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Austria

Austria
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GALLERY

"Austria" (German: "Österreich", literally "the Eastern Realm" or "Eastern Empire") is a landlocked alpine German speaking country in Central Europe bordering Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east and Slovenia and Italy to the south. Austria, along with neighboring Switzerland, is the winter sports capital of Europe. However, it is just as popular for summer tourists who visit its historic cities and villages and hike in the magnificent scenery of the Alps.

Understand

History
Today"s Austria is what was once the German speaking core and centre of power for the large multiethnic AustroHungarian Empire with its imperial capital in Vienna. This empire stretched eastwards from presentday Austria through much of eastcentral and southcentral Europe. It included the entire territories of modern day Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and portions of Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland and Italy. While Prussia united the German states to the north by force into one "Germany" in the latter part of the 19th Century, Austria remained oriented eastwards towards its diverse empire. However, from the start of the 20th century, the political history of Austria has been closely linked to the misfortunes and disasters of modern German history, mainly the First and Second World Wars and their terrible aftermath.

The modern republic of Austria came into being in 1918 as a result of its defeat in World War I. In its wake, the empire was split into many components. They included Austria"s current borders, an independent Hungary, lands given to Italy (South Tyrol, Trieste and Trentino), lands given to southern Poland (which also came about from lands taken from the Russian and German Empires), and an independent Czechoslovakia and the northern and western half of Yugoslavia. Following an unresisted invasion and annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, Austria more or less functioned as a part of Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Thus, a large proportion of the population supported Hitler and Austria"s incorporation into Germany. Austrian soldiers also fought in the Wehrmacht. Cities were bombed heavily by the Allies and concentration camps also existed on Austrian soil (such as Mauthausen near Linz).

It was not until the end of the war that the mood changed and that Austria tried to distance itself from Germany. In 1945, Austria was divided into zones of occupation like Germany. However, unlike Germany, Austria was not subject to any further territorial losses. A treaty signed in 1955 ended the Allied and Soviet occupation, recognized Austria"s independence, and forbade future unification with Germany. A constitutional law of that same year declared the country"s "perpetual neutrality", a condition for Soviet military withdrawal, and thus saved Austria from Germany"s fate of a divided nation with a divided capital. However, the South Tyrol Question took Austria and Italy to the UN in the postwar era and international brokered mitigation found a suitable solution for both countries by the late 1980"s. This official neutrality, once ingrained as part of the Austrian cultural identity, has been called into question since the Soviet Union"s collapse of 1991 and Austria"s entry into the European Union in 1995.

Reexamining its Nazi past is something that has become largescale and accepted as commonplace in the media only relatively recently. Before, Austria had sought to portray itself as "Hitler"s first victim". A prosperous country, Austria entered the European Monetary Union in 1999, and the euro currency replaced the schilling in 2002. Austria is also part of "borderless Europe", resulting in many students from all over the European Union studying in Austrian universities and vice verse. Austria is one of the most popular summer and winter holiday destinations in Europe and has the tourist industry to match it.

Culture
Austria is a federation. Each of its nine federal states has a unique and distinct culture.

Austrians aren"t easy to categorize. In fact, the main reason Austrians stand out from their European neighbors is that they don"t stand out from the rest for anything in particular. Austrians are moderate in their outlook and behavior. Being at Europe"s crossroads, their culture is influenced from several sides. The stereotype of the yodeling, thigh slapping, beerswilling xenophobe may apply to a few individuals but it certainly doesn"t apply to the majority of Austrians.

The average Austrian on the street is likely to be friendly yet somewhat reserved and formal, softly spoken and well mannered, law abiding, socially conservative, rooted, family oriented, conformist and somewhat nepotistic, a Catholic at heart, not particularly religious but a follower of tradition, well educated if not as cosmopolitan as his/her European cousins, cynical, and equipped with a dry, sarcastic sense of humor.

Austrians as a large like to define themselves merely by what they are "not". Tourists often make the mistake of classifying Austrians as Germans, which despite a common language (well at least on paper), they are not. Arguably, Southern Germany, especially Bavaria, is a close cultural relative of Austria in many ways. Indeed the regions of Austria are all similar to their neighbors, so you will not notice you have crossed a border, whether it be into South Tyrol in Italy, north to Bavaria or east to Hungary.


Austria and Germany are sister nations and enjoy warm relations, but Mozart was Austrian, or a Salzburger for the record, not German! For most of its history, Austrians have a hard time defining their own nation; they face perhaps currently the most media influence from Germany but have a very different culture, especially from northern Germany. The historic minorities and individual cultures are valued, yet they have to struggle to survive.

