Just remember: When in Austria No matter how much German these people speak, DO NOT call them German! It’s time to learn Geography NOW!!! Hey peeps, I’m your host Paul Barbato.
Let’s dissect the flag. The flag is one of the oldest used flags of Europe. Disputably, legend as it that
the flag comes from the Siege of Acre after Leopold V came back from battle and removed his belt with his blood-soaked tunic leaving a red-white banner. Keep in mind that the Austrian flag looks very similar to the flag of Latvia however the Latvian flag has unequal sized band and is a darker shade of red. Keep in mind, many other countries in the eastern European region, specifically the pan-Slavic areas still retain a part or a complete version of the white/red pattern on their flags like Austria We’ll explain a little more about this but first Let’s talk about the borders In terms of its location, Austria is landlocked, bordered by 8 other countries (Don’t forget Liechtenstein!) in the central European region. With the Alps dominating three quarters of the country in the west and in the centre. The country is divided into 9 states Although it’s kinda funny because the state of Lower Austria is technically a little higher than Upper Austria geographically. The capital and the largest city is Vienna located on the eastern side of the country where 1 out of every 8 Austrians can be found. The city is a wonderful assimilation of centuries-old stone churches, palaces, opera houses, and monuments as well as modern highrises skyscrapers and business offices. Oh, and there’s dozens of castles speckled throughout the entire country Remember how in the Albania video, I told you to play that whole “find the bunker” game? Well in Austria it’s kind of like “find the castle” game. As a member of the EU, Austria’s borders are pretty open with all of its neighbours and are pretty much virtually invisible, with the exception of the occasional river or mountain blocking the way. The only controversy it really has is in the South Tyrol region which historically belonged to a number of different kingdoms and empires but for a long while it belonged to the House of Hapsburg a historically fascinating lineage that would eventually play a pivotal role in providing half of Europe with all of their monarchical lineages. In short, it kind of initially belonged to Austria. However, after the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1919 the entire southern part of this region was kind of reluctantly given to the kingdom of Italy. This explains why Austria has a relatively narrow eastern parameter that stretches into the Alps as the South Tyrol region, which previously gave the country a wider range of dominion, was ceded to Italy. Austria was kind of like, “Okay Italy” “we’ll give you this piece of land, but, you know… Just a little heads up” “pretty much everybody in there is Austrian and they speak German, and they… kind of want to be part of Austria.” “but hey… it’s all yours.” The most confusing part of the region though would have to be the Jungholz enclave. Located right on the border of the Bavarian region of southern Germany This place only has about 300 people, separated into four small towns. This area is strange, because it is one of Europe’s only three quadripoint borders and is technically joined by Austria by only a small narrow corridor only a few metres wide on the top of the adjacent Sorgschrofen Mountain that crosses over into the Austria side. Otherwise, the only way to get into Austria from this region is by driving through Germany. This means that if you don’t want to go through Germany to get into Austria from this region the only way is to literally climb to the top of Sorgschrofen Mountain to the very point where the four borders meet and climb all the way down to the rest of Austria. Since the 19th century, the borders have been literally marked every single step of the way and the top has a mark stone that distinguishes the narrow crossing. Believe it or not, this is actually a common hike that a lot of people take despite the fact that many of them don’t even understand the significance of the markers. Speaking of mountains and hikes, let’s talk about the physical geography! As mentioned before, about three quarters of Austria is mountainous with the Alps dominating the centre and western parts of the country. These mountains are the characterizing segments that give Austria its distinct national identity, both historically and culturally. In short even though the vast majority of people in Austria live in the low-lying plains around the mountains Austria would not be Austria without the Alps. These mountains can actually be quite quirky, almost with minds of their own. For example, every spring, in the Hochschwab Mountains and forests on the east side of the Alps the snow melt from the mountains completely and gorges the Grüner See, or the “Green Lake” engulfing the entire park with trees and benches underneath it. These mountains also provide the perfect setting for Austria’s favourite sport, skiing The problem though is that, although these mountains are very beautiful they do kinda make a lot of the country uninhabitable or difficult to cultivate. Although 40% of the land is covered in forests, less than 20% of the land is arable. And for the record YES, the Sound of Music was filmed in parts of Austria No, not everybody has seen or even cared about seeing that movie. Of course the mighty Danube river flows through the northern part of the country and has historically played a vital role in Austria’s economy and trade sector especially after the construction of the Rhine-Main-Danube river canal back in 1992 which allows ships to finally pass from the North Sea, through Europe, into the Balkans, and ending into the Black Sea. The low-laying areas of eastern Austria have nice grassy hills and plains perfect for cattle-raising and of course, dairy production where some of the classiest Austrian cheeses are produced. Now of course, Austria’s economy is not really that