Why are Vorarlberg and Tirol part of Austria, when they are only connected to it by high mountains?

Why are Vorarlberg and Tirol part of Austria, when they are only connected to it by high mountains?

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The western lands of Vorarlberg and Tirol are part of Austria, but they are only connected to Austria by mountainous pass which is not very practicable (Tirol and Vorarlberg among themselves are also themselves connected only through such a pass). Including the nowadays Italian South-Tirol in the equation doesn't change this fact, either.

The simplest/fastest way to reach mainland Austria from Vorarlberg is to go north and through Bavaria. From Tirol the simplest way is also to follow the Inn and to go right through Bavaria.

Both Austria and Bavaria are very old countries, and when they formed in the Middle-Ages, it was definitely not practical to go all the way to the mountains to carry messages, transport goods and troops from mainland Austria to it's western parts. So I do not understand why those western lands could be part of Austria, especially back then when transport and communication was much more difficult than today.

Because the House of Austria became Counts of Tyrol, and later acquired Vorarlberg. When feudalism gave way to modern states, these territories fused into Austria as we know it today.

The thing is, borders are the way they are because of history. You cannot infer geopolitical divisions from only geography, and then act astonished that reality isn't identical to inside the ivory bubble. Borders do not emerge in a vacuum; wars happen and diplomacy is messy.

Besides, both Austria and Bavaria were part of Germany when "they formed in the Middle Ages". Why would it matter whether or not it was practical to go in one direction or the other, when both are part of the same country?

Though, Tyrol was actually attached to Bavaria before it fell under Habsburg rule. For illustration, see the following map:

First of all there are more than 1000 years of history you have to know and then you understand maybe a small part :-). But let's begin. The roots for the house Habsburg are in Switzerland. The rise and fall of the empire especially the House Habsburg is well known, otherwise use the link for further reading.

The answer why Vorarlberg is not part of Switzerland or Germany is answered in two ways.

First: There is history over 1000 years and according to the rise of the house Habsburg they have been connected mostly together.

Second: After the fall of the monarchy there was a plebiscite about the issue to join Switzerland. This was accepted by the polulation but refused by the Swiss government. Before WW2 there was the so called “Anschluss” to Germany. And after WW2, French troops secured Tyrol and Voralberg. After the war there have never been thoughts about to independence from Austria. That's the simple/complex answer.

National borders are not defined by geography. They are not even defined by ethnic and cultural boundaries. If that was the case, we probably would have much less wars ongoing. National borders are defined by politics and history. In case of Tirol (Tyrol) and Vorarlberg, the whole Tirolean region (larger than what is today Tirol and Vorarlberg) belonged a long time to the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages, specifically to the Austrian Habsburgers and Babenbergers who ruled the core lands of what is today Austria.

Over the time, the Austrian nation, later Austro-Hungarian-Empire and a smaller Austrian nation again consolidated into what is todays Austrian Second Republic. That Republic was formed by the Winners of World War One who even took part of Tyrol from them and gave it to Italy where it still remains today (Southern-Tyrol). Northern and Eastern Tyrol mainly remained for Austria because the people there were more Germanic than Italic and also because the Winners of World War One wanted to prevent a shared border between Germany and Italy.

Vorarlberg and Tyrol were part of what used to be called Further Austria. This extended from today's western Austria, across parts of modern Switzerland around Lake Constance, and Swabia in southwest Germany, past the Rhine.

The land that later became "Further Austria" was connected to Bavaria until Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa awarded Bavaria "proper" to Henry the Lion. The ruler of "Further Austria" received "modern" Austria as compensation, became Duke Henry of Austria, and moved his capital to Vienna, but held both modern and "further" Austria. Even though there were several changes of control in the later centuries, the two parts of Austria "traveled" together.

"Germany" (individual states actually) and Switzerland gobbled up most of Further Austria, except Vorarlberg and Tirol, because they were so mountainous. These two provinces "elected" to stay with Austria (even in modern times, when there were plebescites regarding whether they should join Switzerland). In the end, they stayed part of Austria because they wanted to, and others could not "force" them to do otherwise. This was true even though it might have been easier or more convenient to ship goods across Germany or Switzerland. But it must be said that these two provinces are today the most prosperous parts of Austria.

Summer Adventure in Vorarlberg – Things to do in Bregenzerwald

Latest Travel Update (May/2021): Bregenzerwald and all Vorarlberg region will be open for European tourists as of May 19th. So if you are planning to visit this incredible region, click here to read the official information about safety measures, who can travel to Austria, what is open, and how you can have fun.

The landscape and the mountains are so beautiful that don’t look real. I knew the Alpine region of Austria has gorgeous nature, but I wasn’t prepared for such a stunning place. We spend a week this summer in Vorarlberg and I wish we could have stayed a bit more. There are so many things to do in Vorarlberg in summer time, that one could spend the whole season there. If like us, you love a good adventure and outdoor activities, here is the best guide to summer in Vorarlberg, things to do Bregenzerwald and a lot of adrenaline.

Austria is a famous for winter sports. The peaks all covered in powder snow and the resorts full of travelers seeking adventure and fun. But don’t be a fool thinking that Austria is only worth a visit during winter time. Summer in Austria is stunning, packed with things to do and adventure, especially in Vorarlberg. The smallest province in Austria, bordering Switzerland, Germany and Liechtenstein has outstanding nature, great outdoor activities, first-class hotels and restaurants.

