But Austria isn’t just the Alps. At the point where the country’s fertile lowland plains and agricultural heartland begins, the landscape is filled with endless palaces and castles, crumbling monasteries and historic old towns.
The Danube, one of Europe’s greatest and longest rivers, joins some of the continent’s most beautiful and opulent cities. Vienna, Graz, and Linz are all brimming with historic architecture that spans the ages: Medieval gothic, Baroque, renaissance and more, all unfolding through rambling palatial complexes, great courtyards and arches, vaulted Cathedrals, and verdant, flower-filled gardens. All are monuments to the staggering wealth of the House of Habsburg - a powerful Austrian dynasty who supplied a long line of Holy Roman Emperors and transformed the nation into a sublime house of culture.
Throughout Austria’s cities, world class museums and art galleries invite reflection on centuries of European thought, aesthetics, philosophy, and intellectual development – Austria boasts achievements in economics and music especially. Choirs and orchestras sound through the ancient streets and quarters, especially at Christmas time, a deeply evocative and festive period.
On the nation’s list of illustrious sons, you’ll find Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Strauss, and Schubert. With names like these, there might be a tendency for backward-looking nostalgia, but if anything, Austrians are pragmatic and forward-looking. The industrial city of Graz blends art and technology in a cutting edge electronic art festival each year, pushing the boundaries of artistic form. With or without its solid heritage, Austria is likely to play a vital role in European culture for some time yet.