Official name: Republic of Austria
Area: 83,858 square kilometers (32,378 square miles)
Highest point on mainland : Grossglockner (3,798 meters/12,461 feet)
Lowest point on land: Neusiedler See (115 meters/377 feet)
Hemispheres : Eastern and Northern
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT; has Daylight Savings Time
Longest distances: 573 kilometers (356 miles) from east to west; 294 kilometers (183 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries : 2,562 kilometers (1,592 miles) total boundary length; Czech Republic, 362 kilometers (225 miles); Germany, 784 kilometers (487 miles); Hungary, 366 kilometers (227 miles); Italy, 430 kilometers (267 miles); Liechtenstein, 35 kilometers (22 miles); Slovakia, 91 kilometers (57 miles); Slovenia, 330 kilometers (205 miles); Switzerland, 164 kilometers (102 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
Centrally situated at the heart of central Europe and bordering eight different countries, Austria historically has been a political, economic, and cultural crossroads. For hundreds of years, the small, landlocked country (does not have access to the sea) was at the center of a great empire—the Hapsburg regime that ruled much of Europe until World War I (1914-18). Austria has an area of 83,858 square kilometers (32,378 square miles), or slightly less than the state of Maine.
Austria has no territories or dependencies.
Austria has a transitional climate, with Atlantic maritime (ocean) influences in the north, a continental climate in the east, and an Alpine climate in the south and southwest. The coldest temperatures in Vienna are experienced in January and the warmest are in July. In the fall and spring, a warm, dry southern wind called the föhn moderates temperatures in the Alpine regions. It can also bring fog, and contributes to avalanches by causing snow to melt suddenly and fall from high elevations. Precipitation is heaviest in the mountains (as high as 102 centimeters or 40 inches annually) and lighter in the eastern plains (under 76 centimeters or 30 inches), especially east of the Neusiedler See. Average annual rainfall is 86 centimeters (34 inches) at Innsbruck in the mountainous Tyrol region, and 66 centimeters (26 inches) in Vienna.
|S EASON||M ONTHS||A VERAGE TEMPERATURE : °C ELSIUS (°F AHRENHEIT )|
|Summer||June to August||15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F)|
|Winter||November to March||4°C to 1°C (25°F to 34°F)|
Austria's topography is dominated by the Alpine mountains (called the Alps) that extend eastward from Switzerland, covering the western two-thirds of the country. Austria's two other major regions are the Bohemian Highlands bordering the Czech Republic to the north, and the eastern lowlands, which include the Vienna Basin (lowland region), named for the capital city.
Austria is a landlocked nation.
The many lakes in Austria's mountain valleys contribute to the country's scenic beauty. The largest lake that Austria does not share with another country is the Neusiedler See. It is over 32 kilometers (20 miles) long and about 8 kilometers (5 miles) wide. At the opposite end of Austria, at its furthest northwestern tip, is a small part of Lake Constance (also known as the Bodensee), which lies along the course of the Rhine River, where Austria, Switzerland, and Germany meet. It is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. There are well-known lake regions in the provinces of Salzburg, Upper Austria, and Styria. The Salzkammergut region near Salzburg includes a district that has about seventy lakes, of which the largest include the Attersee, the Mondsee, and the Traunsee. The southern province of Carinthia, which alone boasts a total of over twelve hundred lakes, is home to five of the most famous, known as the Five Sister Lakes (Funf Schwesterseen). The Drava (Drau) River Valley, where Carinthia is located, is known for other picturesque lakes, including the Faakersee.
Austria's principal river is the Danube (Donau), the second-longest river in Europe, which originates in Germany and flows south-eastward to the Black Sea. The Danube flows eastward for 350 kilometers (217 miles) within Austria's borders, through the northern part of the country; Vienna, the Austrian capital, is situated on its banks. Three of Austria's other major rivers—the Inn, Salzach, and Enns—are tributaries of the Danube that flow eastward through the central part of the country. The major rivers in the southeast are the Mur and Mürz, in the industrial province of Styria. The Leitha flows northeast, draining the area from the Semmering Pass to the Hungarian border.
Austria has no desert regions.
East of the Alpine mountains is a region of low hills and level plains that forms part of the Hungarian Plain and constitutes Austria's lowland region. Even here, however, the land is often hilly, with elevations averaging 150 to 400 meters (500 to 1,300 feet). The Vienna Basin in the north contains the most productive agricultural land in the country.
The Northern Alpine Forelands is a region of foothills and valleys that lies between Austria's northern Alpine ranges and the Danube River valley. There are also foothills at the southeastern edge of the Alpine system, leading to the plains region bordering Hungary. Other hilly regions include the Waldviertel (wooded quarter) and Mühlviertel (mill district), rugged forested areas near the borders with Germany and the Czech Republic.
More than three-fourths of Austria is mountainous. The Alps spread across the western and southern parts of the country, dividing into three major groups as they fan out across the land. The northern Alps section extends across the northern portion of the provinces of Vorarlberg and Tyrol in the west. This range continues through central and southern Salzburg and Upper Austria provinces, reaching as far as the Vienna Woods in the east. Many of its peaks rise above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). The central group of mountains is the largest and has the highest elevations. Many of its peaks—including the Grossglockner, the highest point in Austria—exceed 3,000 meters (10,000 feet), The major ranges of the central Alps include the Hohe Tauern and Niedere Tauern, and the Otztaler, Zillertaler, Lechtaler, and Kitzbühel Alps. Austria's southern Alps belong to a group of ranges that lies mostly in northern Italy. Within Austria, they occupy a relatively narrow strip in the southeast, along Austria's borders with Italy and Slovenia, within the province of Carinthia. They include the Karawanken mountain range.
Austria has several deep caves, including a cave near Salzburg that is 1,600 meters (5,100 feet) deep. The caves are not open to tourists.
North of the Danube River and northwest of Vienna lie the granite and gneiss (granite-like) highlands of the Bohemian Massif, a plateau region that extends northward into the Czech Republic at elevations of up to 1,200 meters (4,000 feet). These highlands account for roughly one-tenth of Austria's total area.
A bridge in Austria has the highest columns (184 meters / 607 feet) of any bridge in the world. The roads through the mountainous terrain of Austria travel through numerous long tunnels, some as long as 8 kilometers (5 miles).
Although the composer Johann Strauss Jr. immortalized the Danube River in his famous waltz entitled "On the Beautiful Blue Danube," the Danube River is not blue—its waters appear either greenish or brown.
Lonely Planet World Guide: Destination Austria. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/europe/austria/ (accessed June 22, 2003).
Austria . Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1996.
Frommer's Austria . New York: Macmillan, 1997.
Rice, Christopher, and Melanie Rice. Essential Austria . Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 2000.
Austrian Press and Information Service. http://www.Austria.org/ (accessed February 17, 2003).