The Austrian flag is one of the oldest used flags in Europe. Disputably legend has it that the flag came from the siege of Acre after Leopold V came back from battle and removed his belt with his blood-soaked leaving a red white banner. The Austrian flag basically looks very much like the flag of Latvia however the Latvian flag has unequal sized bands and has a darker shade of red. Many other countries in the Eastern European region specifically the Pan-Slavic areas still retain a part or complete version of the white-red pattern on their flags like Austria.
In terms of its location, Austria is landlocked bordered by eight other countries don’t forget Liechtenstein in the Central European region with the Alps dominating three-quarters of the country in the west and in the center. The country is divided into nine states although it’s kind of funny because the state of Lower Austria is technically a little higher than Upper Austria geographically. The capital and the largest city is Vienna located on the eastern side of the country where one out of every eight Austrians can be found.
The city is a wonderful assimilation of centuries-old stone churches, palaces, opera houses and monuments as well as modern high rises skyscrapers and business offices. There’s dozens of castles speckled throughout the entire country. As a member of the EU Austria’s borders are open with all of its neighbors and are pretty much virtually invisible with the exception of the occasional river or mountain blocking the way. The only controversy it really has is in the South Tyrol region which historically belonged to a number of different kingdoms and empires but for a long while it belonged to the House of Habsburg a historically fascinating lineage that would eventually play a pivotal role in providing half of Europe with all of their monarchical lineages. In short it kind of initially belonged to Austria however after the Treaty of St Germain en Laye in 1919, the entire southern part of this region was kind of reluctantly given to the Kingdom of Italy.
This explains why Austria has a relatively narrow Eastern parameter that stretches into the Alps as the South Tyrol region which previously gave the country a wider range of Dominion was ceded to Italy. The most confusing part of the region though would have to be the Jungholtz enclave located right on the border of the Bavarian region of southern Germany, this place only has about 300 people separated into four small towns. This area is strange because it is one of Europe’s only three Quadripoint borders and is technically joined by Austria by only a small narrow corridor only a few meters wide on the top of the adjacent Sorgschrofen Mountain that crosses over into the Austria side otherwise the only way to get into Austria from this region is by driving through Germany. This means that if you don’t want to go through Germany to get into Austria from this region the only way is to literally climb to the top of the Sorgschrofen Mountain to the very point where the four borders meet and climb all the way down to the rest of Austria.
Since the 19th century, the borders have been literally marked every single step of the way and the top has a mark stone that distinguishes the narrow crossing. Believe it or not this is actually a common hike that a lot of people take despite the fact that many of them don’t even understand the significance of the markers. About three-quarters of Austria is mountainous with the Alps dominating the center and western parts of the country. These mountains are the characterizing segments that give Austria’s its distinct national identity both historically and culturally. Even though the vast majority of people in Austria live in the low-lying plains around the mountains, Austria would not be Austria without the Alps. These mountains can actually be quite quirky almost with minds of their own, for example every spring in the Hochschwab Mountains and forests on the east side of the Alps, the snowmelt from the mountains completely engorges the Gruner see or the green lake engulfing the entire park with trees and benches underneath it. These mountains also provide the perfect setting for Austria’s favorite sport skiing. The problem though is that although these mountains are very beautiful they do kind of make a lot of the country uninhabitable or difficult to cultivate.
40% of the land is covered with forests while less than 20% of the land is arable and for the record The Sound of Music was filmed in parts of Austria. The mighty Danube river flows through the northern part of the country and has historically played a vital role in Austria’s economy and trade sector especially after the construction of the Rhine main Danube River canal back in 1992 which allows ships to finally pass from the North Sea through Europe into the Balkans and ending into the Black Sea. The low-lying areas of Eastern Austria have nice grassy hills and plains perfect for cattle raising and of course dairy production where some of it classiest Austrian cheese’s are produced.
Austria’s economy is not really that heavily based on agriculture but rather services and Industry specifically an engine and medication manufacturing. Austria has a population of about eight and a half million about ninety percent of whom are ethnically Austrian and ten percent from other nations mostly from Germany and the former Yugoslavian states such as Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina with the influx of Turkish people having emigrated over the past few decades. The reason why there are so many Eastern Europeans in Austria has somewhat to do with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Habsburg dynasty which was one of the most pivotal monarchies that shaped the entire course of European history in every corner from Spain to France, England to Russia and so on.
Austrians speak German, however rule number one do not call them German. They’re kind of reluctant to even tell you that they speak German and will be very quick to point out that it’s Austrian-German not German-German. The language has a very distinct vocabulary with a lot of the words influenced from Eastern European nation words and they also have their own standard dictionaries set apart from the German and Swiss dictionaries. The dialects can change drastically in Austria sometimes it only takes about 40 kilometers travelling inward until you reach an area where that has a completely different accent.
In contrast to Germans, Austrians like to define themselves as more soft-spoken and reserved. They don’t like to upset anybody and courtesy is very highly expected in this country. Educational accomplishments and achievements are very highly prized in Austria. One thing Austrians do kind of obsess over though are titles, they prefer to be addressed by every title that they’ve obtained for themselves even if it equates to like 15 titles e.g. Mr., Doctor, Chairman, Vice CEO chairman etc. One thing that Austrians will tell you that they really like to do is just taking simple walks, whether it’s just for an hour to clear their head and in any weather, whether it’s sunny or raining. They even have a word for its Spazieren Gehen, don’t be surprised if an Austrian invites you to just go for a walk go with it.
They’re a little bit more conservative in their politics which can possibly be attributed to the growing elderly population however, the youth have always been known to rough up a few controversy feathers here and there. The winner of last year’s Eurovision contest was an Austrian drag queen with a beard. They keep things a little bit on the down-low however, once every so often one notable figure comes and shines through like Christopher Watts and everyone’s favorite bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger which by the way contrary to some stupid rumors, note that the last name Schwarzenegger does not have any racist connotation behind it. It literally just means the person from Schwarzen. Schwarzen means black, Egge(r) meaning soil. So it basically just means the place of the black soil or fertile soil. The family probably descended from a long line of prosperous farmers which is what the name refers to.
Pretty much all of Austria’s best friends have some kind of a love/hate relationship with them but love always wins in the end. Austria did kind of start or influenced both world wars. World War I with the attacks from the Empire on Serbia after the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and World War II because Hitler was born in Austria, if there was no Austria there will be no Hitler. To this day Austria is incredibly neutral in their affairs and lies in a very interesting alliance limbo as they have neither joined NATO or the Warsaw Pact. In regards to their eastern neighbors, because of the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria and many of the other central and Balkan states like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and so on have close ties to Austria even though historically they had lots of drama under the Habsburg dynasty, it was either the Hapsburgs or the Ottoman hated the Ottomans.
In regards to Italy, Italy has always been a huge trade partner with the Austrians but as mentioned before the whole South Tyrol region thing kind of caused a little bit of tension, they aren’t going to war or anything but Austria kind of see everybody inhabiting the South Tyrol region as Austrian and not Italians. In terms of their best friends, Austria would say its Germany but more specifically Bavaria the region of South Germany. Bavarians and Austrians are very similar in their culture and tradition, some Austrians will tell you that because they get along so well Bavaria is said to be the 10th state of Austria even though Bavaria alone has more inhabitants than the whole of Austria. In conclusion Austria is kind of like the country that secretly changed the entire course of all of European history right under our noses without us even knowing about it.