Austria has a long history of being multicultural country: a glance at the Vienna phone book is all you need to discover this. Ironically, it is Germany to the north that is paving the way regarding the integration of foreigners into society in Central Europe. Austria remains a largely conservative and rural country with the exception of Vienna. Indee,d the cultural conflicts and national identity are as complicated and hard to understand for many Austrians as they are for visitors! The level of personal awareness and views on this vary greatly from person to person but are generally subject to a particularly Austrian avoidance of the subject, which is to the polls. It is best to try to see the diversity and enjoy the variety than to jump to conclusions.

Hence many Austrians derive their identity from their region or "Bundesland" (state). For instance, typical inhabitants of Carinthia would that they are is Carinthian first and Austrian second and maybe European third. Asking what state that someone is from is normally the first question Austrians ask when meeting for the first time.

The fact that Austrians dislike demonstrations of national identity can, however, also be explained partly by the historical experiences Austria had during the Third Reich and especially due to the violent use of national symbols in the growing Austrofascist movement as well as by the farright Freedom Party. It is also due to the fact that the current state of Austria is a relatively young and loose federal republic of just 8 million people.

However, the University of Chicago"s National Opinion Research Center rates Austria as the 5th most patriotic country in the world. So Austrians do very much love their country but are unlikely to be flagwavers. Perhaps Austria"s ascendancy to the EU in 1995 and its more recent adoption of the euro and the borderless Europe have given it a stronger sense of importance and selfworth in the greater context of Europe.

Most Austrians like to enjoy the good life. They spend a lot of time eating, drinking and having a good time with friends in a cozy environment, and are therefore very hospitable. Members of the older generation can be conservative in the sense that they frown upon extremes of any shape and form and, in general, are adverse to change. They enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world and want to keep it that way.

Austria has no welldefined class system. The rural and regional difference tend to be greater than in neighboring countries. Generally, the further to the west and the more rural you go, the more socially conservative people are.

Politics
Austria is a parliamentarian, federal republic consisting of nine federal states (see list above).
The official head of the state is the "federal president" ("Bundespräsident"), who is elected directly by the people for a term of six years. His/her function is mainly representative, however, and the "federal chancellor" ("Bundeskanzler"), appointed by the president, runs most of the daytoday politics.

The Austrian parliament consists of two chambers, the "Nationalrat" (National Council) with 183 members as the main chamber and the "Bundesrat" (Federal Council). Whereas the members of the National Council are elected every four years by popular vote, the 62 members of the Federal Council are elected by each of the legislatures of the states of Austria for 4 to 6year terms. The composition of the Bundesrat changes after every election to a state"s Landtag (State Parliament). The Austrian constitution provides the Bundesrat with the right to veto legislation passed by the National Council; in most cases this is only a suspensive veto, meaning the National Council can override it by passing the law again.

There are five major parties in Austria: The social democrats (SPÖ), the (conservative) Austrian people"s party (ÖVP), the (rightwing) freedom party (FPÖ) which recently split into two parties (FPÖ and the alliance for the future of Austria BZÖ) and the (leftist) Green Party. The current government consists of a coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP.

Geography

Dürnstein/Wachau

Contrary to popular perceptions, Austria is not all about mountains. While the Alps do cover 3/4 of the country dominating the provinces of Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Styria, Upper Austria and Carinthia, the eastern provinces of Lower Austria, the Burgenland and the federal capital of Vienna are more similar to the geography of the neighboring Czech Republic and Hungary. This diverse mix of landscapes is packed into a relatively small area of size. Glaciers, meadows, alpine valleys, wooded foothills, gently rolling farmland, vineyards, river gorges, plains and even semiarid steppes can be found in Austria.

One quarter of Austria"s population lives in Greater Vienna, a European metropolis, located where the Danube meets the easternmost fringe of the Alps, not far from the border with Slovakia and its capital Bratislava.

Virtually all government, financial and cultural institutions, as well as national media and large corporations are based in Vienna, due largely to history and geography. Thus, the capital dominates Austria"s cultural and political life and is clearly a world unto its own. It has little to do with the rest of mainly rural Austria and outside of Graz and Linz there really are no other large scale cities in the country. There is a playful joke told in Vorarlberg province regarding the dominance of Vienna regarding national affairs that reads, "the people of western Austria make the money and Vienna spends it."

Climate

Austria has a temperate continental climate. Summers last from early June to midSeptember and
can be hot in some years and rainy in others. Daytime temperatures in July and August are around 25° C (77° F), but can often reach 35° C (95° F). Winters are cold in the lowlands and very harsh in the Alpine region with temperatures often dropping below 10° C (14° F). Winters last from December to March (longer at higher altitudes). In the Alpine region large temperature fluctuations occur all year round and nights are chilly even in high summer. The northern Alps are generally a lot wetter than the rest of the country. The South East (Styria and Carinthia) is dry and sunny. The area around Vienna often experiences strong easterly winds.

