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For a fresh look at Austria, travelers should head to Burgenland, the country's youngest province and one of the prettiest. The area is home to numerous vineyards, but winter weather calls for a tour of Burgenland's castles.
The Burgenland hasn't always been a part of Austria. Until 1921 it was a group of German-speaking areas occupying what was formerly Hungary. The region is a flat step spread out before the foothills of the eastern Alps, and it almost reaches Budapest. Its position has made it a cultural melting pot for centuries, with a 2 percent population of Hungarians and a 10 percent population of Croats dating back from the 16th century, according to Frommer's.
People aren't the only living thing that's thrived there. Sometimes called "the vegetable garden of Vienna," it is a region known for its vineyards, producing one-third of all of Austria's wine. That makes it a great province to visit in the spring, when the grapes begin to grow and the fields of the region become verdant.
Castles and fortresses
Winter, however, may be a better time to visit the foreboding castles and fortresses in the area. There are nearly a dozen in the province, many of which are associated with the powerful Hungarian Esterhazy family, which was descended from Attila the Hun.
The Forchenstein Castle is the most emblematic of these castles. Its position on the foothills of a mountain range make it seemingly invincible. Indeed, it is the only castle in the region not to have fallen during the Turkish Wars. The castle still has many parts dating back to the Middle Ages, though repairs have been made throughout the centuries. The interior is decidedly softer, adorned with baroque art and ornament in traditional Hungarian fashion.
Following a tour of Forchenstein Castle, travelers can branch out to Lockenhaus Castle, the Esterhazy Castle and the Bernstein Castle, which now acts as a small hotel, renting out rooms to summer guests since 1918.
Look down in wonder at Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral from your glass-walled pod on the London Eye, then gaze out over the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The scent of rich pine forests lingers in the breeze as the 13th-century ruins of Turaida Castle are revealed before your eyes in the lush Gauja River valley in a medieval sanctuary untouched by the march of time.
The aroma of dark roasted Viennese coffee hangs thick in the air as you tread the cobblestone laneways and bask in the elegant architecture, atmospheric cafes and refined restaurants in one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe.
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