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Vorarlberg is one of nine federal states contributing to Austria's territory. The region forms the westernmost part of the country, thus contributing to Austria's state border with Germany (Bavaria and Lake Constance) to the north, Switzerland to the west and south, and Liechtenstein to the west. Vorarlberg also neighbors Tirol to the east (over the Arlberg Pass). All 2,601 km of Vorarlberg's area is divided between the high mountainous southern part covered by Limestone Alps and Pre-Cambrian central Alps and the lower northern part of Alpine foreland, covering the area of Bregenz Forest and Bodensee (Lake Constance). Bodensee, located on the Rhine River, also represents one of the predominant water areas, reportedly popular among tourists. The capital city, Bregenz, sits on the shores of Lake Constance and is said to belong among the most significant agglomerations in the region. The city emphasizes historical and cultural heritage and attracts several tourists yearly for its "world-famous" festival, Bregenzer Festspiele. Vorarlberg, in general, is a region of diverse natural conditions. Southern territories bear long-standing winter sports traditions. Thus, a considerable number of ski resorts can be found and visited in Vorarlberg as well.
Bodensee, or Lake Constance, and its adjacent area is one of the famous natural destinations in Vorarlberg. A considerable number of trails for hiking, walking, and cycling can be found around the lake as well as in the surrounding mountains. A cable car from the city capital, Bregenz, brings tourists to the lake's panoramic viewpoint, Pfänder, at an altitude of 1064 m. During the summer months, various activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing can be experienced on Bodensee. The area also offers educational historic cruises on the lake.
Vorarlberg's capital city, Bregenz, sits on Lake Constance's shores. Along the Bodensee's shores leads a promenade, which is reportedly a popular place for a light stroll with a view of the surrounding nature. The city's historic center is divided into two areas, the upper and lower parts. Among the most famous sights belong Old Town Hall, the Deuringschlösschen, a little palace built in 1698, Capuchin Monastery, and Parish Church of St. Gallus. Bregenzer Festspiele is a performing arts festival held annually every July and August. The festival is known for—and presumably most famous for—the large floating stage situated on Lake Constance.
Bregenzerwald, or Bregenz Forest, is a natural region in close proximity to the capital city, Bregenz, after which the forest is named. The northeastern part of Vorarlberg, where the Bregenz Forest can be found, bears the tradition of cheese production dating back to the Celtic era. Nowadays, a route KäseStrasse Bregenzerwald leads through the region and links the cheese production sites for tourists to visit and taste.
The name of the state Vorarlberg is derived from the mountain Arlberg, where the prefix "vor," in the word Vorarlberg, translates as "before." Thus, Vorarlberg was named as "the land before the mountain Arlberg." The Arlberg range itself is located on the borders between Vorarlberg and Tyrol, with the highest peak, Valluga, at an altitude of 2,811 meters above sea level. Arlberg mountains are nowadays known for the abundance of ski resorts and winter sports options. Skiing and other winter sports have a relatively long tradition in the region of Arlberg, dating back to the 1900s. Today, over 300 km of groomed and 200 km of free-ride slopes contribute to the various ski resorts stretching over three mountains.
The Vorarlberg territory is built up of hills mostly, as the area belongs to the mountainous landscape of the Alps. Approximately 26% of the entire region is covered by Alpine mountains. The northwestern border of the Vorarlberg territory is represented by the Bodensee, which in English is translated to "Lake Constance." Thus, the northern and western part of the territory, in proximity to Lake Constance and Rhine Valley, contains a climate of Alpine foreland characteristics. On the shores of Lake Constance is located Vorarlberg's capital, Bregenz, whose immediate area, together with surrounding lower mountains, represents part of the Bregenz woods (Bregenzwald)—part of the Flysh range. On the contrary, higher mountains belonging to the Limestone Alps build up the southern part of the Vorarlberg territory. Pre-Cambrian central Alps stretch across the southeastern part of the region. The mountainous areas of Vorarlberg pose a popular winter sports destination, as a number of ski resorts can be found there.
Approximately 20% of Vorarlberg's territory is used for agriculture, and 33% is forested areas. Among the protected areas and nature parks in Vorarlberg belongs the Nagelfluhkette Nature Park, whose area stretches across the borders of Germany. Some rare species inhabiting the park's territory are Black grouse, Golden eagle, Apollo butterfly, and a variety of orchids and gentians. Another significant protected area, Biosphere Reserve Großes Walsertal, stretches across an area of 19,231 hectares and is inhabited by approximately 3,420 people. The abundance of farms is typical for the site, as the reserve reportedly aims toward having a sustainable economy, specifically through tourism. Several hiking trails lead through the area, which is nowadays protected as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Lakes are of considerable importance to local nature as well as the economy. Some of the largest lakes in the territory are Lake Constance, Lüner Lake, Silvretta Reservoir, Vermunt Lake, Spuller Lake, the Kops Basin, and Formarin Lake. A few of them were artificially created in order to produce hydroelectric energy, which is mainly exported to Germany. Besides that, the abundance of lakes presumably adds to the tourist draw of the region, with several water sports available to visitors. Lüner Lake, located in the southern part of Vorarlberg, is the largest mountain lake in the Alps.
Concerning the climatic conditions in the Vorarlberg territory, the weather differs significantly depending on the altitude above sea level. The warmest month in the capital city, Bregenz, is July, with an average daily temperature of 24°C, while January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 4°C. February tends to be the driest month in Bregenz, with an average of 77 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 193 mm.
Two different Celtic tribes first settled in Vorarlberg territory. The highlands were inhabited by the Raeti people, whereas the Vindelici people settled the area of Lake Constance and lowlands. Among the important settlements from that time belongs Brigantion, which laid the origins for today's Vorarlberg capital, Bregenz. The Roman Empire later conquered the area and became part of the province of Raetia from 15 B.C. until the 5th century. Bavarians and Lombards invaded and settled the territory for some period of time. However, until 1160, the area was under the rule of Counts of Bregenz. Up to the 16th century, Counts of Montfort ruled the territory. After that, the Habsburgs seized the area until World War I.
By the end of World War I, most of the Vorarlberg population wanted to become part of Switzerland. Over 80% of people voted for the integration into Switzerland in a referendum held in 1919. However, neither Switzerland nor the surrounding countries supported the outcome. Thus, Vorarlberg stayed part of Austria. By the end of the Second World War, Vorarlberg was under French occupation, which lasted from 1945 to 1955.
Nowadays, Vorarlberg is one of Austria's most industrialized federal provinces, second only to Vienna. The region contributes considerably to Austria's national production for export in the fields of hydroelectric power, textile, and clothing industries. Among significant industries also belongs watch and clock making, as well as metal, chemical, and pharmaceutical produce, which contribute to the local economy. Concerning the population of the region, most inhabitants have Austrian-Germanic roots, with connections to the Swiss and French populations.
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