Electricity
Electricity is supplied at 220 to 230V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but nongrounded, CEE7/16 "Europlug" types. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack an adapter and a converter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Austria.

Regions

Austria is a federal republic comprised of nine states:



Cities

*Vienna ("Wien")
*Bregenz
*Eisenstadt
*Graz
*Innsbruck
*Klagenfurt
*Linz
*Salzburg
*Villach

Other destinations

* Lake Constance a big lake situated in Vorarlberg and shared with Switzerland and Germany
* Kaprun part of the Europa Sport Region
* Pinswang one of the most ancient settlements of the North Tyrolean Ausserfern, on the border with Bavaria and a short walk or drive to the famous King Ludwig"s castles
* Salzkammergut
* St. Anton a popular ski resort in Austria on the VorarlbergTyrolean border
* Thermenland
* Wörthersee one of Austria"s warmest lakes
* Zell am See one of the most important alpine tourist towns in Austria

Get in

Visa



By plane
There are 6 airports in Austria with scheduled flights. The most important international airport is Vienna which has connection to all major airports of the world. Other international airports include Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz, and Salzburg which provide domestic flights as well as connections to some European countries. Those airports are particularly popular with cheap airlines such as Ryanair. For traveling to the western states it is recommended to use the very close Munich airport.

The most common airports to visit Vorarlberg are Altenrhein (Austrian), Friedrichshafen (Ryanair, Intersky) and Zurich (Swiss).

If visiting Austria for winter sports, choose airport considering cost and duration for the whole trip (plane+transfer), not always Vienna and even likely not in Austria.

Unlike many countries, getting in to Austria for skiing shouldn"t imply flying to the capital city first. Vienna itself is a 4 hour drive away from the nearest mediumsized resort, and longer by public transport. "See more in GetIn section of Winter sports in Austria."

With children
"Austrian Airlines:" Baby strollers weighting over 10kg should be checked in as a luggage; strollers below 10kg are allowed up until the aircraft board, and taken by personnel right at the entrance to the aircraft. See also a dedicated page on flying by Austrian with children: .

By bus

Eurolines Austria has bus schedules from Austria to all major European countries and back. If you make use of special offers and/or book in advance, traveling by plane or train is normally cheaper than by bus, however, the bus may be the cheapest option if you want to travel at short notice or if you have large amounts of luggage. Bus travel is especially interesting for those comming from the East as there are many buses into Vienna. Information about their assorted services and pricing is can be found in that section.

By car
Austria and all its neighbouring countries, except Liechtenstein are members so in theory there are no border controls. For using the "Autobahnen" or "Schnellstrassen", a vignette, or tax sticker, must be purchased. Costs are approx €70 for one year, €20 for 8 weeks, or about €7 for 10 days.

On some Saturdays in July and August expect traffic jams on the motorways between Germany, Austria and Italy when millions of German tourists head south at the beginning of school vacations. A delay of about 2 hours is not unusual. The motorway A10 between Salzburg and Villach is especially notorious. It"s best to avoid those Saturdays.

From Germany
* Motorway A8 from Munich to Salzburg.
* Motorway A93 from Rosenheim via Kufstein to Innsbruck, Tyrol.
* E43 (A96) from Leutkirch via Wangen to Bregenz, Vorarlberg.
* E56 from Regensburg via Passau to Linz, Upper Austria.

From Italy
* Motorway A23 to Villach, Carinthia.
* E54 via Brenner to Innsbruck, Tyrol.

From Slovenia
* E652 to Villach,Carinthia.
* E57 via Spielfeld to Graz, Styria.

By train
Austria has plenty of connections with all its neighbors daily. Every neighboring country (even Lichtenstein) have trains at least hourly. Many (Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland) even more frequently. The ÖBB (Austrian Railways) operate highspeed "ICE" and "RailJet" trains from cities like Zurich, Munich,Frankfurt, Passau, and Budapest. "Eurocity" trains are the next fastest trains available as well as the trains connecting the bigger Austrian cities called "Intercity". Regional trains called "EURegio" and simply "Regionalzug" are also avialible from all 8 of Austria"s neighbors.

Vienna is a the largest railroad hub but day and night trains from most Central European countries travel to many stops across Austria. Day trains are normally much quicker than night trains. Tickets can be purchased from certain locations to Austria via the ÖBB website. Always compare fares from the departure or even transit countries" railways as there may be price difference even for the same train. ÖBB offers discount "SparSchiene" tickets to and from destinations like Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, and Switzerland for a flatrate (i.e. €29 for a oneway seater, €39 for a couchette, or €59 for a sleeper). There are a limited number of tickets at this price. At peak times you need to book in advance. Additional offers are avaible to all countries in Central Europe, although many cannot be booked online.

