Austria is renowned as one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, possibly second only to Switzerland in its mountain scenery and surpassing that country in the number of castles and beautiful towns, villages and cities.

The capital city, Vienna, is renowned for its cultural life - Strauss and his immortal waltzes are inextricably linked with Vienna and the beautiful blue Danube (notably brown and muddy when I last saw it). Historically Vienna is the city which saved Europe, withstanding three Turkish sieges which, if successful, might have seen Turkish janissaries rampaging through the heartlands of Germany and even France.

Regrettably Austria as a whole has not faced up to its pro-Nazi past and although officialdom admirably imprisoned the British maverick scholar who denied the Holocaust, the people of Austria recently elected a government whose right-wing policies led to wide-spread protests throughout the rest of Europe. The Austrians retaliated by making life difficult for visitors to their country.

Unfortunately Austria is a crucial corridor for trade and transport between the former communist countries of the east and the rest of Europe, a fact which led to the collapse of proposed boycotts of Austria. It remains to be seen whether the country can eventually be civilised.