Vorarlberg is divided into 6 small regions, we visited two: Bregenzerwald and Lech Zürs am Arlberg, tw o ski regions that are also summer wonderlands. Our guide to summer in Vorarlberg is all about the tops things to do in Bregenzerwald region, hotels recommendations, how to getting around with public transportation, delicious mountain food and incredible adventure.

Ohh, and I almost forgot to tell you, summer in Vorarlberg also means less tourists and cheaper hotels. One more reason to travel to Vorarlberg next summer.


Austria, located in the European heartland, lies within a temperate climatic zone. Austria’s landscapes include major and minor mountain ranges, hills and plains.

Weather conditions vary only slightly across the country, the lowland regions in the north and east have more continental influenced conditions with colder winters and hotter summers with moderate precipitation throughout the year. The southeastern areas of Austria have longer and warmer, almost Mediterranean-like summers.

In the western part of the country the influence of the temperate Atlantic climate is felt more strongly. Consequently, this part is subject to less extreme weather conditions winters are usually mild and summers rather warm. The west is also characterized by high precipitation. The diversity of topographical and climatic conditions results in a very versatile flora and fauna.

The geographic features in the more mountainous regions of the country have given rise to yet another climate zone, the Alpine climate, which causes winters to be colder than at lower altitudes. Temperatures depend largely on altitude, with averages 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) lower for each additional 985 ft (300 m) of elevation. The country’s highest mountain is the Grossglockner (3,797m or 12,457 ft). Be aware that whatever the season, if you're at a high altitude, the weather can change quickly and dramatically.

The coldest month in Austria is usually January. The winter snow cover lasts from late December through March in the valleys, from November through May at about 5,905 ft or 1,800 m, and becomes in many years permanent above about 8,202 ft or 2,500 m. Temperatures begin to rise again in February. In March, temperatures may rise up to 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). Summers can be hot, with temperatures sometimes reaching 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) or more (maximum temperatures revolve around around 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celsius in July). Summer evenings are usually cool.

Precipitation is quite evenly distributed over the entire year. However, the months May, September and the first half of October tend to be the driest April and November tend to be the wettest periods.

Again, altitude determines the precipitation pattern while high-level areas in the Alps may have a high average rainfall in excess of 2000 mm per year, while some regions in the flatlands of Austria have only 600 mm annually. From June through August, rain usually comes in the form of sometimes heavy thunderstorms, these storms can bring heavy hail and snowfall in the mountainous regions of the Alps, even in summer.

Required clothing
Lightweights with rainwear for summer, waterproof Medium- to Heavyweights for winter. A sweater is necessary almost any time of year.

Koeppen-Geiger Classification
The climate of Austria can be classified as Cfb Climate a warm temperated humid climate with the warmest month lower than 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) over average and four or more months above 50 (10 degrees Celsius) over average. The climate of the Mountainous Regions of Austria can be classified as Dfb Climate a humid snow climate with the warmest month between 50 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (10 – 22 degrees Celsius), the coldest month below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius) and at last four or more months above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).


Capital City: Eisenstadt
Population: 286,215
Land surface area: 1,529.66 sq mi
Agricultural area: 188,063 hectares

Burgenland, which is Austria’s youngest federal state, has a longstanding tradition of viniculture. White wine and red wine are equally cultivated. The balanced “Welschriesling” is one of the main types of white wine grown in Burgenland and is popular both in expensive and more affordable versions. Apart from that you can find for example Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, or also Grüne Veltliner. The middle part of Burgenland is especially well-known for the Blaufränkisch, a red wine, which is cultivated on 104,131 mi2. This dry and full-bodied wine often ripens in barrique barrels and is, for example, enjoyed with rich meat dishes. The Zweigelt, which is lighter in taste, is Austria’s most-cultivated red wine and also very common to Burgenland. It is often served with poultry- or pasta dishes.


The rather dry and warm Pannonia climate also offers great conditions for the growing of different kinds of cereal. Das “Mittelburgenland” (Middle Burgenland) is especially recognized for its spelt, which is used for different kinds of bread, cakes and even beer.

The Neudsiedler Lake, which was designated as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 2001, is the biggest lake in Burgenland and even reaches across the border to Hungary. The shallow lake is famous for being a popular holiday destination for Austrians in the summer, during which different sports like swimming, windsurfing or wakeboarding can be enjoyed. It is, moreover, also famous for its delicious fish and, hence, fishing has a long tradition for the inhabitants of the region. Since the shallow water can get quite warm during the summer months, species like the delicious Zander are quite common. Eels, pikes, and carps can be found as well.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Austrian cooking is one of the most varied in Europe and includes German, Hungarian, Czech, and northern Italian influences.

A typical Austrian's day begins with a light breakfast of coffee or milk with bread and butter or jam. Sausage served with mustard on a hard roll is a typical midmorning snack. Lunch is usually the main meal of the day and consists of soup and a main course of meat—sausage, the widely popular Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal), chicken, beef, pork or fish. Fresh vegetables, dumplings, noodles, or potatoes often accompany the main course. A salad may conclude the meal.

Austrian city dwellers often take a midafternoon coffee break at a national institution, the coffeehouse. Part of the Austrian way of life, the coffeehouse serves as a meeting place and a source for breakfast or a snack or light lunch. Most coffee-houses, which usually also serve alcohol, have their own distinctive atmosphere. The evening meal usually consists of light fare, perhaps cold meats, cheese, or smoked fish with bread and wine or beer.

