Evidence of continuous habitation has been found since 500 BC, when the
site of Vienna on the Danube River was settled by the Celts. In 15 BC,
the Romans fortified the frontier city they called Vindobona, to guard
the empire against Germanic tribes to the north.
Close ties with other Celtic peoples continued down through the ages with
such figures as the eighth-century Irish monks like Saint Colman (or Koloman),
who is buried in Melk Abbey and Saint Fergil (Virgil the Geometer) who
was Bishop of Salzburg for forty years, to the twelfth century monastic
settlements founded by Irish Benedictines. Echoes of that time are still
evident in Vienna's great Schottenstift monastery, once home to many Irish
In the 13th century, Vienna came under threat from the Mongolian Empire,
which stretched over much of present-day Russia and China. Due to the death
of their leader Ogedei Khan, the Mongolian armies retreated from the European
frontier and did not return.
During the Middle Ages, Vienna was home to the Babenberg dynasty; in 1440,
it became the resident city of the Habsburg dynasties. It eventually grew
to become the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and a cultural centre for
arts and science, music and fine cuisine. Hungary occupied the city between
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman armies were stopped twice outside
Vienna (see Siege of Vienna, 1529 and Battle of Vienna, 1683). Plague epidemic
ravaged Vienna in 1679, killing nearly a third of its population.
Salzburg (literally: "Salt Castle") is the fourth-largest city
in Austria and the city of the federal state of Salzburg.
Salzburg's "Old Town" (Altstadt) has internationally renowned
baroque architecture and one of the best-preserved city centres north of
the Alps. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The city
is noted for its Alpine setting.
Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In the mid-20th century, the city was the setting for parts of the American
musical and film The Sound of Music, which features famous landmarks in
Austria. The musical was a partnership between Richard Rodgers and Oscar
The Danube is Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified
as an international waterway.
The river originates in the Black Forest in Germany as the much smaller
Brigach and Breg rivers which join at the German town of Donaueschingen.
After that it is known as the Danube and flows southeastward for a distance
of some 2850 km (1771 miles), passing through four Central and Eastern
European capitals, before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta
in Romania and Ukraine.