Fun Facts About Austria

September 3, 2019

Paul Kay

Are you thinking of traveling to Europe? Are you looking for Europe vacation ideas? We have fun facts about Austria in this post. Since you are a traveler, you are probably looking for destinations or vacations. Austria is somewhere you should explore. Maybe it’s already on your bucket list? As a traveler, here are some fun facts to consider about Austria.

Austria is rich with history, architecture, culture and natural beauty. Here’s a brief history of this great country and some facts on its tourism.

Early Austria History

Like so much of Europe, the Romans were a big part of Austria’s history. Before it was known as Austria or the Eastern Realm, Celtic natives lived in the land. Both salt and iron were major sources of economic trading. By the first century BC, the Celts were trading with the Roman Empire. The Romans later absorbed the area, and it became a province.

Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne Stained Glass, Cologne Cathedral. Germany

Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne

Rome ruled Austria and its neighbors for 500 years. By the end of the eighth century, Charlemagne was in lower Austria and established the Carolingian East March. After Charlemagne came the Babenbergs, a Bavarian noble family entrusted with the administration of the region in 976.

The Babenbergs expanded their power in the centuries that followed. In 1156, Austria was elevated to the status of a duchy and granted important privileges. By the time the last male Babenberg died in the mid-13th century, the dynasty had significantly expanded.

The Habsburgs

The Babenberg period was followed by the Habsburgs, who came from Swabia. Maybe you’ve never heard of Swabia? I hadn’t heard of it either. It was an area of southwest Germany and eastern Switzerland and Alsace. European boundaries were changing all the time!

In 1246, the Habsburgs took control of the duchy of Austria. In the late 13th century, Rudolf I became the first of the line to be elected as Holy Roman Emperor. His son, Albert I, succeeded him. In 1438, Albert II continued to rule for the Habsburgs. He was followed by Frederick III.

Frederick consolidated Habsburg rule in Germany and expanded the domain to the east. He later signed the Concordat of Vienna with Pope Nicholas V. This agreement allowed the Habsburgs some independence from the control of the church.

In 1522, the Habsburg dynasty split between a Spanish and an Austrian line. The Austrian portion included Bohemia and Hungary when the last Jagiellonian king died in 1526. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire expanded through Europe. But they were pushed away from Vienna twice. Since the Ottomans couldn’t expand, Austria took additional territory.

A Modern Government

Empress Maria Theresia of Habsburg Monument, Maria Theresien Platz, Vienna, Austria

Monument to Empress Maria Theresia of Habsburg in Vienna

In the second half of the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa and her son, Joseph II, introduced major reforms that provided the framework for a modern government.

The Napoleonic Wars dissolved what was the Holy Roman Empire. In 1806, Emperor Francis II, who ruled for the Holy Roman Empire, renounced the Roman imperial crown. Napoleon’s army defeated the troops of the Holy Roman Empire at the Battle of Austerlitz.

The Habsburgs now weren’t as powerful, and they conceded to a dual monarchy. In 1867, Emperor Francis Joseph approved the duality of Austria-Hungary. This multinational state lasted until the end of the First World War.

After World War I

As the surviving state of the former dual monarchy, Austria was proclaimed a republic in 1918. It was a small republic and it suffered from both economic and political tensions. The May Constitution of 1934 created an authoritarian corporate state of Austrofascism. Just two months later, Austrian Nazis staged a July coup, resulting in the assassination of Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.

The coup ultimately failed, but Adolf Hitler succeeded in annexing Austria on March 12, 1938, as Ostmark. After the Second World War, Austria was divided into four occupation zones. In 1955, it became an independent sovereign state, the Second Republic, that we know today.

On one of our tours of Austria, our guide told us Hitler was initially considered to be a leader of hope. Austria and Germany suffered greatly after the First World War. Hitler promised prosperity and better living. It was only after he annexed the country that the Austrian people felt betrayed.

Visiting Today

Today, tourism in Austria is important to its economy. Vienna is the top city for tourism, but in winter Salzburg attracts plenty of tourists to ski and enjoy the mountains.

Madeline and I thought Vienna was remarkable for the preservation of its wonderful palaces. Some places, like Schönbrunn Palace, displays many period rooms for tours. Other castles have turned into museums. It’s a photographic dream when you can walk the streets and see one magnificent building after another. We had no idea so many impressive structures still stood on the streets of Vienna.

Vienna sits in the northeast corner of Austria making easy day trips to the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary. We visited Prague, which is the farthest away, about three hours by car. Bratislava in Slovakia is a short one-hour trip by train. And Budapest is two and a half hours by train. You easily can get a day tour with a driver to see the city and come back.

You’ll enjoy your visit to Austria, particularly Vienna. It’s a magically historic and beautiful city.

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