192-Part Guide To The World: Austria

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The Independent Travel

Official name: Republic of Austria

Official name: Republic of Austria

Population: 8.1 million

Size: 32,370 square miles. About three times larger than Belgium.

Environment: Two-thirds of the country is mountainous, and the peaks of several of the central Alps (the highest peaks in Austria) are capped by glaciers. The Danube Valley, meanwhile, is highly fertile, allowing Austria to grow 90 per cent of its food.

Best monument: The buildings and gardens of Schloss Schonbrunn, just outside Vienna, are seen by most Austrians as their national treasure. One of the castle's 1,440 rooms is the Mirror Room where a certain child prodigy (see below) gave his first royal concert.

Most famous citizens: Candidates range from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose symphonies and operas transformed classical music and gave Austria a substantial part of its cultural heritage, to Adolf Hitler.

National dish: As long as you are eating lots of meat you cannot be far wrong. And whether you're still hungry or not after your Wiener Schnitzel, the Sachertorte, named after the Sacher Hotel in Vienna, is mandatory.

Best moment in history: In the 19th and early 20th century, Austria was politically weak but enjoyed a brilliant cultural life. Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler and Schoenberg made music; Klimt and Schiele painted; Freud thought about the mysteries of the human psyche. Meanwhile, the state rotted away.

Worst moment in history: On 28 June 1914, the Austrian Emperor's nephew and heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo. A month later the Austro-Hungarian Empire had embarked on a war which lead to its destruction.

Essential accessory: A very large pair of lederhosen (for all that Schnitzel and Sachertorte).

How not to behave: Avoid making offensive sausage jokes when confronted with the ubiquitous and beloved wurst. The Austrians have heard them all.

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