Basic Economy. Before World War II, Austrian farmers produced 72 percent of the nation's food requirements. With wider use of commercial fertilizers, mechanization, and scientific methods, they steadily increased that percentage to 90 by the mid-1990s, even though less than 20 percent of the land is suitable for farming. Major crops are wheat and other grains, sugar beets, and potatoes. Austria also grows a variety of other vegetables and fruits, as well as grapes for making wine. Most farmers breed pigs, sheep, and dairy cattle, from which they obtain meat, wool, milk, cheese, and butter.

With increased mechanization, the number of people employed in agriculture decreased, and by the mid-1990s about 7 percent of the population held agricultural jobs. Most farms are small and are owned and operated by families. Many farm families supplement their income by renting out rooms or serving as tour guides or ski instructors.

Austria produces some petroleum and natural gas to meet its own needs, and it also mines coal, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, antimony, and graphite, used in industry. Its rivers are harnessed to produce hydroelectric energy that provides a substantial portion of the nation's energy needs, with a surplus to export to neighboring countries. Abundant forests provide materials for lumber, paper products, and fuel. Conservation has helped protect farmland from landslides and erosion.

Austria's basic unit of currency is the schilling. Banking and finance are also an important part of the economy.

Land Tenure and Property. Austria's urban property market is weak, with many people renting rather than buying housing. Most farms are less than fifty acres (twenty hectares) nearly half are about twelve acres (five hectares) or less. About 70 percent of Austria's forest lands are privately held, with the remainder owned by the federal and provincial governments and by the Roman Catholic Church. Inherited wealth is more highly respected than earned wealth.

Commercial Activities. Austria is highly industrialized, but expert craftsmanship is also valued and can be found in products such as leather goods, pottery, jewelry, woodcarvings, and blown glass.

Major Industries. Manufacturing is the strongest sector of the Austrian economy, accounting for one-third of the workforce and about 40 percent of the gross domestic product. Iron ore is Austria's most important mineral resource, and metal and metal products, especially iron and steel, lead the manufacturing sector. Major products include motor vehicles, locomotives, heavy machinery and equipment, customized electronics, and tools. Other principal manufactured goods include chemicals, petroleum, graphite, wood and paper products, textiles, tobacco products, beverages, and processed foods.

Trade. Germany is Austria's principal trading partner, with Austria importing crude oil, machinery and equipment, chemical and manufacturing products, pharmaceuticals, and some foods. Austria's major exports are machinery and equipment, electronics, paper products, clothing and textiles, metals, and transportation equipment. Austria joined the European Union (EU) in 1995. It also conducts wide-ranging foreign trade with Italy, Switzerland, and other EU countries, as well as the United States, Japan, and other Asian countries.

Division of Labor. Craftsmen serve as apprentices for several years before becoming journeymen and, finally, master craftsmen. Farming is done mainly by families who own the land. Immigrants from a number of nations are employed as unskilled labor and service industry workers. Professional, white collar, factory, and government jobs are held mainly by native Austrians.

High levels of calcium, magnesium, and sulphate: the quality of the mountain water from the Styrian-Lower Austrian Alps is equal quality to that of still mineral water.

Complimentary Tap Water in the Coffeehouse and Restaurants

"A Glass of Water, Please, Waiter!"

It wasn’t long ago that ordering tap water was frowned upon in restaurants. Frowned upon by the landlords, who were perhaps rightly concerned about their turnover. The coffeehouse tradition of a reliable supply of a glass of water is quite different: no Kleiner Brauner, Melange or Häferlkaffee is served without the obligatory glass of water on a silver tray. A delightful little service that is upheld first and foremost in Vienna – and wherever Viennese mountain spring water is particularly valued.

In the meantime, the majority of Austrian gastronomy has made peace with the desire for tap water. Most guests realise that water cannot be your only order once seated. And many hosts consider it a courteous gesture, placing the water jug on the table without being asked. Hospitality – perhaps it was invented in Austria after all.

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

Vienna’s Refreshing Fountain World

The excellent mountain spring water does not just gush from Vienna’s water pipes, but also from around 55 monumental and memorial fountains that the city maintains. The elaborate, historical water dispensers tell stories, offer a refreshing spray, and usually also a place to take a break. Reason enough to go on one or the other fountain tour.

Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna

Austria’s Rail Transport

AN ELECTRIC EXPRESS LOCOMOTIVE on the Austrian Federal lines. The engine, 1670 class, has independent axle drive, and the wheel arrangement is 2- 8- 2. The railway uses single- phase alternating current of 16 cycles, 15,000 volts at the contact line. There are at present 215 electric locomotives in operation on the Austrian Federal Railways.

BECAUSE of its geographical position in the heart of Europe, Austria has always been of importance as a stage on the line of through traffic between northern and southern Europe, and as the gateway to the Near East.

After the collapse and subsequent partition of the former Austro- Hungarian Empire, Austria was severed from its most prosperous industrial areas. The railway system of the country, deprived of many of its most remunerative sections, was left mainly with mountainous lines bearing comparatively little traffic, and costing much to maintain and operate.

Nevertheless, several important expresses still pass through Austria. Among these are the “Orient Express”, from Calais and from Paris, and the “Ostend- Vienna- Orient Express”, from Ostend and from Amsterdam to Vienna. Budapest, Bucharest. Belgrade, Sofia, and Istanbul (Constantinople). There is also the “Arlberg- Orient Express”, which runs from Calais and from Paris to Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, and Belgrade, where it joins the “Simplon- Orient Express” for Athens, The time from London to Vienna by the “Arlberg- Orient Express”, which enters Austria from Switzerland by the frontier station of Buchs, is twenty- eight and a half hours. The other expresses, which have traversed Germany, and take two hours less to reach Vienna, enter on the north the “Orient Express” via Salzburg, and the “Ostend- Vienna- Orient Express” via Passau.