heavily based on agriculture but rather services and industry, specifically in engine and medication manufacturing. But who does all the manufacturing? Let’s find out in…Demographics! You know, as the home country of Mozart Austria still kinda lives up to its classy expectation. Austria has a population of about 8 and a half million about 90% of whom are ethnically Austrian, and 10% from other nations mostly from Germany, and the former Yugoslavian states such as Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia with an influx of Turkish people having immigrated over the past few decades. The reason why there are so many eastern Europeans in Austria has somewhat to do with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Hapsburg dynasty which was one of the most pivotal monarchies that shaped the entire course of European history in every corner from Spain to France, England to Russia, and so on. The Hapsburgs even took over Mexico for a short period of time That’s how powerful these people were. Yes, Austrians speak German. However Rule number 1: DO NOT call them German They’re kind of reluctant to even tell you that they speak German and will be very quick to point out that it’s Austrian-German, not German-German. The language has a very distinct vocabulary a lot of the words influenced from eastern European nation words and they also have their own standard dictionary set apart from the German and Swiss dictionaries. The dialects can change drastically in Austria. Sometimes it only takes about 40 kilometres travelling inward until you reach an area that has a completely different accent and don’t even get started on those Liechtensteiners. In contrast to Germans, Austrians like to define themselves as more soft-spoken and reserved. They don’t like to upset anybody and courtesy is very highly expected in this country Educational accomplishments and achievements are very highly prized in Austria. One thing Austrians do kind of obsess over though are titles. They prefer to be addressed by every title that they have obtained for themselves even if it equates to like fifteen titles. Mr. Dr. Chairman Vice CEO Chairman Otto von Schnitzelbachkrakengeschäftmeier(???) One thing that Austrians will tell you that they really like to do is just taking simple walks whether it’s just for an hour, to clear their head and in any weather, whether it’s great or whether it’s raining. They even have a word for it: “spazieren gehen” Don’t be surprised if an Austrian invites you to just go for a walk Go with it. They’re a little bit more conservative in their politics which can possibly be attributed to the growing elderly population However, the youth have always been known to ruffle up a few controversy feathers here and there. I mean, the winner of last year’s Eurovision contest was an Austrian drag queen with a beard. They keep things a little bit on the down low However, once every so often, one notable figure comes and shines through Like Christoph Waltz and everyone’s favourite bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger which, by the way, contrary to some stupid rumours NO, the last name Schwarzenegger does not have a racist connotation behind it it literally just means “the person from Schwarzen” Schwarzen meaning “black”, Egge(r) meaning “soil” “black soil” “fertile soil” It basically just means “the place of the fertile soil” The family is descended from a long line of prosperous farmers which is what the name refers to. CASE CLOSED Speaking of relationships, let’s talk about the Friend Zone. In the simplest way I can put this this is kind of what Austria’s relationships kinda look like: Now shut up and dance with me! Pretty much all of Austria’s best friends have some kind of a love-hate relationship with them but ehhh… love always wins in the end. It’s kinda crazy too because in the nicest, softest way I can put this: Austria did kind of start or influence both world wars. WWI with the attacks from the empire on Serbia after the Archduke was assassinated and WWII because well… I mean… Hitler was kind of born in Austria I mean… No Austria, no Hitler To this day Austria is incredibly neutral in their affairs and lies in a very interesting alliance limbo as they have neither joined NATO or the Warsaw Pact. But enough on that In regards to their eastern neighbours because of the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire Austria and many of the other central and Balkan states like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and so on have close ties to Austria even though historically they had lots of drama under the Hapsburg Dynasty but hey… It was either the Hapsburgs or the Ottomans and they HATED the Ottomans. In regards to Italy Italy has always been a huge trade partner but of course, like mentioned before the whole South Tyrol region thing kinda causes a little bit of tension They aren’t going to war or anything but Austria is kinda like “Look, Italy, I mean… C’mon” “Everybody there is Austrian” In terms of their best friends Austria would kind of reluctantly say Germany but more specifically Bavaria, the region of south Germany. Bavarians and Austrians are very similar in their culture and traditions. Some Austrians will tell you that because they get along so well Bavaria is said to be the 10th Bundesland or “state” of Austria. although Bavaria alone has more inhabitants that the whole of Austria. You know all that stereotypical lederhosen and dirndl costume stuff that you see on all those Oktoberfest commercials? Yeah, that’s kind of what you would attribute to Bavarian and somewhat Austrian culture But they only do that on special occasions. I mean… if it was up to me I would wear that stuff 24/7 but hey… to each his own. In conclusion Austria is kind of like the country that secretly changed the entire course of all of European history right under our noses without us even knowing about it. Here’s one more picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger And get ready, because Azerbaijan is coming up next.