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Vorarlberg is the westernmost state (Land) of Austria. Though it is the second smallest in terms of area (Vienna is the smallest), it borders three countries: Germany, Switzerland (Graubünden and St. Gallen), Liechtenstein, as well as the Austrian state of Tyrol. Due to their isolated location from the rest of Austria, the people in Vorarlberg speak a very distinct German dialect which other Austrians have a hard time understanding. It is in some way similar to the German dialects spoken in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Baden-Württemberg and the Alsace region in France (they are all Alemannic dialects, whereas the dialects in the rest of Austria form part of the Bavarian-Austrian language group). In fact many towns or even villages in Voralberg have their own distinct sub-dialects.
In a referendum held in Vorarlberg on 11 May 1919 over 80% of those voting supported a proposal that the state should join the Swiss Confederation. However, this was prevented by the opposition of the Austrian Government, the Allies, Swiss liberals, the Swiss-Italians and the Swiss-French.[1] There are approximately 352,000 inhabitants in Vorarlberg's 96 municipalities.
The main rivers in Vorarlberg are the Ill (running through the Montafon and Walgau valleys into the Rhine), the Rhine (forming the border to Switzerland), the Bregenzer Ach and the Dornbirner Ach. Important lakes, other than the Lake of Constance are Lüner Lake, Silvretta Lake, Vermunt Lake, Spuller Lake, the Kops Basin and Formarin Lake; the first four were created for the production of hydroelectric energy. Even before the dam for the power plant was built, Lüner Lake was the largest mountain lake in the Alps. Most of this hydroelectric energy is exported to Germany at peak times. At night the surplus (and therefore cheap) energy from the caloric power plants in Germany is used to pump the water back into some of the lakes.
As there are several notable mountain ranges in Vorarlberg, such as the Silvretta, the Rätikon, the Verwall and the Arlberg, there are many famous skiing regions. The highest mountain is Piz Buin, whose rocky peak of 3,312 meters is surrounded by glaciers.
In addition to the flourishing textile, clothing, electronics, machinery, packing materials industries of the Rhine Valley, there is also a broad agricultural base, especially in the Bregenzerwald, which is noted for its dairy products ("Bregenzerwälder Cheese Route" and tourism. The tourist industry employs a considerable number of Vorarlbergers.

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Additional Photos by George Rumpler (Budapestman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 8900 W: 3 N: 20435] (82620)
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