The route of the “Arlberg- Qrient Express” is said to be the most picturesque in Europe. From the crossing of the Swiss frontier at Buchs, through Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Linz to Vienna, there is a succession of wonderful views of mountain, valley, and stream, of snow- covered peaks and glacier formations. The needle spires of the Tirolese churches, which seem to dominate the tiny villages in the valleys far below, gradually give place to an Oriental type of spire as Vienna is approached, showing even to- day the influence of the Turkish invasion of this part of Europe centuries ago.

The beauty of Austria’s scenery and the fame of its healing waters attract visitors in large numbers, and the country’s greatest industry to- day is its tourist traffic. Nowhere, except perhaps in Switzerland, is there a land so adapted for holidays of a new and inviting character. A highland country in the true sense of the word, Austria possesses some of the most magnificent scenery in the Alps.

It was the writer’s privilege recently to travel over the western lines in a special train to which was attached an open observation car. From this car it was easy to appreciate the immensity of the task which faced the railway engineers when constructing the line over the Arlberg Pass, tunnelling their way through high mountains, and bridging the swollen streams which flowed from the glaciers above. The tunnels are not the least of the engineering wonders of this railway, and they seem to follow in quick succession. Between Bludenz, in Vorarlberg, and Innsbruck (eighty- four and a half miles) there are sixteen tunnels, most of them in the earlier portion of the journey. The Arlberg Tunnel is the longest, with a length of over six miles.

ALL AUSTRIA’S MAIN LINES are controlled by the Federal Railways, including those formerly in the possession of the Empress Elizabeth’s Railway and the Austrian Southern Railway. There are 3,321 miles of standard gauge and 315 miles of narrow gauge line in existence.

It is a strange and exciting experience to ride in an observation car over such a route. The long climb to the summit over a maximum gradient of about 1 in 33, the glimpses of rushing torrents far below, and the frequent tunnels - which, save for the darkness and the drip from the roof, are not unpleasant in these days of electric working - combine to make the journey an eventful one.

This line is much exposed to the forces of nature on its western section from Langen to Bludenz during the winter months. At these times the operation of the line is carried out under great difficulties, as avalanches, great and small, block the line after a sudden thaw. Even the most modern rotary snow- ploughs are of little use in such circumstances, for the avalanches bring down vast quantities of stones as well as trunks of trees, and these can be removed only by manual labour. When the line is completely blocked trains have to be diverted to the German Railways via Lindau, Munich, and Kufstein, or via Munich and Salzburg, as happened when the Prince of Wales visited Kitzbühel in February, 1934.

Protection against avalanches necessitates the use of palisades, snow fences, snow rakes, snow bridges or sheds, and terrace walls, of which the last- named are the most important. Since the Arlberg line had to be closed in the winter of 1934- 35 for a lengthy period because of avalanches, it is proposed to build a further tunnel and to lengthen the existing protective roofs and galleries at a cost of £200,000. By these means it is hoped to keep this important route open in the worst weather.

The Arlberg Pass is connected with Reutte and other places in the Ausserfern district by the marvellously- constructed highway known as the Flexenstrasse, which goes over the Flexen Pass at a height of 5,887 ft. This is partly hewn out of the rock, and passes through tunnels and avalanche shelters in the manner of a railway line, descending in numerous hair- pin bends to Steeg. The top of the Arlberg Pass is the watershed of the Danube, and of one of the tributaries of the Rhine. On one side the water finds its way to the Black Sea, and on the other to the North Sea.

Continuing along the Arlberg route and through the Upper Inn Valley, the line comes successively to Landeck and Imst, and then to Innsbruck, the capital of Tirol, and an important junction where the Paris- Vienna and Berlin- Rome expresses cross. The attractions of Innsbruck and of its immediate surroundings are many. There are few who will not wish to stay a day or two in this charming town, where Tirolese costumes and ancient buildings are among the quaint sights encountered. Beyond Innsbruck, on the route to Vienna, are Kitzbühel, famous for winter sports and for summer bathing in the Schwarzsee, where warm springs keep the water at a comfortable temperature and Zell- am- See, which is a sort of unsophisticated Interlaken.

Zell- am- See is surrounded by mountains, and is an ideal centre for excursions to the lakes, valleys, and waterfalls of the neighbourhood. Here, also, begins the Grossglockner Alpine road, the great new motor highway, thirty miles in length, which crosses the Alps, and creates a new line of communication from north to south. It was planned for completion in August, 1935.

IN THE SEMMERING VALLEY, AUSTRIA. A goods train crossing the curved Gamperi Viaduct. It is near Semmering that the line begins to ascend the famous Semmering Pass. Between Murzzuschlag and Gloggnitz - 47 miles from Vienna - the line rises over 700 ft. In eleven miles. The railway, which was one of the first Continental mountain lines, was built in 1848- 1854.

Throughout this wonderful journey a veritable panorama of mountain and valley scenery passes before the eyes. Through the mountain passes and valleys, river, rail and road run side by side. At other times the river or the road can be seen far below, while the railway clings to the din face or tunnels its way through a mountain. Schwarzach- St. Veit is the junction for Badgastein and the Tauern Railway. Farther on, by the side of the rushing Salzach, fresh from the glaciers of the Hohen Tauern, is Salzburg, the international tourist centre, the city of the world- famous musical festivals and plays, and the birthplace of Mozart. Salzburg, gateway to a magnificent realm of mountain and glacier and dominated by the fortress of Hohen- Salzburg, is a city where the Middle Ages are very close to the most modern comfort and culture.

