The Alps, Bohemian Plateau, the Alpine Foreland

The Alps

Small as it is, Austria is divided into a number of natural divisions. Their large number and diversity are among the country's chief disadvantages. Austria comprises parts of the Bohemian Plateau, the Alpine Foreland, the Alps themselves, and even a small share of the Little Hungarian Plain, while Vienna in its basin is a region by itself. The Alps run from Switzerland through Austria, but the corresponding sections of the Pre-Alps and Alpine Foreland are located for the greater part outside the Austrian boundaries. In Austria, as in Switzerland, there is a marked tendency toward longitudinal valleys, here two in number. As a rule these follow the lines of contact between the limestone zones and the old mountain nucleus of granite and schists. Thus the Austrian Alps show three ranges extending from east to west: the northern limestone mountains, often with high plateaus like the Dachstein (10,000 feet); the central zone with its highest elevation covered by glaciers; and the southern limestone zone, the Dolomites, extending into Italy. These three are separated by the longitudinal (east-west) depressions of the upper parts of the Inn, Salzach, and Enns valleys in the north, and of the Drava system, with the Klagenfurt Basin, in the south. Here, as in Switzerland, the present relief is probably due to the uplift and warping of an old erosion surface, after which the rivers adjusted themselves to the new conditions. Broad valleys, picturesque villages, wooded slopes, glaciated peaks, and the perpendicular walls of limestone plateaus attract thousands of people to the Austrian Alps, so that the care of tourists is almost as important as in Switzerland.


The various river systems divide the Austrian Alps into several well-defined sections. The most western of these is the mountainous little district of Arlberg. Lying between Bavaria and the Swiss Grisons, it forms the Austrian portion of the Rhine Valley. High mountains separate it from the Inn Valley farther east, while broad tributary valleys of the Rhine open westwards towards Switzerland and the Lake of Constance. The Austrian portion of the Rhine Valley contains most of the industrial life and agriculture of the region; the mountains have grazing and forestry. The Arlberg Pass is used by the railway from Paris through Basel and Zurich to Innsbruck and Vienna. This gives to this zone a strategic value, since it connects Paris and Vienna without the use of German or Italian territory. In as much as most of the people of Arlberg live in the Rhine Valley and are separated from the Inn Valley by high mountains their ties with the rest of Austria are loose. The little state of Liechtenstein, a historical remnant, lies at the southwestern corner of Arlberg. Before the War it was economically a part of Austria-Hungary, but has now a similar arrangement with Switzerland.

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