See? A Schnitzel.
"There are no kangaroos in Austria".
Austria (German: Österreich
), officially known as the Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich
), is a small, central European republic ("The Danube Republic
") shaped vaguely like a
pancreas chicken drumstick Schnitzel
that was once one of the leading Empires of Europe.
In 1278, the House of Habsburg, originally hailing from rural Switzerland, acquired rulership of the Duchy of Austria, which lay at the eastern edge of the Holy Roman Empire
and form the North of the modern republic. Through marriage, the Hapsburgs spread their control over large parts of Europe, including Spain, the Netherlands and large parts of Italy, and became Holy Roman Emperors. In 1522, the sprawling and difficult-to-defend Hapsburg empire was divided by Charles V, who assigned its eastern half to his younger brother, Ferdinand I. However, following the disastrous Battle of Mohács (1526), an early victory in the Ottoman Turks' Hungarian campaign which led to the occupation of most of Hungary and several sieges of Vienna, Ferdinand I would claim the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary for the Austrian Hapsburgs. War between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires continued on and off until the end of the seventeenth century, when the Ottomans ceded most of Hungary.
The Hapsburgs were Holy Roman Emperors, Kings of Bohemia (Czech Republic) and Arch-Dukes of Austria within the Empire, and Kings of Hungary (including Croatia, Slovakia, and Transylvania) without it. In 1806, Napoleon decided that this was just too confusing and abolished the HRE. From then on, the Habsburgs were to be Emperors of a single united Austrian Empire, within which were Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, and The Rest.
In 1848, the Hungarians revolted, but a part of the Slavs and Romanians (along with Magyar loyalists), who were broadly on favour of Habsburgs when it was a choice between them, Russians, and Turks, counter-revolted and helped the Austrian troops regain control. However, it was the Russian intervention that sealed the fate of the Hungarian War of Independence.
In 1866, the notorious Bismarck
tricked them into declaring war on Prussia
and their arses were promptly handed to them in the Austro-Prussian War
. In the chaos that ensued, the Hungarians managed to gain autonomy for their half and the Empire became Austro-Hungarian.
In 1914, all hell
broke loose over a little place called Bosnianote
, then a part of the Empire. At the same time, the Austrian half of the Empire had become more and more decentralised, while the Hungarians were determined to remain top dogs over the Slovaks, Ruthenians, Transylvanians and Croats. This led to the Empire breaking down and being divided, according to the Treaty of Trianon (1920), between Italy, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia and the new independent nations of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria.
The Austrians had always thought of themselves as Germans. Special Germans, but Germans, so they promptly voted to join Germany. The Entente vetoed this, but even as pro-independence sentiment grew and a pro-independence pseudo-fascist movement took power, Hitler decideed to veto the veto. Whether Austria was a Nazi conquest or willing Reichsgau
is a sore issue, especially given Adolf Hitler
was technically an Austrian. There is still a certain amount of denial going on about it.
After the war, the country was divided like Germany into zones, but the British, US, French and Soviet armies all agreed in 1955 to leave if the newly-reconstituted Austrian Republic swore to remain neutral. Following the end of the Cold War
, Austria joined The European Union
Austria is most famous for its mountains, the western part of the country being Alpine. The capital, Vienna
, however, lies on a wide plain that takes up most of the northeast of the country - this only increases the sense that Vienna is somehow "foreign" and "alien" to the rest of the country. (And definitely too big for such a small country, not the empire that it once was capital of.)
Austrians are often regarded as "Laid-back Germans", sharing their larger neighbours' love of neatness and orderliness, but with a more relaxed, friendly air (and a certain amount of bureaucratic inefficiency). They also do not, ever, like to be called German these days anymore.
There is no nobility in Austria any more, all titles have been abolished. If someone is a "von" they are most likely German (In Germany nobility was abolished 1918, but they were allowed to keep their names).
Yet, Austrians are generally more right-wing than Germans, both socially, culturally and politically. Conservative and right wing parties of varying degrees have the majority of voters on their side, and the country itself can, unlike their neighbour
, still afford to be a bit more introverted and nationalistic. But of course, Austria has plenty of Self-Deprecating Humor
left to lampshade
their own ideologies regularly.
A large portion of income in many parts of the country is tourism. Having both a rich history and beautiful nature (and skiing slopes) to show off, this is both understandable and a bit annoying for those Austrians who do not want to be associated with Dirndls and Lederhosen and Yodeling (for that,
see Switzerland or Bavaria), yet are backstabbed by their own tourism board. Curiously enough, many younger Austrians in rural areas go back to wearing lederhosen when going out drinking. The reason? They are durable and it is completely accepted if you smear your dirty hands all over them. It is even said that a lederhosen is only a real lederhosen when it is dirty and grimy enough to stand up for its own...