On the recommendation of the late Sir William Acworth, a complete reorganization of the former Austrian State Railways took place in 1923. Since October 1 of that year the State- owned lines and the privately- owned railways have been conducted as a private enterprise under the title of the Austrian Federal Railways. This procedure was adopted to free the undertaking from possible political interference, and from the hampering influence of the national budget, and to enable steps to be taken to adapt the system to the increasing demands which were being made upon it. Although the railways are now organized as an ordinary commercial undertaking, they are not entitled to retain their revenues, and they are bound, at the same time, to adapt their services to the public needs and the public interest.

There is an interesting piece of history attaching to the Austrian railways the first railway built in Austria is claimed to have been also the first railway on the continent of Europe. For centuries there was an active overland traffic in salt from the mines of the Salzkammergut, near Salzburg, to Bohemia between the Danube and the Moldau. At the beginning of the nineteenth century increasing trade called for improved transport, and this led to the construction of Austria’s first railway.

On March 31, 1808, a memorable day in Austria’s railway history, Dr. von Gerstner, Professor of Mathematics in the University of Prague, proposed the construction of a railway line, a transport medium of which he had heard from England. Gerstner advocated a horse railway from Linz to Joachimsmuhle, but left the project in the hands of his son, who in September, 1824, was granted by the Emperor Franz I the exclusive right of building a wood and iron road between Mauthausen, on the Danube, and Budweis (now called Ceske- Budejovice). situated on the Moldau. The first section was opened on September 7, 1827, and the centenary of the event was celebrated in 1927. A large gathering of railway representatives from all over the Continent then met at Unter- Dvoriste, the frontier station between Czechoslovakia and Austria. Very little of the original road was then in existence, except the remains of some of the bridges, which were inspected by the centenary party. At first, both horse and bullock traction were employed, but Gerstner was anxious to introduce locomotives, which he had probably seen working on colliery lines in the Tyneside area when he visited England in 1820. The railway, before being completed, was diverted from Mauthausen to Linz, and was opened throughout on August 1, 1832. It was built to a gauge of 3 ft 7½- in, and had a ruling gradient of 1 in 120. The last horse- drawn train ran on December 12, 1872, between Linz and Kerschbaum, but the extension of the line from Linz to Gmunden was converted to locomotive traction in 1854.

AN AUSTRIAN POWER STATION west of the Tauern line. The power stations for the electrified routes are connected by transmission lines arranged for 55 kv. The system is so organized that it permits parallel working of the stations. In sub- stations the 55 kv current is stepped down to 15 kv. The higher- voltage equipment is installed in the open.

This was the first narrow- gauge steam- operated railway in any of the Germanic States. In 1857 the undertaking passed to the Kaiserin Elizabeth Railway Company, which operated the Vienna- Salzburg line, and in 1869 that company rebuilt the railway to standard gauge, converted it to locomotive working and made several improvements. One of the results of the disintegration of the old Austro- Hungarian empire was the loss by Austria of her chief sources of coal, only about one- half of the coal- fields of the former empire remaining within her borders. It therefore became necessary to import some sixty- five per cent of the annual coal requirements (about 9,000,000 tons), and this reacted unsatisfactorily upon an already unfavourable trade balance. To relieve the position to some extent, one of the earliest post- war developments was the building of a number of hydro- electric power stations, because Austria is particularly well furnished with water power. The extended use of electricity will cause this power to be exploited in the near future to the full.

Before the war of 1914- 18 no existing steam- worked railway had been electrified, although there were a few lines which had been worked from the beginning by electric traction. Among these the Mittenwald Railway, forty miles in length, was the only standard gauge electric line of main- line character. This line, which connects Innsbruck with the Bavarian frontier, was opened in May, 1913. It was worked with single- phase alternating current of 16 ⅔ cycles and a voltage of 15,000.

After the grouping of the Austrian Federal Railways in 1923 as a commercial undertaking, the electrification of four important lines was authorized. Their completion in May, 1935, was a crowning achievement of the Austrian Federal Railways. They are as under:

1. Innsbruck- Landeck- Bludenz- Feldkirch- Buchs, with the branch line from Feldkirch to Bregenz.

2. Salzburg- Innsbruck, with the branch lines from Worgl to Kufstein (German frontier) and from Innsbruck to Brenner (Italian frontier).

3. Stainach- Irdning - Attnang- Puchheim (Salzkammergut line).

4. Schwarzach- St. Veit - Spittal- Millstättersee (Tauern line).

A beginning with the work of electrification was made with the railways of Tirol which, by reason of the steep gradients and long tunnels in the Arlberg section, were particularly suitable for electric working. All these lines were electrified between 1923 and 1926. The electrification was followed by increased train speeds on the important Arlberg route from Western Europe. In consequence, the doubling of the track over this section, and the artificial ventilation of the Arlberg Tunnel, which had become necessary owing to excessive soot and smoke from steam working, were rendered unnecessary.

There are now 571 route miles of railway electrified, mostly main lines, in addition to certain short lengths originally constructed as electric railways before the war. Of these the metre- gauge Modling- Hinterbruhl line has been in existence since 1883 - the year of the opening of the Brighton Electric Railway, described in the chapter beginning on page 605.

In 1933 a new scheme was drawn up for the conversion of other steam- operated lines to electric traction. These included, among others, the lines between Vienna and Salzburg, and between Vienna and Graz. It has been decided to proceed with the electrification of the 196 miles main line from Vienna (West) to Salzburg, and to have the conversion completed at a cost of 180,000,000 Austrian schillings (nearly £5,250,000 at par.)

