Czechs (and Slovaks) have a particular name for Austria: Rakousko, derived from an obscure border castle. Similarly, the beginnings of their relationship lie foggy in the distance, further back than any two other neighbors in the region – even if Czechs and Austrians don’t realize it.
An Austrian calls the act of boozy celebration tschechern, certainly an ode to Czechs’ heavy drinking and excellent beer. Austrians have a ravenous appetite for Knödel (dumplings), Palatschinken (pancakes) or Golatschen (cheese filled pastry), all dishes brought to Vienna and refined here by generations of Bohemians. In exchange, you hear Czechs say “jo” (the Austrian dialectal form of “yes”), as they strut, all fešák (from Austrian fesch, meaning handsome) along the boulevards of Prague, perhaps going for a valčík (Walzer, or waltz).
And there’s more. The oldest German-language institute of higher education is the Charles University in Prague. Giants of literature and poetry, like Rainer Maria Rilke and Franz Kafka, grew up and worked in the golden city, often speaking German and Czech fluently. Others like Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler and Matthias Sindelar, arguably Austria’s best footballer of all time, were of Czech origin and quintessentially Viennese. Many of them Jewish, they felt Czech and Austrian at the same time.
About 300,000 Czechs lived in Vienna before WWI, still reflected in Viennese family names. After the brutal suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, another 162,000 Czechs and Slovaks fled to Austria, many of them staying, like Czech dissident and playwright Václav Havel, whose plays filled the seats at the Burgtheater in the 1980s even before he became the first president of the Czech Republic in the 1990s.
But it is the everyday culture, cuisine, habits and attitude, the sound of their music and the sense of humor, that connects Czechs and Austrians to this day. They may speak different languages, but they share Powidl (plum jam) – and everything else is just, well, powidl (not worth mentioning).
Border with Austria: 402 km, bordering Upper Austria and Lower Austria
Population: 10,554,000 people
Size: 78,870 km2
Trade Volume with Czechia:
Imports from Czechia: €5.9 billion
Exports to Czechia: € 4.8 billion
Balance: -€1.1 billion
There are over 2,000 castles, keeps and castle ruins in Czechia, one of the highest densities in the world.
Click here to read up on Austria’s next neighbor.