Saturday, June 16, 2012


As a musician and music theory enthusiast, Austria for me represents one of the Meccas of the music world. Home of some of the world’s most talented (genius, if you will) composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and Strauss, Vienna itself has become a center for serious musicians to learn their craft. Even German-born Beethoven spent many years in Vienna. Thousands of students traveled with the last of their family’s money to try for the chance to learn with best.

This landlocked country located in the heart of the Alps surrounds itself with Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the tiny country of Liechtenstein.  Slightly smaller than the US state of Maine, it does boast about 8.2 million people there (about the same as the entire population of New York City). The renowned Danube River is a major river that runs through Austria and Vienna. In fact, you might know a little piece by Johann Strauss II called “The Blue Danube.”

Like their neighbor Germany, Austrians speak German, making it only one of six countries whose official and working language is German (eleven other countries list German as a national or minority language spoken). Along certain border states in Austria, you’ll find other languages spoken as well.

More than a quarter of Austria’s population resides in the capital city of Vienna and its surrounding areas. It’s sometimes referred to as the “City of Dreams” in homage to one of its more famous residents, Dr. Sigmund Freud, whose dream analyses was an integral part of his research and was what put him on the map, so to speak.

Vienna and Austria as a whole enjoys a very high quality of life, and that’s evident through a number of independent studies. Low maternal death rate, low infant mortality, fairly high expenditure on health care, access to doctors, generally low unemployment, and low percentage of obesity among adults (at 11%, compared with almost 34% in the US!) are all factors that help determine that status.

Austria’s culture seems to be mainly influenced by two cultures: its proximity to German culture and its historical ties with Hungarian culture, among others. As we explore the culture and cuisine of Austria, you’ll be able to pick out the bits of history and influences that have been retained as if it were poured through a colander. So, grab some coffee (and one for me: I like mine with soy milk and one sugar, please) and read on.

Up next: Holidays and Celebrations

CIA Factbook: Austria
Wikipedia: “Austria” “Vienna” “Danube River” “The Blue Danube”

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