ELECTRICALLY HAULED. A heavy freight train on the mountainous Mittenwald line. Extensive electrification has been the post- war policy of the Austrian Federal Railways, and to- day some 571 miles of route are electrified. In one year the railways in Austria carried over 19,200,000 tons of goods.

As the German State Railways and the Swiss Federal Railways had adopted on their electrified lines single- phase alternating current of 16 ⅔ cycles, 15,000 volts at the contact line, the Austrian Federal Railways decided to use the same system. This enables Austrian electric locomotives to work into the common frontier stations of German and Swiss railways. It was only at the Italian frontier station, Brennero, that difficulties were encountered, by reason of the difference in the current systems, which was unfortunate in so far as it affected facilities for international traffic. To overcome this difficulty, the Austrian Railways constructed, about a mile from Brennero, a new station, Brennersee (or Brenner), up to which point trains are worked electrically, while from that station to Brennero steam haulage is used.

Four new power stations were built to supply the necessary energy for the electrified sections. These were at Spüllersee, near Bludenz Ruetz, south of Innsbruck Stubach, south of Kitzbühel and Mallnitz, west of the Tauern line. Arrangements were also made with the privately- owned Achensee power station, between Innsbruck and Kitzbühel, to supply current for the lines west of Salzburg, and with the Steeg power station for a supply to the Attnang- Puchheim section.

The power stations are connected by transmission lines arranged for 55 kv, and the system is so laid out as to enable parallel working of all stations, as well as division into individual groups, to be possible. In the sub- stations the 55 kv current is stepped down to 15 kv. Four of the older sub- stations on the Arlberg line are in covered buildings, but others are constructed as semi- open- air stations, the 55 kv equipment being situated in the open, with the 15 kv installation, as well as the control- room, under cover. Three transformers are installed in the sub- stations, these being arranged to supply the necessary lower voltages for continuous output. Adequate testing equipment is installed in the sub- stations for the speedy remedying of service interruptions on the trolley wire. The mean range of a distributing station is twenty- nine miles, and it is possible, if one station is shut down or out Of action, to feed the section from the neighbouring stations without any serious fall of voltage.

Among the many notable examples of Austrian railway engineering skill must be numbered those which were carried out before the Great War in constructing the second railway connexion with Trieste - the Tauern Railway. The chief obstacle in building the line was the surmounting of the massive mountain range, the High Tauern, which was overcome by the driving of a tunnel 5 miles 551 yards in length before the construction of the line was undertaken. Altogether it was necessary to construct seventeen tunnels with an aggregate length of 9 miles 196 yards, two of which, the Tauern and Dossen tunnels, were equipped with the Saccardo system of ventilation. There are also on the Tauern Railway no fewer than 260 culverts, while viaducts number thirty- four. The iron bridges on this particular line have a total length of 952 yards.

The total length of the Tauern Railway is fifty miles. On the north side of the Tauern range it rises 2,083 ft, and On the south side 2,251 ft. The highest point of the line is reached in the Tauern Tunnel (4,022 ft), and the steepest gradient is 1 in 37. The railway is a single line, except the section between Böckstein and Mallnitz, which includes the Tauern Tunnel.

A journey over the Tauern Railway discloses scenes of great beauty. In climbing the High Tauern the whole of the Gasteiner Valley, with its famous health resorts, is seen below. Badgastein, 3,550 ft above sea- level, with its great waterfall tumbling through the centre of the town, and its cluster of hotels on the sides of the hills, is the gem of the district. It contains some of the most highly radio- active springs in the world, which gush from the ground at a temperature of 117° F. and provide an ample supply of hot- water mineral baths to the whole town. Proceeding, the passenger sees, far below, villages and farms dotted here and there along the turbulent River Ache, but they are so distant as to seem almost Lilliputian. Winter sports on the high ground of this district attract many thousands of visitors each year.

Freunde von Freunden

The tight-knit community of craftspeople and architects in Austria’s most western region has led to innovative movements in architecture. It has also sharpened peoples’ senses that functionality can have an aesthetic appeal.

A recent exhibition at the Vorarlberger Architektur Institut (vai) highlights the work of French architects Lacaton & Vassal. Best known for their renovation of Paris’ arts institution Palais de Tokyo, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal have developed methods to refurbish and upgrade the structures they work with. “They re-use, they add to the existing, and they don’t demolish buildings,” says Verena Konrad, director of vai.

We’ve only met for a few minutes and Konrad swiftly takes us by the hand. Explaining the exhibition, she immediately effuses her role as an educator and facilitator for knowledge sharing about architecture. The institute is based in Dornbirn, Vorarlberg, a region at the western tip of Austria, right at the intersection between Switzerland and Germany. It’s famous for its architecture, its craftsmanship, and the careful development of the built environment that has been cultivated there. Situated in the city of Dornbirn, which is home to roughly 50,000 people, vai’s mandate is to educate the general public and tourists about architecture and act as a communication platform for professionals. Konrad calls that a “continuous thought-process”.

Museum of Natural Science inatura and municipal park, Dornbirn. Cortene steel is a type of weathering steel. Its chemical properties allow the material to develop a protective layer under different weather conditions. . the steel literally rusts to protect its surface, just like here, at Dornbirn's municipal park and the inatural museum inatura.

Around 375,000 people live in the region of Vorarlberg and economically, it’s one of the strongest regions in Europe and Dornbirn is a fairly wealthy community. Big companies like Rudolf Ölz Meisterbäcker, a baked goods manufacturer or SPAR, a large trade company have headquarters here. The lighting manufacturer Zumtobel is the biggest employer. Yet, the glory came in the mid-19th century when the textile industry was booming here. Later, Rüsch Werke produced manhole covers for the whole region and turbines.

