbing the attention of developers who are thinking hotels and casinos are a must.
If you visit Austria, Vienna and Salzburg are definite destinations. Just make sure you get out to the incredible towns in the mountains.