Official Name: Republic of Austria
Established: 976 (Margraviate of Austria)
Population: 8,902,600 (2020 estimate)
Religion: 57% Catholic, 8.7% Eastern Orthodox, 7.9% Muslim
Order of Visit: Fifteenth
First Visit: 21 May 2006
Last Visit: 24 August 2006
Duration: 4 Days
Visit Highlights: The beautiful Austrian countryside, a brilliant wine and bike tour of Wachau Valley, enjoying the performances at the Vienna State Opera, Habsburg’s Winter and Summer Palaces
Places Visited: Vienna, Wachau Valley
Austria Journal Entries
History and Geography
Austria is bordered by Germany to the northwest, the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia to the northeast, Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Austria occupies an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 square miles).
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs, and Avars. Charlemagne, King of the Franks, conquered the area in AD 788, encouraged colonisation, and introduced Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenberg. The area was known as the marchia Orientalis and was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976 the first date of Austria’s establishment.
In 1156 Austria was elevated to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs also acquired the Duchy of Styria. With the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenbergs was extinguished. As a result, Ottokar II of Bohemia effectively assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia. His reign came to an end with his defeat at Dürnkrut at the hands of Rudolph I of Germany in 1278. Thereafter, until World War I, Austria’s history was largely that of its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs.
During the reign of Leopold I (1657–1705) and following the successful defence of Vienna against the Turks in 1683 (under the command of the King of Poland, John III Sobieski), a series of campaigns resulted in bringing most of Hungary to Austrian control by the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.
Austria later became engaged in a war with Revolutionary France, at the beginning highly unsuccessfully, with successive defeats at the hands of Napoleon, meaning the end of the old Holy Roman Empire in 1806. In 1814, Austria was part of the Allied forces that invaded France and brought to an end the Napoleonic Wars.
Austria emerged from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as one of the continent’s four dominant powers and a recognised great power. The same year, the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) was founded under the presidency of Austria.
The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Ausgleich, provided for a dual sovereignty, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, under Franz Joseph I.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire caused ethnic tension between the German Austrians and the other ethnic groups. Many Austrians, especially those involved with the pan-German movements, desired a reinforcement of an ethnic German identity and hoped that the empire would collapse, which would allow an annexation of Austria with Germany.
As the Second Constitutional Era began in the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary took the opportunity to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip was used by Austria to declare war on Serbia, thereby prompting the outbreak of World War I, which eventually led to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
On 21 October 1918, the elected German members of the Reichsrat (parliament of Imperial Austria) met in Vienna as the Provisional National Assembly for German Austria. On 30 October the assembly founded the Republic of German Austria.
The Treaty of Saint Germain and the Treaty of Versailles explicitly forbid a union between Austria and Germany. The treaties also forced German-Austria to rename itself as “Republic of Austria” which consequently led to the first Austrian Republic.
The First Austrian Republic lasted until 1933, when Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, using what he called “self-switch-off of Parliament”, established an autocratic regime tending towards Italian fascism.
On 12 March 1938, Austrian Nazis took over the Austrian government, while German troops occupied the country, which prevented Schuschnigg’s referendum from taking place. On 13 March 1938, the Anschluss of Austria was officially declared. Two days later, Austrian-born Hitler announced what he called the “reunification” of his home country with the “rest of the German Reich” on Vienna’s Heldenplatz. He established a plebiscite confirming the union with Germany in April 1938.
Though Austrians made up only 8% of the population of the Third Reich, prominent Nazis were native Austrians, including Adolf Hitler, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Franz Stangl, and Odilo Globocnik, as were over 13% of the SS and 40% of the staff at the Nazi extermination camps.
With the defeat of Germany Austria declared secession from the Third Reich by the Declaration of Independence on 27 April 1945 and set up a provisional government in Vienna under state Chancellor Renner the same day, with the approval of the victorious Red Army and backed by Joseph Stalin.
Austria was divided into American, British, French, and Soviet zones and governed by the Allied Commission for Austria. The Austrian government, consisting of Social Democrats, Conservatives, and Communists (until 1947), and residing in Vienna, which was surrounded by the Soviet zone, was recognised by the Western Allies in October 1945. Austria was treated as though it had been originally invaded by Germany and liberated by the Allies.
On 26 October 1955, after all occupation troops had left, Austria declared its “permanent neutrality” by an act of parliament. This day is now Austria’s National Day, a public holiday. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955, joined the European Union in 1995 and is a founding member of the OECD and Interpol. Austria adopted the euro currency in 1999,
What I experienced
While I was only in Austria for a short time I got to experience a magnificent green countryside while on a 9 hour bike and wine tour of the Wachau Valley meeting many friendly locals and enjoying very nice locally grown and produced wine. During that day I got to explore wineries created around 1079, explored a ruined castle that Richard the Lionheart was held in a and went swimming in a river on a magnificent day.
Back in Vienna I got to experience world renowned operas at the Vienna State Opera, I only bought cheap standing room seats but the operas, Osud and Le Villi, were amazing. You much visit and experience and opera while in Vienna. The Summer Palace that the Habsburgs ruled the Austria-Hungry Empire for hundreds of years is also a must.
While Austria is a smaller country of only 8 million residents, I’d strongly recommend a visit during summer and try to get out and ride a bike around their countryside.