Austrian village Ehrwald © Octagon
Landlocked in the heart of Europe, Austria runs from the Alps in the west down to Vienna and the Danube in the east. For six centuries it was the heart of the mighty Hapsburg Empire, which at its peak included what is now Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic along with much of Romania, Bulgaria and the Balkans. The country's imperial inheritance is particularly striking in the grand buildings and cultural institutions of the Baroque-flavoured capital, Vienna, resplendent with palaces and captivating churches, cosy coffeehouses and inns, and grand ballrooms where Strauss waltzes still draw dancers onto the floor.
Another of the great classical composers spawned by Austria was Mozart, born in Salzburg, a beautiful historic city where stunning Baroque churches rise up against the backdrop of the Austrian Alps. The Alps stretch west to Switzerland and in winter skiers come from all continents to carve the slopes and experience the charm of the alpine villages and their welcoming inhabitants.
The appeal of Austria may lie in its preservation of a romantic classical past, but this does not mean modern Austria has stood back from development. Behind the stunning scenery and antique architecture a vibrant industrial and commercial society goes about its business in the cities and towns. Austrians work hard, but they also know how to play hard. Austrian hospitality and cuisine are legendary. From a cruise on the magnificent Danube River to a cycle tour through the Alpine meadows, or a breathtaking day's sightseeing in busy Vienna, visitors to Austria find it impossible to fit in a dull moment.