Austria (German Österreich) is a republic in central Europe, bounded on the north by the Czech Republic, on the northeast by Slovakia; on the east by Hungary; on the south by Slovenia, Italy, and Switzerland; and on the west by Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Germany. It is about 580 km long and has an area of 83,858 km². Vienna is the country’s capital and largest city.
The principal river is the Danube, which enters Austria at Passau on the German border, it continues its southeastern course, past Linz and Vienna, to Bratislava on the Slovakian border. Austrian tributaries of the Danube include the Inn, Traun, Enns, and Ybbs rivers. In the south, important rivers are the Mur and the Mürz. In addition to the rivers, the hydrographic system of the country includes numerous lakes, notably Bodensee, forming the western border with Liechtenstein and Switzerland, and Neusiedler Lake in Burgenland, near Hungary.
Austria is predominantly a mountainous country, with an average elevation of about 910 m. Most of the land falls within the eastern division of the Alps. In general the major mountain ranges of Austria run in an east-west direction and are separated from one another by rather broad valleys. The northernmost line of ranges includes the North Tyrol Alps and the Salzburg Alps. Among the central ranges is the Hohe Tauern, which culminates in the Grossglockner, the highest elevation (3,797 m) in the country; the Pasterze Glacier, one of Europe’s largest, descends from the Grossglockner peak. The southernmost ranges include the Ötztal Alps, the Zillertaler Alps, the Carnic Alps, and the Karawanken Mountains. Besides these east-west ranges, several series of mountain spurs extend in a north-south direction. The mountain barriers of Austria are broken in many places by passes, including the Brenner Pass and the Semmering Pass.
The principal areas of Austria that are not within the Alps are the northern and eastern border sections. The northern section consists of rolling upland, and the eastern border section comprises part of the Danube basin, including Vienna.
The Austrian climate varies with elevation; with location in relation to Atlantic, continental, and Mediterranean influences; and with certain local wind characteristics. Mountainous regions are partially subject to moderate Atlantic conditions and experience more precipitation than the eastern lowlands, which are under continental influences. Spring and fall are usually mild throughout the country. Summers are short, with moderate temperatures. Cold and often severe winters last about three months in the valleys. The foehn is important to Austria’s agricultural production, allowing for early cultivation of the southern valleys. Average annual temperatures range between about 7° and 9°C throughout the country.
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