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Austria is a landlocked country of roughly 8.47 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,855 square kilometres (32,377 sq mi) and has a temperate and alpine climate.
The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty when the vast majority of the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria became one of the great powers of Europe and, in response to the coronation of Napoleon I as the Emperor of the French, the Austrian Empire was officially proclaimed in 1804. In 1867, the empire was reformed into Austria-Hungary. The German name for Austria, Österreich, means "eastern kingdom".
As a federal republic , Austria is divided into nine states ( German : Bundesländer ). These states are then divided into districts ( Bezirke ) and statutory cities ( Statutarstädte ). Districts are subdivided into municipalities ( Gemeinden ). Statutory Cities have the competencies otherwise granted to both districts and municipalities. The states are not mere administrative divisions but have some legislative authority distinct from the federal government, eg in matters of culture, social care, youth and nature protection, hunting, building, and zoning ordinances. In recent years, it has been discussed whether today it is appropriate for a small country to maintain ten parliaments.
Austria is a largely mountainous country due to its location in the Alps . The Central Eastern Alps , Northern Limestone Alps and Southern Limestone Alps are all partly in Austria. Of the total area of Austria (84,000 km 2 or 32,433 sq mi), only about a quarter can be considered low lying, and only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft). The Alps of western Austria give way somewhat into low lands and plains in the eastern part of the country.
The greater part of Austria lies in the cool/temperate climate zone in which humid westerly winds predominate. With nearly three-fourths of the country dominated by the Alps, the alpine climate is predominant. In the east—in the Pannonian Plain and along the Danube valley —the climate shows continental features with less rain than the alpine areas. Although Austria is cold in the winter (−10 – 0 ° C ), summer temperatures can be relatively warm, ] with average temperatures in the mid-20s and a highest temperature of 39.7 °C (103.5 °F) .
In Austria, the euro was introduced as an accounting currency on 1 January 1999, and euro coins and banknotes entered circulation on 1 January 2002. As a preparation for this date, the minting of the new euro coins started as early as 1999, however all Austrian euro coins introduced in 2002 have this year on it; unlike other countries of the Eurozone where mint year is minted in the coin. Eight different designs, one per face value, were selected for the Austrian coins. In 2007, to adopt the new common map like the rest of the Eurozone countries, Austria changed the common side of its coins.
Austria's population estimate in April 2011 was 8,414,638. The population of the capital, Vienna , exceeds 1.7 million (2.2 million including the suburbs), representing about a quarter of the country's population. It is known for its vast cultural offerings and high standard of living.
German is Austria's official language and is spoken natively by 88.6% of the population—followed by Turkish (2.3%), Serbian (2.1%), Croatian (1.6%), Hungarian (0.5%), Polish (0.5%) and Bosnian (0.5%).
At the end of the 20th century, about 74% of Austria's population were registered as Roman Catholic, while about 5% considered themselves Protestants. Austrian Christians are obliged to pay a mandatory membership fee (calculated by income—about 1%) to their church; this payment is called "Kirchenbeitrag" ("Ecclesiastical/Church contribution").
Education in Austria is entrusted partly to the Austrian states (Bundesländer) and partly to the federal government. School attendance is compulsory for nine years, i.e. usually to the age of fifteen.
A ustria's past as a European power and its cultural environment have generated a broad contribution to various forms of art, most notably among them music. Austria has been the birthplace of many famous composers such as Joseph Haydn, Michael Haydn, Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, Anton Bruckner, Johann Strauss, Sr. and Johann Strauss, Jr. as well as members of the Second Viennese School such as Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern and Alban Berg. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, then an independent Church Principality of the Holy Roman Empire, though one that was culturally closely connected to Austria, and much of Mozart's career was spent in Vienna. Vienna has long been especially an important centre of musical innovation.
Among Austrian Artists and architects one can find the painters Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Rudolf von Alt, Hans Makart, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, Carl Moll, and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the photographers Inge Morath and Ernst Haas, and architects like Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, and Hans Hollein (recipient of the 1985 Pritzker Architecture Prize).
Austria was the cradle of numerous scientists with international reputation. Among them are Ludwig Boltzmann, Ernst Mach, Victor Franz Hess and Christian Doppler, prominent scientists in the 19th century. In the 20th century, contributions by Lise Meitner, Erwin Schrödinger and Wolfgang Pauli to nuclear research and quantum mechanics were key to these areas' development during the 1920s and 1930s. A present-day quantum physicist is Anton Zeilinger, noted as the first scientist to demonstrate quantum teleportation.
Austria's cuisine is derived from that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austrian cuisine is mainly the tradition of Royal-Cuisine ("Hofküche") delivered over centuries. It is famous for its well-balanced variations of beef and pork and countless variations of vegetables. There is also the "Mehlspeisen" Bakery, which created particular delicacies such as Sachertorte, "Krapfen" which are doughnuts usually filled with apricot jam or custard, and "Strudel" such as "Apfelstrudel" filled with apple, "Topfenstrudel" filled with a type of cheese curd called "topfen", and "Millirahmstrudel" (milk-cream strudel).
Due to the mountainous terrain, alpine skiing is a prominent sport in Austria. Similar sports such as snowboarding or ski-jumping are also widely popular and Austrian athletes such as Annemarie Moser-Pröll, Franz Klammer, Hermann Maier, Toni Sailer, Benjamin Raich and Marlies Schild are widely regarded as some of the greatest alpine skiers of all time.