Austria is full of rich cultural offerings and traditions, many dating from when Vienna was the seat of a powerful empire. There's plenty of music, too. This is the country of Mozart and Johann Strauss, music festivals in Alpine settings, and the original setting of The Sound of Music.

Austria also offers fairy-tale castles and skiing, spectacular scenery and Sacher torte. The grandeur of Vienna's imperial buildings matches Austria's huge romantic streak and its passion for rituals.

Whether in the coffeehouse, the church or the grand ballroom, Austrians seem to blend a kind of Italian romanticism and charm with a Germanic love for order. You can experience that romanticism with something as simple as a hike through the mountains of the Tirol—or as spectacular as a visit to Vienna's Spanish Riding School, where you can see the magnificent Lipizzaner stallions perform their gravity-defying "airs above the ground."

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