The Austrian federal state of Styria is located in the country's South-East, but due to the shape of Austria it manages to be a very central state at the same time. This middle position means that Styria, while being mountainous and mostly even alpine in landscape, also has some share of the country's more hilly - and almost flat - parts, this is especially true of the area close to the Slovenian border, including Graz, the capital.

This city is well worth a closer look. Being Austria's second-biggest municipality (after Vienna), it is also one of its oldest. It was founded by Slavs - and originally it was called "Grad", meaning "city" in several languages, as in "Leningrad" and "Stalingrad". Of course, Graz is much older than those: It was founded at some point before the first millennium turned, and ever since it has had huge significance, not only as a regional administrative and trade center.

It is true, the Austria of the 21st century is full of success stories, but that of Graz is an especially beautiful one: The Styrian capital managed its transformation from industrial to post-industrial, hence: service, as if it was a native of Silicon Valley. Only there medieval old towns are never to be found, while Graz boasts a particularly gorgeous one.

In Styria environmental and ecological technologies are a big factor of the economy. But maybe it is only natural that, if one is blessed with living in one of Europe's most scenic regions, the motivation to preserve that natural beauty for future generations would be a big one.

The state has a population of 1.2 million, many of whom live in small towns and villages. Styria's area is slightly bigger than half that of Belgium, just for comparison's sake. But in reality, it is even bigger than that: The historic region of Styria stretches deep into Slovenia, and although they now belong to different countries and languages, the people on both sides of the border still have close cultural - and now again: economic ties, which in these times, in United Europe, are only getting bigger.

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