Yet, one should not forget the feud that is going on between southern Germany (Especially Bavaria) and eastern Austria. Well yes, it is usually a rather mild-mannered feud (shining through mainly in sports and other competitions)... but its origins can be traced as far back as the Thirty Years' War
. It's a Long Story
. The long and short of it is that neither side likes it to be compared to its counterpart.
The biggest newspaper is the "Kronen Zeitung", which is rather right-wing (but it depends on the whims of their owner; recently, said owner Hans Dichand who had run it for half a century died) and pretty influential. How influential? It sells one million copies in a country with eight million people. - That means it reaches almost three million people each day.
The republic of Austria consists of the capital of Vienna and nine federal provinces (Bundesländer). These provinces are:
- Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)
- Upper Austria (Oberösterreich)
- Burgenland: Austria's newest province consists of a string of counties separating Lower Austria and Styria from the Hungarian border. Until separated from Hungary by a 1921 plebiscite, these were the mostly German-speaking hinterlands of the counties of Moson (Wieselburg), Sopron (Ödenburg) and Vas (Eisenburg). The region was historically associated with the Eszterházy family, whose vast estates here were not finally disposed of until after World War II. The land is mostly hilly except in the northeast area which includes the Neusiedler See.
- Styria (Steiermark)
- Carinthia (Kärnten)
- Tyrol (Tirol): The most mountainous province, and geographically discontinuous ever since its southern part was annexed to Italy in 1919.
- Vorarlberg: The westernmost province, bordering on Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Its capital, Bregenz, is located on Lake Constance.
Austrians have two main sports:
Football (Soccer for Americans), in which they are less than stellar (losing against such Juggernauts as Faroe Islands) and Skiing.
Skiing is extremely popular and Austrians are usually among the best skiers in the world. This leads to giant expectations by the public, going as far as calling everything but a top-three-position a failure.
Other sports practiced and supported in Austria are:
- American Football
- Swimming (Markus Rogan)
- Ice Hockey
As Austria is under obligation to remain neutral, there is not a big need for a standing military. Still, all male adult Austrians are required to absolve 6 months of military training ("Präsenzdienst") or 9 months of civil service (ambulances, nursing) if they refuse.
The main rifle of the military is the Steyr AUG
(STG77) [i.e. the guns used by Hans Gruber's men in Die Hard
], the service pistol the Glock 17, both being Austrian products.
After working with wildly outdated SAAB Draken for decades, Austria has now bought Eurofighter jet airplanes. Despite frequent jokes to the contrary, they actually are able to start, turn around and land again without violating foreign airspace.
Austria In Fiction and Media
Whenever Austria turns up in a movie, it is also prone to having Television Geography
as both the directors and the tourism board have an interest in showing off the beautiful and well-known tourist places. This can greatly annoy people who know the geography in some cases. If it's not the Austrian Alps (as seen in The Sound of Music
), it's usually Vienna, either as the stage for Cold War intrigue in shady alleys and the U-Bahn, or as a showcase of classical music concerts and noblemen going from the opera to palace feasts in carriages on cobblestone streets.
Few Austrian productions make it abroad, those that do are usually the ones dealing with more serious themes like historical movies. There are many lighter-hearted productions, often recorded in the regional dialect, which range from ironic and socio-critical to silly-humorous.
Recently, several Austrian
movies have found critical acclaim, earning a Best Foreign Movie Oscar and other titles. As usual in Austria, the films are likely to become famous after that fact. Indeed, people are more likely to know its aristocratic personification
than those movies.
Maybe surprisingly, Austria has a tradition of Black Comedy
, like the movie Muttertag
The Austrian Flag
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Visitors anywhere in Austria, but particularly in Salzburg, can hardly move for racks of Mozartkugeln, a chocolate and marzipan confection bearing his picture.
- Note that unlike Hitler (see below), Mozart was not an real Austrian. His hometown Salzburg was annexed in 1805, years after his death in 1791 and he never saw himself as an Austrian, either. It did not stop the present-day Austrians claiming him as an Austrian.
- He didn't like Salzburg all that much, either, much like other famous "sons" of the town.
- The Mozart family originated from Swabia and Leopold, Wolfgang's father, was born in Augsburg (then a Free City, now part of Bavaria).
