26 October 1955 marks the day following the day that the last Allied troops of post-WWII occupied Austria said, “Auf Wiedersehen” and left the country, leaving a new republic committed to permanent neutrality. Celebrations abounded in and around Heldenplatz (Heroes Square) yesterday accordingly, including the opportunity to tour certain Federal offices, and even to meet Austria’s President Dr. Heinz Fischer.
From 1945 to 1955, Austria was under allied governance.
For Vienna, the capital city, occupation was divided by districts. As reference, we live in the 19th district, also home to the American School.
The Inner Stadt (First District) of Vienna was placed under joint control by the four powers. Hence, “Four Men in a Jeep.”
Thank you, Internet, for the photos.
Food and drink are a necessary element at a Central European festival no matter the size or occasion. Everything from giant pretzels to Sturm a color not found in nature to giant Leberkäse “cakes” and Krapfen pyramids could be had at Austria’s National Day celebration.
A little surprising, though, was an Indian food stall. Not quite Austrian cuisine, but the aromas wafting out were heavenly.
We lament the lack of a good old fashioned American burger here in Vienna, and so we stared like children in front of a Christmas tree when we saw this rescue team. A little research later dashed hopes of good eats in Vienna, however; the Zing Burger Rescue Team is a Budapest-based mobile food truck with no pop ups in Vienna planned for the near future.
Our first tour was at the Foreign Affairs/European Integration Ministry. On this particular former palace tour was a large tourism exhibit from Albania, an official candidate as of June for EU membership. Lots of travel ideas and maps came home with us in our swag bag.
The only other ministry we had time to tour was the Ministry for Education and Women’s Affairs, also housed in another repurposed palais. We watched student demonstrations of everything from dance to robotics, and had a lovely time doing so.
Scattered around Heldenplatz and nearby Minoretinplatz for viewing and “test-driving” were fire trucks, military vehicles, lots of alpine rescue equipment and…
…an old U.S. Jeep?
Not since the early 1930’s have American presidents held open houses, so though we’ve been stuck in D.C. traffic waiting for presidential motorcades to move past, we’ve never actually met a president. I’ve had lunch with a Secretary of Defense (William Cohen); attended a book signing with a Secretary of State (Madeline Albright), and have enjoyed social gatherings at the homes of a few ambassadors, but until today had never met a president.
The opportunity to meet the President and First Lady personally was not until the afternoon, so we (and several hundred others) queued patiently starting around midday.
Others queued patiently, as well, but also had a few issues on their mind. This gentlemen was concerned about the Hungarians taking over Austria.
Finally, inside the president’s offices.
Through each corridor before reaching the Maria-Theresien Room a guide explained the room, its purpose, and some of the art and furnishings. It was all very well done.
The Spiegel Salle (Mirror Room)
When in a mirrored room, even a presidential office suite, a mirror selfie is an absolute.
Soon it was our turn to meet the President and First Lady.
Strauss waltzes transitioned us to the exit and the parting gift of a photo card and Pez (but of course!)
Adjacent to the president’s offices is a new memorial, dedicated only last week to the thousands of heroes executed for “deserting” Hitler’s army. Alas, we seemed to be among the few visitors actually showing respect for the memorial and its meaning.
Though we had planned Zwiebelrostbraten for dinner, by the time we returned home we all had only enough enthusiasm for delivery Indian food (must have been the subliminal messaging from earlier in the day!) Nonetheless, Happy National Day, Austria!