Day Tripper: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum and the Nationalfeiertag

Friday was the Austrian national holiday. This means a few different things: one, it’s a celebration of Austria’s declaration of permanent neutrality, which happened on October 26, 1955. Two, it’s a day off; and three, there’s free stuff to do.

I really like free stuff. (Courtesy of fmgbain on flickr)

This morning, I met up with two of my classmates, Francesca and Simone, and we went to the HGM: the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, or the Austrian Museum of Military History for those of you who don’t speak German. I had visited the HGM when I lived here two years ago, but I really enjoyed it, and also it was free. It has the added advantage of being a genuinely interesting museum, tracing Austrian military history from medieval suits of armor to late 19th century dragoman helmets to propaganda from the Second World War. If you’re ghoulish, you can also see the outfit Archduke Franz Ferdinand was wearing when he was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarejevo in 1914 (it is a credit to Mrs. Brewer, my AP European History teacher, that I still know that off the top of my head).

I was not feeling too ghoulish, and so settled on this picture of his car.

After the museum, Francesca and Simone each headed off to do work. I, however, was not yet willing to give up the rest of my glorious day off to the updating and review of my notes for “Institutional Law of the European Union”, and so headed off to the city center for more free things and festivities. The Stephansdom was sporting a red-and-white ribbon for the occasion, and I enjoyed the view while grabbing a quick bite to eat at the nearest Würstl stand. Then, it was off to the Nationalbibliothek to check out their exhibit on vintage Austrian travel posters, dating from 1900 to about 1960. I’d also like to take this time to mention that the Prunksaal of the Nationalbibliothek is really, really cool. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the library from Beauty and the Beast, but with a statue of Charles VI wearing Roman clothing and a really nice wig.

Since it was so nearby (and had been recommended by my German professor), I also swung by the Heldenplatz, which is also part of the whole Hofburg complex. It was full of people and gloriously festive: sport-related events for “Fit-Nationalfeiertag”, zip lining and rock-climbing for kids, and lots of military equipment, explained by the soldiers who use it: jeeps and helicopters and parachutes. To complete the festival atmosphere, there was fair food. You could get hot punch, kebabs, cotton candy for the kids, even doughnuts (which, sadly, were too expensive for me). I ended up getting a little bag of roasted chestnuts to enjoy while wandering around, and listening to the swing band that was playing near the food stalls. Of course, the chestnuts were gone all too soon, and it was time to head home to be a useful member of society.

Of course, I haven’t yet mentioned the most important part of today: it’s my nephew’s birthday! That’s right—Ethan is officially one year old, and I can’t quite believe how big he’s gotten. And he has hair now! And teeth! And a personality! It’s all a bit overwhelming.

Have a good weekend, everybody!


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