An old production shed of Rüsch Werke has been transformed into Kunstraum Dornbirn, a gallery space which exhibits contemporary art all year round. It’s raw, lots of concrete, steel and high windows that allow natural light to diffuse in the space. At the center of it, a reconstruction of ‘Black Maria’, the first studio built to produce special effects for film. Konrad is very familiar with the artist: “I’ve curated one of Bernd Oppl’s first presentations in a group exhibition,” she says with a smile on her face. Before starting the position here six years ago, Konrad worked as a curator for contemporary art in Vienna and Innsbruck.

Kunstraum Dornbirn.

Across the court, there is a children’s natural museum called Inatura. Dietrich Untertrifaller Architekten, Hermann Kaufmann Architekten and Christian Lenz revitalized the old buildings that now host the museum. Upon purchasing a ticket, people get access to the Kunstraum Dornbirn, too. Konrad says that “through this offer, many people get in touch with contemporary art for the first time.” The grey concrete and stone colors of both buildings are contrasted by the rusty colors of some of the museum’s elements. They’re made of corten steel which wears over the years in different weather conditions. The buildings are surrounded by a comfy municipal park and a beautiful courtyard, planned by Swiss architecture practise Rotzler Krebs Partner (now Krebs & Herde). “It’s great when public space confidently exudes that it belongs to everyone, like this municipal park. That’s really important in a society in which private property matters so much,” Konrad analyzes and goes ahead: “Planning needs a certain vocabulary so that people can engage in dialog and become more aware of the importance of public space.”

It proved an advantage for Dornbirn to purchase a chunk of land in the middle of town, like the former Rüsch Werke, and transform it. Even though the industry rose immensely here, there’s not the amount of urbanisation like in other European centers. Rural structures persisted, craft remained a vital part of the regions fabric and it’s an important concern to cities like Dornbirn that adjacent dwellings and villages stay connected.

“It’s great when public space confidently exudes that it belongs to everyone. That’s really important in a society in which private property matters so much.”

Ebnit is community which is part of Dornbirn but situated the more hilly areas surrounding Dornbirn. Infrastructure projects like the Scharnerlochbrücke are crucial for such areas. Rather than only being functional, the bridge beautifully blends in with the rocks and the stream beneath it. The bridge looks like it grows out of the mountain and was designed by Marte.Marte Architekten. They are currently renovating the Deutschlandhaus, a Berlin-based center of the Stiftung Flucht, Vertreibung, Versöhnung, a trust that documents the displacement of the 60-80 Million people in the first half of the 20th century.

Scharnerlochbrücke, Ebnit.

Among three bridges that connect the village of Ebnit to the city of Dornbirn, is Scharnerlochbrücke. "It's my favorite one" says Verena Konrad of the bridge which was designded by architects Marte.Marte.

Intersectional and collaboration are words Verena Konrad often uses. Both apply to her work and position within the framework of contemporary building culture in Vorarlberg and beyond. Born in 1979, in Oberösterreich, near Linz, she grew up in a family that lovingly supported her interests. Her mother, a secretary and her father, a project manager for industrial plants, would always ask “what can we do to help you learn more about this,” as Konrad says, when something sparked her interest. She studied art history, history and theology and especially in art history, her focus was design and architecture theory: “Initially, I wanted to work at the university but now I am really happy to be very closely working with people in the practical field,” she says.

Her drive to understand her environment and to be responsive to people around her emerges from her professional background but also from biographical experience and comprehension, understanding that she “can’t just assume that other people know what I know.” She cultivated this attitude and it helped her when she was working as a curator with the team at Kunsthalle Wien, the gallery at Taxispalais in Tirol as well as in different positions and teaching assignments.

Next to her work at vai, Konrad is part of the council at the University of Liechtenstein, the board of trustees at IBA Heidelberg (international building exhibition) as well as the Austrian building council at the chancellery. When she’s off work, she spends time with her two children and enjoys the occasional one hour run up to a ropeway station close to Dornbirn or riding her bike. Sounds like this implies a fierce schedule? Yes. Does she feel like an archetype for women in society? Not necessarily: “There are other women who work and take care of their children, I don’t need to be that role model,” she says.

“Planning needs a certain vocabulary so that people can engage in dialog and become more aware of the importance of public space.”

Islamic Cemetery, Altach.

Depending on one's perspective, the wooden curtain in the cemetery's praying room reads "Allah" and "Mohammed" in Kufic letters.

Between Dornbirn and Bregenz lies the small village of Altach. Just outside, there is a muslim cemetery, set gracefully in front of the mountains, facing Mekka. Red concrete, manufactured in a wood sheathing, adds to the calm and inviting atmosphere. Konrad explains that it took “ten years to negotiate between the different muslim communities of faith before this cemetery was built.” Dr. Eva Grabherr of okay.Integration and Diversity in Vorarlberg headed this process and almost all muslim groups agreed to use the cemetery together, which is not necessarily self-evident.

The site carries the design of architect Bernardo Bader, the carpets in the praying room were designed by Azra Akšamija and knotted by a group of Bosnian muslim women who used the technique of their home region. Many of the ten percent muslim population in Vorarlberg originate from Bosnia or Albania. “Given the right-wing shift of society, such a project might not be possible today,” says Konrad. Yet, initiative often comes from the ground up in this region which holds true for many projects in the realm of building culture here.

