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Once a powerful empire and later an occupied land, Austria now sits at the heart of Central Europe as a neutral state that shares borders with the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
Originally settled by Celts and later conquered by Romans and Charlemagne, Austria arrived on the world stage when its Habsburg family rose to power, a dynasty that ruled much of Europe for six centuries. Evidence of its proud Imperial past can still be seen in its capital, Vienna, a city showcasing the Old World charm that has for centuries helped it stand out—even in the company of other great European cities. This is a city of museums and music, art and architecture, and notable names from a storied past. Here, you can walk the same streets Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Freud strolled while conducting their daily business. Once the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna came to symbolize the splendor of an age, and its Baroque palaces and avenues, lined with architectural standouts, still exude a sense of enduring Imperial elegance and dignity.
Following the events of World War I, however, the Austrian empire was reduced a smaller republic. During World War II, it was annexed by Germany and later controlled by the Allies. The period of occupation ended in 1955, when the Austrian State Treaty recognized its independence and declared its permanent neutrality. Today, Austria is home to international organizations and continues to thrive as a meeting point between east and west.