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Austrians call their country Osterreich (eastern empire).The name dates to about 800, when Charlemagne, emperor of the Germanic Franks, took control of the region, naming it Eastern March because it was meant to stem invasions by marauders from the east.Austria flourished culturally and economically under the three-hundred-year reign of the Babenberg dynasty, who built great fortresses and beautiful monasteries.The Danube became an important trade route, and Vienna was made the capital.They were defeated by the German king Otto I at the Battle of the Lech in 955.Otto established a strong march (protective zone) along Germany's eastern border to keep tribes to the east at bay. Austria emerged as a distinct political entity in 976 when Otto II gave the area to the Bavarian nobleman Leopold of Babenberg, largely to keep the Magyars at bay.Celebrated in The Sound of Music, the edelweiss has white star-shaped flowers and grows on rocks and in crevices. Austria's geographical location at the crossroads of Europe determined its historical multiethnic makeup.In the late ninth century, Slavs and Magyars (Hungarians) advanced westward along the Danube River valley and overran the area.
The Alps are the distinguishing physical feature of Austria, dominating the western, southern, and central regions of the country, with the highest point at Grossglockner, 12,457 feet (3,797 meters).
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The Danube River, Austria's only navigable waterway, flows from southeastern Germany across northern Austria.
Areas of major settlement are in the Danube valley and in the lowlands or hills north, east, and south of the Alps.
Austrian German sounds "softer" from that of Germany, and German speakers can easily discern the difference.