Information for trainspotters

In Austria most railways run electrically. Most electric trains get their power from a singlephase AC network. This network uses its own power lines run with 110 kV. In contrast to normal power lines, these employ a number of conductors that is not divisible by 3 most power lines for the single phase AC grid of the traction power grid have four conductors. There are many interesting mountain railways of all types and trains from around central Europe.


From Slovakia
* There"s a pontoon bridge accessible only to pedestrians and cyclists just south of the AustrianCzechSlovak three country border, between "Hohenau an der March" (Austria) and "Moravský Svätý Ján" (Slovakia). The way goes through flat countryside, is very calm and can be conveniently done by bike. Its length is approximately 6 kilometers, of which the 4 kilometers on the Slovak part are a completely straight invariable landscape which may feel somewhat boring.
* The urban traffic company of Bratislava (DPB) runs a crossborder bus line no. 901 between "Hainburg an der Donau" (Austria) and "Bratislava" (Slovakia), with a stop also in the Austrian town of Wolfsthal. In Bratislava, the terminus is the stop "Nový most".
* There"s a pontoon ferry accessible to cardrivers and pedestrians between "Angern an der March" (Austria) and "Záhorská Ves" (Slovakia). Open from five o"clock to twenty two o"clock.

Get around
By train and bus

Trains are the best way to get around if you are visiting cities. Comfortable and moderately priced trains connect major cities and many towns; buses other towns and lakes. The two forms of transport are integrated and designed to complement each other, and intercity coaches (long distance buses) are hard to find in most of Austria.

Austrian trains are operated mostly by stateowned company ÖBB . The Raaberbahn (GySEV) provides some trains over AustrianHungarian border and there are some short private railways with tourist trains.

The ÖBB operates also buses ("InterCityBus") on line Graz–Klagenfurt–Venice because the road between these cities is much shorter that railway.

Train types
*"S" "(SBahn/Schnellbahn)" – commuter trains offered in several regions and suburban areas
*"RSB" "(Regio SBahn)" – an express version of the SBahn making limited stops
*"R" "(Regionalzug)" – slow local trains, stops everywhere
*"REX" "(Regionalexpress)" – fast regional trains, stop at more significant stations
*"IC" "(InterCity)" – longdistance trains connecting major towns and cities.
*"EC" "(EuroCity)" – international longdistance trains
*"ICE" "(InterCityExpress)" – German highspeed trains
*"RJ" "(Railjet)" – Austria"s homegrown highspeed trains

On suburban and regional trains there is normally only second class. On ICE, IC and EC trains is second class, which has sufficently roomy plush seats, and also first class which is more private and with even roomier leather seats. The RailJet offers three classes "Economy" which is akin to second class and where 2nd class tickets are valid, "First Class" features roomier leather seats and services like a welcome drink, "Premium Class" is yet fancier with more at your seat services.

Tickets
The ÖBB sells domestic tickets using a price based only upon distance traveled, regardless of when you buy the ticket and which train you take. The basic fare is quite expensive, but Austrian Railways offer some interesting discounts. If you buy a ticket from Salzburg to Vienna that ticket is valid for any train that takes you to Vienna, even for a foreign train stopping inside Austria.

Tickets can be ordered (and paid for) on the web, including itineraries with connected trains and involving narrowgauge railways (like in the Zillertal valley). You can also reserve seats for a small fee: that is definitely recommended if you travel with luggage. Tickets ordered online should be printed, to be presented, barcodescanned and stamped when asked for by a ticket inspector onboard.

There are ticket machines at all sizable train stations and onboard some regional trains. For some suburban railways, you are required to have a ticket before boarding (these are noted with "SB"). Ticket machines do not display or print itineraries, and many train stations only display basic timetables. It is best to find an itinerary on the Austrian Railways website trip planner. Stations also provide pamphlets with detailed timetables, but they assume that you know which line to board to get to your destination and can only be obtained during office hours.

Discounts
* "VORTEILScard" gets you 4555% (depending on the train and whether you buy it online, at ticket machine or at counter) off any domestic rail ticket and 25% off of crossborder trains in Europe (through RailPlus). Can be used at private railways too, except the rack railways. It costs €99.90 and it"s valid one year. You can order it at station counter, you need a passport photo. First you"ll get a temporary paper card valid one month, the final plastic card will arrive within two weeks by mail.

There is a variant VORTEILScard
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