Famous for its spectacular mountain scenery, Austria is no longer the dominant political force it was in Central Europe under the Habsburg dynasty which ruled until the first world war.
With an area of 83.858 sq km Austria consists of 9 independent federal states (Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna) with their own provincial governments. The federal legislation is exercised by the national council (Nationalrat) together with the Upper House of Parliament (Bundesrat) – the two chambers of Parliament. Austria is a member of the European Union, the United Nations as well as most UN organizations.
Of the approximately 8 million inhabitants of Austria, 98% speak German. The six ethnic groups officially recognized in Austria (Burgenlandic Croatians, Roma, Slovaks, Slovenians, Czechs and Hungarians) are concentrated in the east and south of the country.
Capital: Vienna; 2,179,000
Area: 83,858 square kilometers
Religion: Roman Catholic 74%, Protestant 5%
Life Expectancy: 79
GDP per Capita: U.S. $27,900
Urban population (% of total population) ............................... 64
Access to safe water (% of population) ..................................100
Austrian Interesting facts
• Modern Austria is the German-speaking part of the Austrian (later Austro-Hungarian) Empire ruled by the Habsburg family from 1526 to 1918.
• The oldest zoological garden in the world is the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna, founded in 1752.
• The Austrian flag is one of the oldest national flag in the world. It dates from 1191, when Duke Leopold V fought in the Battle of Acre during the Third Crusade.
• 62% of Austria's total land area is covered by the Austrian Alps.
• Europe's second highest peak in order of prominence, Großglockner (3,798m, with a prominence of 2,423m) is located in Austria.
• Austria has 13 peaks above 3000m, and 34 above 2000m.
• The Krimml Falls (Krimmler Wasserfalle), in the state of Salzburg, are Europe's tallest waterfalls, with a height of 380 meters.
• About one fourth of the population of Austria lives in the capital, Vienna.
• Austria is the only continental EU country that is not a member of NATO.
• About half of Austrian men are overweight (50.8%, the highest rate in the EU), but only 8.6% of them are obese (4th lowest in the EU-27). In contrast only 20.3% of Austrian women are overweight (lowest rate in the 27 member states), including an equal 8.6% obese (also the lowest rate EU wide).
The greater part of Austria lies in the cool/temperate climate zone in which humid westerly winds predominate. With over half of the country dominated by the Alps, the alpine climate is the predominant one. In the east—in the Pannonian Plain and along the Danube valley—the climate shows continental features with less rain than the alpine areas. Although Austria is cold in the winter (−10 – 0 °C), summer temperatures can be relatively warm, with average temperatures in the mid-20s and record temperatures in the mid to high 30s°C.
Austria is a largely mountainous country due to its location in the Alps. The Central Eastern Alps, Northern Limestone Alps and Southern Limestone Alps are all partly in Austria. Of the total area of Austria (84,000 km2 or 32,433 sq mi), only about a quarter can be considered low lying, and only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft). The Alps of western Austria give way somewhat into low lands and plains in the eastern part of the country.
As more and more of us strive to live a less energy-intense lifestyle, Austria is now firmly on the map as an eco destination. Organic products are on offer whilst the consumption of energy and waste is carefully watched. People who live green at home also have high demands on holiday which Austria can without a doubt cater for.
The Parliament of Austria is located in Vienna, the country's largest city and capital. Austria became a federal, parliamentary, democratic republic through the Federal Constitution of 1920. The political system of the Second Republic with its nine states is based on the constitution of 1920 and 1929, which was reenacted on 1 May 1945. The head of state is the Federal President (Bundespräsident), who is directly elected by popular vote. The chairman of the Federal Government is the Federal Chancellor, who is appointed by the president. The government can be removed from office by either a presidential decree or by vote of no confidence in the lower chamber of parliament, the Nationalrat. Voting for the federal president and for the Parliament used to be compulsory in Austria, but this was abolished in steps from 1982 to 2004.
The Parliament of Austria consists of two chambers. The composition of the Nationalrat (183 seats) is determined every five years (or whenever the Nationalrat has been dissolved by the federal president on a motion by the federal chancellor, or by Nationalrat itself) by a general election in which every citizen over 16 years (since 2007) has voting rights. While there is a general threshold of 4 percent for all parties at federal elections (Nationalratswahlen), there remains the possibility to gain a direct seat, or Direktmandat, in one of the 43 regional election districts.