Travel Tale No. 11 - Vol. 2 - Austria -
The Strawberry on the Cake
Needless to say, I
simply had to see this tiny country full of delightful music, wondrous art and
fairyland scenery. It reminded me of a strawberry on top of a chocolate cake.
It is de rigueur for all romantics! Although Austria is a small country, its
history as a European power and its cultural environment have contributed
greatly to art, music, architecture and science throughout the years. I can't
think of it without hearing beautiful Viennese waltzes floating through the
halls of the Schonbrunn Palace with its 1500 rooms. It has offered the world
numerous famous composers such as: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn,
Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss, Sr., Johann Strauss, Jr., Gustav Mahler, as
well as the Second Viennese School: Arnold Schonberg, (who was greatly
influenced by Richard Wagner's late romantic music.) In 1842, Otto Nicolair of
the Imperial Opera House, announced the creation of the Vienna Philharmonic.
During this period, a division of music
into popular compositions began. The line was not drawn clearly, with
composers like Schubert, Johann Strauss, and Jose Lanner, writing for both
serious and popular music. Other famous musicians who also lived there: Anton
Webern, Alban Berg, and Ludwig van Beethoven (who spent the better part of his
life in Vienna.) But of them all, Strauss became the most popular composer of
that era. Try to catch a concert in the Mozart House, or the State Opera,
Golden Hall, Hofburg and Konzerthaus.
Nowadays, there is a genre of punk rock
(Alpine punk) from the Alpine regions of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The
Austrian band Attwenger had some minor success with some albums. Yodeling (a
form of throat singing) called "juchizn" for yelling across the mountains, got
its start there then spread to Bavaria, Switzerland, and even the USA, where
Roy Rogers, the famous cowboy, sang yodelling softly in his movies. Talking
about horses, do not miss the famous Lipizzans, which are Europe's oldest
breed, at the Spanish Riding School in the Winter Riding School hall, located
in Vienna's Imperial Hofburg Palace.
Arthur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig, Thomas Bernhard, Robert Musil, Georg Trakl,
Franz Wefel, Franz Grillparzer, Rainer Maria Rilke, Adabert Stifter, Karl
Kraus, Elriede Jelinek, and Peter Handke, called Austria their home. Other
artists from that country: painters Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon
Schiele, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and Otto Wagner. Austria also gave us
Sigmund Freud, and other psychologists: Alfred Adler, Paul Watzlawick, Hans
Asperger, and Viktor Frankl.
This country has a rich and long history, starting as a territory originally
known as the Celtic kingdom of Noricum, and an ally of Rome. It was occupied
by the Romans during the reign of Augustus and made the province of Noricum in
16 BC. Later it was conquered by the Huns, Rugii, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Slavs,
Bavarii, Avars and Franks. Finally, after 48 years of Hungarian rule, the
territory of Austria was awarded to Leopold of Babenberg in 976, after the
revolt of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria.
Being part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Babenbergs ruled and expanded Austria
form the 10th to the 13th century.
After Frederick II, Duke of Austria died in 1246 and left no successor;
Rudolph I of Habsburg gave the lands to his sons, marking the start of the
line of the Habsburgs, who continued to govern Austria until the 20th century.
Austria became part of Germany in 1938 through the Anschluss and remained
under Nazi rule until the end of WWII. Afterwards, the Allies occupied Austria
until 1955, when it became an independent (neutral) republic. It became a
member of the UN in the same year. With the collapse of Communism in Eastern
Europe, Austria joined the EU, adopting the Euro monetary system in 1999.
Due to its location in the Alps, it is a large mountainous country, divided
into five different areas. The capital is Vienna with over 1.6 million people.
The German name "Osterreich" can be translated into English as "eastern
empire," which is derived from the Old German "Ostarrichi," but was
incorrectly translated into Latin as "Austria." Pure, correct German is spoken
in Austria. It has a well-developed social market economy and a high standard
of living. Until the 1980s, many of its largest industrial firms were
nationalized, although privatization has reduced state holdings. Labor
movements are strong in this country. Austria has always been strongly
influenced by Catholicism.
The Bristol Hotel next to the Vienna State Opera is a wonderful meeting place
for an evening drink to discuss the performance.