- Adolf Hitler
- Austrians are less proud of their other most known son. He was born in Austria and regarded Linz as his "home town" (he planned to endow it with massive museums and monuments once he'd done remodelling Berlin), but moved to Bavaria after being rejected for (or not wanting to serve in) the Austrian Army in World War One. After becoming Fuehrer, Hitler would bring the country of his birthplace into Germany. This is the main reason today's Austrians don't want to be seen as German anymore.
- A Brazilian magazine once wrote in the same story: "Sigmund Freud, the second most famous Austrian", and later "Josef Fritzl, the second most infamous Austrian".
- Sigmund Freud.
- Viktor Frankl, while less known than Freud but more prominent than Adolf Adler (the three founders of the three Viennese Schools of Psychotherapy), was also a very influential scientist and author ("Man's Search for Meaning")
- Painters such as Klimt, Kokoschka, Makart and Schiele
- Composers such as Strauss (all of them, except for Richard (Bavarian)), Haydn, Bruckner, Mahler, Schubert and Schönberg. Vienna was the place to be a musician at many points in time, so a lot of non-Austrian composers had careers there, too.
- Perhaps the best example for the latter: Ludwig van Beethoven, while born in Bonn, spent most of his career in Vienna.
- Also Johannes Brahms, originally a Hamburger.note
- Liszt Ferenc, more commonly known as Franz Liszt, was born in Hungary and lived all over Europe during his life, but he began his career in Vienna.
- Modern musicians / bands like Opus ("Live is life - na na na na na"), Falco ("Amadeus" / "Jeanny" / "Der Kommissar"), Erste Allgemeine Verunsicherung and Conchita Wurst (who's also the Queen of Austria).
- Joseph Haydn, composer of many symphonies, oratorios and string quartets, wrote in 1797 the tune of the song that would officially become the Austrian imperial anthem in 1826. Its original lyrics, "Gott erhalte Franz dem Kaiser," were written in praise of Franz II; the lyrics were revised in 1836 for Franz's successor Ferdinand I, and again in 1854. However, most people today recognize the tune by one of its many alternate lyrics, "Deutschland über alles."
- Entrepreneurs such as Dietrich Mateschitz (founder of Red Bull), the Rothschild family, Ferdinand Porsche and Gaston Glock. Also expatriate Frank Stronach, whose birth name is Franz Strohsack (which means sack of straw, so you understand his name change).
- Actors including Christoph Waltz, Maximilian Schell, Klaus Maria (sic) Brandauer and Arnold Schwarzenegger (though Schwarzenegger and Austria have pretty much disowned each other. He had a bad childhood there, and has said some unflattering things about the country. His hometown originally named a stadium after him, but changed it after both an execution in California and Schwarza's request for a rename)
- And while we are mentioning the movie business: Fritz Lang, director of Metropolis, M and other movies, was born in Vienna. Billy Wilder also came from Austria-Hungary, as did Otto Preminger, who made his pre-Hollywood career in Vienna.
- Christoph Waltz was born in Austria, but has a German citizenship. Now Austria is considering giving him an Austrian citizenship as well.
- The late Otto Habsburg-Lothringen, son of the last Austrian Emperor and a fairly prominent and influential European Union politician. He once had a minor Crowning Moment Of Awesome when he punched fellow MEP Rev. Ian Paisley for calling The Pope The Antichrist (to the Pope's face, mind you). Had he succeeded his father Charles (the Only Sane Man of World War I), Otto (born 1912, died 2011) would be both the oldest and longest reigning monarch in the world. Reluctantly renounced his claim to the throne in 1961 so the Austrian Government would allow him to set foot on Austrian soil. Also was symbolic head of the Paneuropan Union (basically, it aims for a conservative or at least bipartisan, Habsburg-esque version of the EU) and among the leading figures of the nonpartisan Black-Yellow Alliance (which aims for the establishment of a Habsburg-led Mitteleuropan bloc).
- Writers like Franz Grillparzer, Paul Celan, Karl Kraus, Rainer Maria Rilke, Joseph Roth and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Franz Kafka may also count; he wrote in German, and Prague was part of the Austrian empire when he was born.
- Maria von Trapp (née Kutschera), on whose life the play and film The Sound of Music are based, was from Austria.
The flag's colors — white stripe on a red field — originated from the arms of the House of Babenberg, the first royal family of Austria, later adopted by the House of Habsburg, Austria's ruling family from the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries; the flag's origins are also tied to a fanciful tale about how Leopold V
, a Babenberg, then Duke of Austria, and a crusader, fought so fiercely during the Battle of Acre that, when he removed his surcoat, he found it entirely bloodstained save for where his belt was placed, inspiring him to use that image for personal banner.