Austria is a pipe-shaped, landlocked country lying in the bosom of Europe. It extends 560km (347mi) from east to west, 280km (173mi) north to south, and is surrounded by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. The Alps occupy the southern and western portions of the country, and peak at the Grossglockner's 3797-metre (12455-foot) summit. The upland forests of the Bohemian Massif run north to the Czech border, while the Danube Valley and the fertile lowlands of the east provide the bulk of Austria's arable land. There are numerous lakes in Carinthia and the Salzkammergut region; Lower Austria, Burgenland and Styria are the most important plonk-growing regions.
Nearly half of Austria is forested, mainly with oak and beech at low altitudes; at higher elevations conifers predominate. Trees yield to Alpine meadows at just over 2000m (6560ft) and orchids, edelweiss and poppies become quite common. Alpine flowers bloom from about June to September.
In Alpine regions, fauna includes ibex (a mountain goat with huge curved horns), chamois (horned antelope) and marmots (a chunky rodent related to the squirrel). There are numerous butterflies in the alpine meadows. In the lower-lying regions, the fauna is typical for Central Europe, though Neusiedler See is a unique sanctuary for numerous species of bird.
Most of Austria has a moderate central European climate though the eastern part of the country is blessed with a Continental Pannonian climate, which sounds impressive but really only means that average temperatures in July are above 19 degrees Celsius and annual rainfall is less than 80cm (31in). Be prepared for a range of temperatures dependent on altitude, but unless you're on top of the Grossglockner you can probably count on temps between 20 and 25ºC; (68 and 77ºF) in summer, 1 and 4ºC (34 and 39ºC) in winter, and 8 and 15ºC (46 and 59ºC) in spring and autumn. Be aware that the sun is intense at high altitudes. The winter ski season runs from December to April.
8,188,207 (July 2003 est.)
83,858 sq km
German 88%, non-nationals 9.3% (includes Croatians, Slovenes, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks,
Roman Catholic 78%, Protestant 5%, Muslim and other 17%
The Global Champions Tour, the most prestigious show jumping series in the world, is hosted by Vienna for the first time. The best riders in the world ranking appear at 5-start show jumping trials. Such a high-class jumping tournament has never before been held in Austria. A 4-star dressage competition gathers together the elite of this discipline.
Set against the backdrop of Vienna City Hall in the center of the city, there's more on offer than just top-level sport: the program ranges from a spectacular jumping show to celebrity riding demonstrations and amateur competitions to a performance by the Spanish Riding School on the Sunday.
4 days of premium sport - 4 evenings of parties
The area lets fans dive into the world of horses. Numerous exhibitors present new and tested products related to horses and horse riding. Multimedia installations and events from the areas of music, theater, dance and film, as well as a fashion show provide the cultural supporting program; the food area fulfills culinary wishes. There's no shortage of evening celebration at parties and clubbings.
The partly covered spectator grandstands offer space for more than 4,000 visitors. On the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, all competitions of the Vienna Masters can be attended for free into the afternoon; an admission ticket to the grandstand places is required for the top tournaments that follow and on the Sunday. The dining zone and exhibitor pavilions in front of the riding arena can always be accessed free of charge. 280 million households in 59 countries will follow the competitions in television broadcasts.