Before visiting a country or a particular destination, I like to learn a bit about it. After all, travelling is supposed to be about learning something new, so I always do my research and become my own tourist guide. I’ve found that every country has its own unique juicy fun facts, so this will be the first post of a series that I am calling Travel Trivia. I’ve tried to keep it light, but there is of course some official information in the beginning.
Without further ado, let’s learn some new facts about Austria, the land of mountains and castles:
- The Republic of Austria is a Central European country, which regained its independence after the 2nd World War in 1955 (more on the history of Austria here).
- The name Österreich essentially means the Eastern realm.
- In 1955 Austria swore premanent political neutrality, so although it is a part of the EU, it is not a part of NATO.
- The official language is German, but Austrians have their own dialects and quite an accent.
- The Austrian capital is Vienna, which is home to about 1/4 of the whole population (estimated at around 9 million).
- Vienna or Wien in German is also the home of the famous New Year’s Concert, the annual and prestigious classical music concert on the 1st of January, and the Sacher cake.
- Austria literally has a castle around every corner, with the majority of them located in Lower Austria. Here is a list of all Austrian castles by province and many of them are still owned by their original noble families. My favourite so far is the Hochosterwitz castle.
- When toasting with an Austrian, make sure to maintain eye contact – not doing so brings bad luck and seven years of bad sex.
- We can thank Austria for plenty of classical music, as Mozart, Schubert and Haydn were born in Austria, and also for the Sound of Music film.
- The Austrian flag is among the oldest in the world: legend has it that duke Leopold V fought in the Battle of the Acre during the Third crusade in the 12th century and got some blood splattered on his white shirt, which looked like a white band on red. Whether it is true or not, the flag has another peculiarity: when flown by the state, it has the coat of arms displayed on it, but not when flown by the citizens.
- Austria also gave us Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, the waltz, Volkswagen and Porsche cars (Ferdinand Porsche was the engineer who designed both), the Doppler effect, Mach numbers (velocities above the speed of sound), Arnold Schwarzenegger and Red Bull, among many other things…
- Catholics and Protestants must pay a membership fee to their church based on their income and every child above 14 is free to decide on their religion.
- Austria is considered one of the best countries to live in, in terms of the living standard, and is among the wealthiest in the world in terms of BDP.
- Most of the country is located in the Alps, the main Central European mountain range, so they have about 150 mountain peaks above 3000 meters (obviously the most popular sports are hiking, climbing and skiing).
- Austrians are very big on protecting the environment: 1/3 of their forested areas are protected territories and their procentage of waste recycling is among the highest in Europe.
- The best preserved Stone Age man to date was discovered in a glacier in the Ötz valley and named Ötzi – he died around the age of 46 about 5300 years ago and his last meal was bacon.
I hope you liked my first Travel Trivia post! Let me know in the comments if you know any other interesting facts about Austria or if I’ve made a mistake somewhere. 🙂