Austria is a landlocked country located in Central Europe, bordered by no less than eight other countries. To the north lie Germany and the Czech Republic; Slovakia and Hungary are to the east; Italy and Slovenia lie south, and Liechtenstein and Switzerland are on the western border. Around three-quarters of Austria is alpine territory, which contributes to the country’s climate of cold winters that reach -10 degrees Celsius, and warm summers that average in the mid-20s.
Throughout Austria’s long history it has developed rich cultural traditions, particularly in terms of contributions to music and the arts. Composers such as Haydn, Liszt, Schubert, and Strauss were all born here, and both Beethoven and Mozart retained close ties to Vienna throughout their lives. Given the country’s musical ties, it’s fitting that one of the things Austria is most famous for is its association with the Julie Andrews musical The Sound of Music.
Thanks to the Alps that served as the backdrop for the much-loved film, Austria is also one of the world’s première skiing destinations, with literally dozens of ski resorts dotted along the mountain range.
Several notable people hail from Austria, including physicists, musicians, and inventors, and the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. But the most famous of them all may be bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. Also Austrian in origin, luxury lead-glass manufacturer Swarovski crystal, and the ever-popular energy drink, Red Bull.
Humans have lived in what is now Austria since the early Stone Age. Over the many millennia of the region’s history it has been occupied by a range of peoples and cultures, including Celts and Ancient Romans. The country was often subject to invasion during the decline of the Roman Empire, with various tribes—such as the Germanic Goths and Vandals—contributing to the instability. After being seized by various rulers, including the Frankish King Charlemagne, Austria came under German rule during the Middle Ages.
Austria is thought to have been first named as such in the tenth century CE, but has the unique distinction of having temporarily lost its status as a separate country during World War II. A decade after the Second World War ended, Austria regained its status as a fully independent state. The country is now home to around 8.6 million people.
Austria is rich in plant and animal life, with many interesting species living in the alpine regions which cover much of the country. In the Alps are an antelope species call the chamois, known both for their sure-footedness and for the soft, smooth and highly absorbent leather that is made from their hides. The Alps are also home to bears, eagles, and a unique mammal found only in Austria: the Bavarian Pine Vole.
The country’s flora includes a number of species that are found nowhere else in the world. These include varieties of grass, alpine flowers, and even wild vegetables. Characteristic of the alpine flowers is Edelweiss, a small star-shaped flower that has been adopted as one of Austria’s national symbols.
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