24.09.2017 | Spielberg - Spielberg
Location: Central Europe.
Area: 83,871 sq km (32,383 sq miles).
Population: 8,665,550 (2015).
Population Density: 103.3 per sq km.
Capital: Vienna (Wien).
Government: Federal Republic.
Geography: Mountainous Austria is a landlocked country at the heart of Europe, bordered by Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. The diverse landscape can be divided into five sections: the Eastern Alps (62.8%), the Alpine and Carpathian Foothills (11.3%), the Pannonian Lowlands (11.3%), the Vienna Basin (4.4%) and the Granite and Gneiss Highlands or Bohemian Massif (10.1%). Austria's highest mountain is Grossglockner (3,798m/12,465ft) found in the Alps' Hohe Tauern range, and, on its way from the Black Forest in southern Germany to the Black Sea, the winding River Danube flows for approximately 360km (220 miles) through the country. Nearly half of Austria is covered with forests, with the lower regions particularly densely wooded. Fir predominates above 488m (1,600ft), and gives way to larch and stone-pine beyond 1,219m (4,000ft); the Alpine foothills consist predominantly of arable land and grassland (above 610m/2,000ft); the Pannonian region is characterised by scrub and heathland.
Language: German is the official language. Regional dialects are pronounced and within the different regions of the country one will encounter marked variations from Hochdeutsch, i.e. standard German. There are Croatian and Slovene-speaking minorities in the Burgenland and southern Carinthia respectively.
Religion: Approximately 64% of the population is Roman Catholic.
Time: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from fourth Sunday in March to fourth Sunday in October).
Social Conventions: Austrians tend to be quite formal in both their social and business dealings. They do not use first names when being introduced, but after the initial meeting first names are often used. Handshaking is customary when saying hello and goodbye. It is considered impolite to enter a restaurant or shop without saying Guten Tag (good day) or, more usually, Grüss Gott (common greeting which literally means 'greet God'); similarly, to leave without saying Auf Wiedersehen (goodbye) can cause offence. If invited out to dinner, flowers should be brought for the hostess. The Church enjoys a high and respected position in Austrian society, which should be kept in mind.
Electricity: 230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.
Head of Government: Chancellor Christian Kern since 2016.
Head of State: President Alexander van der Bellen since January 2017.
Recent History: From the first human settlements in the Danube Valley, to the ensuing Celts, Illyrians, Romans and Bavarians, and then the noble Babenburg and the Habsburg dynasties, Austria is a land that has been ruled by many. The 640-year reign of the Habsburgs - creators of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - was ended by WWI; 20 years later, WWII saw Hitler invade and occupy Austria, persecuting the country's Jewish community. Post Holocaust, Austria's Jewish community rebuilt itself, but to this day the Jewish population remains much smaller than before WWII. After Austria's liberation by the Allies in 1944, foundations were laid for the Second Republic. Austria joined the European Union, and also signed the Schengen Agreement, in 1995.