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Austria

Austria, that is the fertile Danube Valley and the Alpine valleys, were already settled in the Paleolithic Age (until approx. 8000 BC). Around 400 BC, Celtic peoples from Western Europe settled in the eastern Alps. A Celtic state, Noricum, developed around the region's ironworks in the second century BC. From the 7th century BC onwards one of the main regions of Celtic occupation was in modern-day Austria, centered around Hallstatt, a large prehistoric salt-mining area. The Hallstatt period, 750 - c.450 BC, is named after this region. The Romans arrived 200 BC and by 15 BC they dominated the entire area. The most important Roman settlement in Austria was Carnuntum (capital of the Roman province of Pannonia in today’s Lower Austria) which became the center of the Roman fortifications along the Danube. Today there is an interesting Archeology Park with a museum and an amphitheater.

During the beginning of 21st Century Austrian State Treaty was ratified, with Austria declaring its permanent neutrality. Thanks to its location near the “Iron Curtain”, Austria soon developed into a nerve center between the West and the East. After the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the 1968 Prague Spring Invasion, Austria grants asylum to the refugees. Austria is also host country of many international organizations (UNO, OPEC) as well as host of many important conference and summit meetings. The Iron Curtain fell in 1989/90; in 1995 Austria becomes a member of the European Union.

Vienna

Vienna is among the least spoiled of the great old western European capitals. Its central core, the Innere Stadt, is easily manageable by foot and public transportation. In a city renowned for its architecture, many of Vienna’s urban prospects remain basically those devised over several centuries by imperial gardeners and architects. The skyline is still dominated by the spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and by the giant Ferris wheel in the city’s chief park, the Prater. The city suffered heavy damage in the last months of World War II, and much rebuilding was done after the war. Nevertheless, the character of Vienna as a whole remains much the same as in the years before 1914.

Innsbruck

When you first discover Innsbruck, you might wonder why you didn’t visit sooner. After all, this city offers a unique combination: You can stroll its streets full of imperial elegance and beautiful Baroque and Gothic architecture in the Old Town, maybe even discover one of the hip districts such as Mariahilf and St. Nikolaus where Innsbruck’s uni students like to meet for a beer or cocktail. And then, you can take a cable car from the city centre and be at 2,000 m in just 20 minutes.

Salzburg

There’s more to Austria’s forth-largest city than Mozart and the Sound of Music. Yet, while a lot of the things to do in Salzburg focus on these themes, it is first and foremost a musical metropolis, even if this is not your sole purpose for visiting. Salzburg’s streets are filled with buskers, opera singers and all manner of harmonic performers, continuing to fill with melody a city that bore one of the greatest composers of all time. Annually the city plays hosts to over 4,000 cultural events, including the internationally renowned Salzburg Festival. In-between, die-hard fans of the Sound of Music seek out the film’s famous film scenes, just as I did, and winter in Salzburg sees people come to visit the origins of the Silent Night Christmas Carol.

It’s no wonder Salzburg takes the tagline “Stage of the World”. That’s a lot of performance to pack into a compact city.