Werkraum Bregenzerwald, Andelsbuch.

“People know each other here and craftsmen don’t want to hear complaints about something not going well as the commuity is closely interwoven personally and professionally.”

Initiative for innovation comes from craftspersons in Vorarlberg, especially in the valley and mountains of Bregenzerwald. Thus, craft here has played a huge role in the movement of the new alpine architecture. There is a high density of quality architects in the region and initially, those who spearheaded the movement of Vorarlberger Baukünstler since the 1960s were not architects but craftsmen, like Rudolf Wäger (1941 – 2019). Traditionally, architects, craftsmen and designers have worked together tightly here.

The Werkraum Bregenzerwald, based in Andelsbuch, is a good example for that. Konrad takes us on the 40-minute drive there and we cross “Bödele”, a pass that connects Dornbirn and Bregenzerwald. A valley opens up before us, we drive through the picturesque village of Schwarzenbach, Konrad greeting the owner of a local restaurant. People here have her attention, a value, that’s important for good cooperation.

At Werkraum, a group of around 90 craft enterprises joined forces to establish this space for exhibitions, meetings and talks. Here, regional craft is exhibited and people can get together, talk over lunch that’s provided by the canteen. Swiss architect Peter Zumthor designed the building because the group of initiators valued his appreciation for craftsmanship. One reason for the high standards of craft here, according to Konrad, is proximity: “People know each other here and craftsmen don’t want to hear complaints about something not going well as the commuity is closely interwoven personally and professionally.”

The Steinschaf group consists of four breeds mainly – Alpines Steinschaf, Tiroler Steinschaf, Krainer Steinschaf, and the Montafoner Steinschaf.

These are believed to be the oldest sheep breeds of Alps.

The distribution of Alpines Steinschaf is in Germany and Austria mainly in the eastern Alps.

In Austria, mostly found in Salzburg, but also Carinthia, North, and East Tirol and Vorarlberg.

In Germany, it was common in the Bavarian districts of Berchtesgaden and Traunstein and the south-east part of Rosenheim.


The present nation of Austria is the remnant of a once-powerful empire that controlled a large area of central and eastern Europe. With the breakdown of the empire of Austria-Hungary after World War I, Austria found itself only one eighth of its former size. (See also Austria-Hungary.)

This sudden reduction from world power to a small and relatively weak country was a major blow to the Austrian people. In 1918 the German members of the imperial parliament declared the formation of an Austrian nation consisting of the German-speaking areas of former Austria-Hungary. This new republic, however, was threatened by Communist attempts at a takeover along with the attempts by several of the provinces to break away and form independent states.

The republic in its early days wished to be united with Germany, but this was expressly forbidden in the World War I peace treaty signed with the Allies in 1919. The main task of the government was the restoration of the economy, which was in chaos. Although economic conditions improved considerably in the 1920s, the internal political situation did not, due to a continuous confrontation between the Socialists and right-wing groups. Many people turned to the Nazi party after a financial crisis in 1931 discredited the major parties. The Christian Socialist party under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss was attacked by both the left and right, and in 1934 the conflict led to a brief civil war. In the same year the Nazis attempted to take over the government by force and murdered Dollfuss. The leaders of this attempt were arrested, and the new chancellor tried to resist Nazi Germany. In 1938 the Germans marched into Austria and declared a union, or Anschluss. Renamed Ostmark by the Nazis, Austria fought World War II as part of the Axis powers.

In 1945 Austria was divided into zones of occupation by the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France. Economic problems retarded the recovery of the country, but by the early 1950s considerable prosperity had been restored. In 1955 the four countries signed a treaty with the Austrian government and removed their troops. Austria was prohibited from union with Germany and undertook to maintain a democratic political system. The constitution was amended to make the nation neutral. Austria was admitted to the United Nations in 1955.

Controversy erupted during Austria’s 1986 presidential election when candidate Kurt Waldheim, former secretary-general of the United Nations (UN), was accused of participating in war crimes while serving in the German army during World War II. Despite this, Waldheim won the election.

Austria’s neutrality had prevented it from joining the European Communities (EU formerly the European Communities) or any major European military organization. With the end of the Cold War, this situation changed (see Cold War). Austria was a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). In 1991 the EFTA signed a free-trade agreement with the EU, and in June 1994 Austrians voted overwhelmingly to join the EU in 1995.

Elections to the European Parliament held in Austria in October 1996 yielded results that raised concern throughout Europe, as the rightist Freedom party claimed 28 percent of the popular vote. The Freedom party finished third in the elections, behind the conservative People’s party, which won 29.7 percent of the vote, and Chancellor Franz Vranitzky’s Social Democratic party, which received 29.5 percent of the vote. Critics warned that the surprising success of the Freedom party in the largely symbolic elections placed the party on course for a strong showing in future Austrian parliamentary elections.

The Freedom party, led by Jörg Haider, won over its largely working-class constituency by campaigning against immigration, government corruption, and a United Europe. Under Haider, the Freedom party reinvented itself and supposedly cast aside its neo-Nazi undertones however, Haider raised more than a few eyebrows when he spoke, in terms reminiscent of Third Reich rhetoric, of a need to create a “Europe of fatherlands.” In a speech following the elections, Haider spoke about the dangers of immigration and blamed Turkish immigrants for the increase of criminal activity in Austria. He warned that a unified Europe combined with loose policies of immigration would lead to the loss of jobs for Austrian workers.

Watch the video: Austria: Tyrol: driving to Kühtai, Speicher Längental, Speicher Finstertal (July 2022).


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