Austria is a beautiful and prosperous country in Central Europe rich in history and cultural heritage.
History of Austria
The land was once occupied by the Celtic tribes until they were conquered by the Roman Empire in 15 BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was ruled by Bavarians, Slavs, Charlemagne and various regional powers. In the 15th century, the native Habsburg dynasty expanded its influence through marriages and battles and led Austria to become one of the most powerful states in Europe.
During the 19th century, there were numerous social and political conflicts in the region, and soon Prussia and Austria went to battle in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. Austria lost, and the empire was forced to reform and became Austria-Hungary.
The Austria-Hungarian empire was unstable in the rise of nationalists movements, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 by a member of the Serbian nationalist group prompted the World War I. The empire disintegrated after WWI and the region was thrown in ciaos and was effectively ruled by Nazi Germany until the end of the World War II.
After WWII, Austria was ruled by the Allies and was divided into the British, French Soviet and US zones. In 1955, Austria regained its independence and was recognized as a sovereign state. In the same year, Austria joined the United Nations and declared permanent neutrality by an act of the Parliament.
In 1995, Austria joined the European Union and adopted the Euro in 1999.
Geography, Climate and Demographics
Austria has a mountainous terrain with the Alps make up over half of the country. As a result, Austria has an "alpine climate": summer is relatively warm at 20-30 Â°C, and winter can get relatively cold at -10 â 0 Â°C.
The population of Austria stands at 8.4 million in 2009, with a quarter of Austrians living in Vienna, the country's largest city and capital.
Austrians are traditionally Roman Catholics, but the number of Catholics has gradually declined from 90% of the population in 1951 to 66% in 2009.
German is the official language in Austria and is spoken by almost 90% of the population. Interestingly, many distinct German dialects have been developed given the mountainous terrain of the country.
While Germany has traditionally been the most important trading partner, Austria's membership in European Union has formed closer ties to other European countries and reduced the country's reliance on the German economy.
Vienna is in particular known as the capital of classical music, and a melting pot for other cultural aspects such as arts, literature, film and theatre, as well as science and philosophy.
For sports, skiing and snowboarding are popular activities in Austria and the country is home to many of the greatest alpine skiers.
* Photographs courtesy of Wiki Commons