Austria - About the Country

Austria is a small country in the Alps. The northern part is rather flat, but most of the country is mountainous. The people are mostly living in small towns and villages, the bigger cities in the northern part like Salzburg and Wien (Vienna) are famous for their history.

Austria is a small country with an area of only 83,850 km². It has a population of 7,8 Million people. The Capital is Vienna, other big cities are Graz, Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. The people speak a local dialect of German.

In the 18th and 19th century Austria played an important role. The Donaumonarchie (Austrian Empire) consisted of Austria, Hungary, and other surrounding countries. This empire was a tolerant melting pot of many cultures for the benefit of all. It ended with World War I. Famous names you may know about Austria are Johann Strauß and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The flat northern parts, especially along the Danube and at the border to Hungary are famous for the wine. The Alps are famous for climbing, moutaineering and skiing.

The Austrian caves are located in the mountains at a certain height. If you visit the show caves lists below, you will see that the altitude is the first information given. The reason is very simple: the higher the cave is, the colder is the climate and the harder is it to get there. The temperatures inside Austrian caves are around +2-7 °C throughout the year, only depending on the altitude. Ice caves are around 0 °C and are found above 1,500 m asl. Humidity is very high and there might also be a chilly air current. So do not forget warm clothing when visiting an Austrian cave, as a hour at slightly above zero may be rather uncomfortable without!

The famous show caves are located near cable cars, like the ShowcaveEisriesenwelt or the RegionDachstein caves. So you should plan an one day trip for the cave tour, the cable car ride and the landscape all together. Avoid sundays and bad weather.

The less famous caves are often far away from the next road. Three hours walk to a cave are common to Austrian speleologists. Be aware that there may be a long walk necessary to get to a cave, read the comments about the location carefull.

Be not afraid, there are several caves which do not include a hike, and are located in the valley, in comfortable distance to the next road. Most of them are river caves, with notable resurgences od swallowing a river.

Austria has a long tradition of cave exploration. Many famous speleologists are from Austria, e.g. ExplainGeorg Kyrle, ExplainHerbert W. Franke, or ExplainHubert Trimmel. From the beginning speleology had the status of a science in Austria. This is the reason why many of the first books about speleology were written by Austrians.

But Austria also has a long tradition in mountaineering. Austrian alpinists earn some money by guiding tourists up the mountains since the 18th century. And of course there is some necessity to verify the ability of the guides. There is a certain training and guides have to verify their knowledge in an audit.

Similar to this mountain guide audit, the Austrians installed a law which demands a cave guide audit for every cave guide in Austria, which is then called Geprüfter Höhlenführer (Certified Cave Guide). The necessary knowledge includes caving techniques, climbing techniques, technical knowledge about light sources, first aid, and geology.

The result are very competent cave guides, which should be able to answer many questions of their visitors. And hopefully you will not hear those "tallest stalagmite" lies. Unfortunately it is no protection against speleothems called "Virgin Mary"....