Vienna is not only the capital of Austria, but also one of its nine federal states. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, considered the center of the city by its inhabitants, is located 16º 22’ 27’’ east of Greenwich at 48º 12’ 32’’ northern latitude, and 171 meters above sea level. The city covers 415 square kilometers and is divided into 23 districts. With woods, grassland, parks and gardens accounting for around half its area, Vienna is the city in Europe with the highest ratio of green space. “Urban green” such as Stadtpark (with the most frequently photographed motif in the city, the golden Johann Strauss monument) is joined by the woods and grassland of Prater, the extensive Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, sections of the Vienna Woods, vineyards, farmland and the wetlands of the legendary Danube River. During the summer temperatures rarely rise above 30º C, during the winter hardly ever fall below -5º C.
From Roman Camp to Capital of the Republic of Austria
Vienna’s history goes even farther back but it made its first major breakthrough at around 15 B.C., when the Romans founded the military camp Vindobona. The city of Vienna was first mentioned in documents in 1137. Around 1155 the Dukes of Babenberg chose it as their residence, and from 1278 it was where the Habsburgs reigned more than six centuries. Today’s cityscape is dominated by the Baroque and the reign of Empress Maria Theresa. However, Emperor Franz Joseph I also made his mark on the city when he leveled the city walls in 1857 and oversaw the completion of the splendid Ring Boulevard. He died during World War I after reigning for 68 years. In 1918 Vienna became the capital of the Republic of Austria. Following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, Vienna was designated a “Reichsgau” (an administrative district of the Third Reich). In 1945, it was again proclaimed capital of the Republic of Austria. The city became one of four United Nations headquarters alongside New York, Geneva and Nairobi, in 1979 the UN complex at opened on the banks of the New Danube, and in 1995 Vienna joined the ranks of European Union capitals.