Austria - Holiday facts and Information

Holiday facts and information about Austria

General facts

Country and People

Country and People


The first human settlements in the Austrian territory are documented from the Iron Age (Hallstatt Culture, 8th-5th centuries B.C.). The first Celtic settlements date back from the 5th century B.C., while Roman occupation dates back to the Augustan period (15 B.C.). Roman jurisdiction divided the territory into two provinces: Raetia in the west, and Noricum in the east. In those days, some military camps were founded, and they formed the first unit of today's cities: Castrum Vindobona (Vienna), Iuvavum (Salzburg), Lentia (Linz), Claudia (Klagenfurt). Between the 4th and the 6th century, Austria underwent several invasions that followed one another without interruption: the Alemanni, the Quadi, the Marcomanni, the Huns, the Ostrogoths, the Franks, the Longobards, the Avars and the Slavs. In 796, after the victory of Charlemagne on the Avars, Eastern March (Ostmark) was instituted, thus reinforcing the borders of the empire and promoting the penetration of Christianity. After defeating the Hungarians at Lechfeld (955), Otto II gave it as a feud to Leopold I of Babenberg, whose dynasty reigned for a long time over the Country, establishing Vienna as the capital. The first quotation of Ostarrichi as a place-name (from which the actual Österreich comes) in official documents dates back to 966. The extintion of the Babenberg dynasty (1242) caused the passage of Austria's dukedom to the Habsburgs, in the hands of Rudolf I (1278). Between the 15th and the 16th century, Maximilian I enlarged the borders of the empire, including Hungary, Bohemia and the Flanders. During the reign of Charles V, who was also crowned king of Spain, the Habsburg territories reached their greatest expansion. In the 16th and 17th centuries many external elements attempted to the political and territorial integrity of the empire; we shall mention the threatening expansion of the Turks, the national rebellions and the numerous religious wars. The Peace of Weastphalia (1648), at the end of the Thirty Years' War, marked the fall of the Habsburg influence in German territories; in 1664, Hungary fell under the Turkish invaders who, just after twenty years, were threatening Vienna's walls. In 1699 the peace treaty of Carlowitz marked the end of the Ottoman threat. The 18th century, while seeing the Habsburgs involved once more on the European scene (succession wars), brought them new territorial expansions: the Netherlands, Milan, Piacenza, Parma and Tuscany. During the reign of Maria Theresa (1740-1780) and of her son Joseph II the reform of the different aspects of the state's apparatus brought to rationalization and modernization, considered as a model for the governments characterized by "enlightened" absolutism. Austria was one of the strongholds of the variegated European front that faced the imperialistic aims of Napoleon Bonaparte, giving to Metternich the task of restoration, consequent to the famous Congress of Vienna (1814-1815). However, the 19th century marked the progressive and inexorable decline of the empire, weakened by the contrasts with the other European powers and flaked by the constitutional claims that were arising in the subjected territories just as by the strong demand for autonomy and independence claimed by non-German populations. After the insurrections of 1848, controlled with difficulty, in 1859 Lombardy fell, after the victory of the French-Piedmontese, followed by Venetia (1866), consequently to the defeat against the Prussians. A year later, the recognized autonomy of the Magyar territories effectively led to a division of the empire in Cisleitania, controlled by Austria, and in Transleitania, administred by Hungary. The difficulty in the relationships between different ethnical groups, the uprising of nationalisms and the expansionist coup, carried out by Francis Joseph with the annexation of Bosnia and Hercegovina (1908), practically formed the explosive mixture of World War I, that was smouldering under Serbian and Russian hostility and that broke out on the occasion of Archduke Francis Ferdinand's murder in Sarajevo (June 28, 1914). The end of the "Great War" marked, in practice, even the end of the great Austria-Hungary empire, causing the birth of several national States. The period between the two wars also brought to Austria financial crisis and political revolts; among the most remarkable events, we shall remember the workers' revolt in 1927 in Vienna and Chancellor Dollfuss murder (1934). Annexed to Hitler's Germany in 1938 (Anschluss), it lost in fact any autonomy, returning to the old diction of Ostmark. At the end of World War II it was occuped by the winning armies, and the restoration of its sovereignty was attained only after the ratification of the Austrian treaty of peace, with the consequent pledge to definitive neutrality (Vienna, May 15, 1955). In spring 1994 a popular referendum ratified its assent to the European Community.