The four riders wonderfully brought Roman Cavalry history to life, providing the crowd with an excellent display during the recent Roman Fest at Carnuntum Archaeological Park.
Carnuntum which is situated next to the Danube River, about 30mins drive from central Vienna, was a Roman Provincial Capital and today visitors can experience the feel of Roman life by spending time exploring a set of wonderfully reconstructed buildings. Images of the site on a normal visitor day can be seen here and here.
A few images from the Cavalry display:
It’s Austria’s official birthday today. The Austrian National Day marks the birth of the Second Republic in 1955. Although the Austrian State Treaty was signed in May and came into force on the 27th July, it was the 26th October that was chosen to mark the start of the new independent, democratic state. On the day before the last foreign troops had left Austria, ending ten years of occupation, and so the 26th October 1955 saw the Austrian 2nd Republic enjoy its first day as an independent and sovereign state.
At the end of the Second World War, Austria was occupied by the Allied powers and divided into four zones overseen by the Soviet Union, Great Britain, United States and France respectively. The ten year occupation lasted much longer than most people had expected due to the deterioration of relationships between the allies and the struggle for whether the new Austria would become part of the Eastern or Western block.
Bring us back to the present day, I note that der Standard has an article (on its website) in which a national survey suggests that only 34% are ‘very proud’ to be Austrians compared to 42% respondents a year ago. This may in part be connected to the number of high profile scandals that have been enveloping the political parties over the last twelve months or so.
On a lighter note, I have to agree with the 86% who are proud of the scenic beauty of the country and the 66% who highlighted the high quality of life. As a vegetarian I’m less inclined to concur with the 68% who mentioned the quality of the local cuisine – this is a very meat orientated country and vegetarianism outside Vienna can be challenging at times – but they are probably right none the less 🙂
Modern politics and a bit of history in this post.
Not really the new political force that has been talked about in the newspapers, here in Austria, over recent months. But it seems the monarchists are going to try once more to secure seats in the Austrian Parliament. I wonder how they think they could achieve their idea of a commonwealth of five former Habsburg countries.
Interestingly, Charles, the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the October 1918, tried to establish a democratic monarchy in the ‘Austrian’ half of the Dual Monarchy’. This included Austrian and Slavs areas from Galicia through Bohemia and Moravia to Slovenia and Bosnia. His ‘Peoples Manifesto’ called for:
….’a federal state in which each racial component shall form its own state organisation in its territorial settlement…..
To those people on whose rights of self-determination the new empire will be built my call goes out to implement the great work through National Councils – made up of the parliamentary deputies of each nation – which shall represent the interests of the peoples with each other, and in contact with my government’.
I’ve reproduced the above extract of the ‘Peoples Manifesto’ from Gordon Brook-Shepherd’s very readable history ‘The Austrians – A Thousand Year Odyssey’.
The move by Charles came much too late. But if the basic concept of self-determination, part of the ‘Wilsonian doctrine’, had been maintained by President Woodrow Wilson at the 1919 Paris Conference then the borders of the first Austrian Republic would have looked rather different and so might the history that followed.
During a recent visit to the Augarten in the 2nd District, I snapped a few pictures of one of Vienna’s Flak Towers.
There are a number of these towers scattered across the city. Built during the last war, they were designed to provide Vienna with an air defence system. Another of these towers is used accommodate an aquarium and zoo called the ‘Haus des Meeres’ (House of the Sea). http://www.haus-des-meeres.at/de/Zootiere.html
The Red Army tried to demolish the towers, by blowing them up, during the Allies occupation of Vienna but the attempt left surrounding buildings damaged and other formers of demolition were considered too costly.
Sitting by the Danube River, at about the half way point between Vienna and Bratislava, is the site of the Roman City of Carnuntum. An important location within the Empire, part of the City has been brought back to life with the reconstruction of a small number of Roman buildings on the original site.
Combined with an excellent visitor’s centre, the reconstructed Roman buildings provide a wonderful opportunity for young and old alike to gain a sense of what living in the Roman world would have been like. Testament to this was H and her friends (all eight or under) abandoning the climbing frames to return to the reconstructions to ‘play Romans’. They were the ones who insisted that the adults wait whilst they listened to the video presentations on the history of the settlement and life in the Roman Empire. My adult companions also took a genuine delight in wandering around the site and I found myself drawing on the depths of my knowledge as the walking through the buildings inspired them to more and more probing questions.
The highlight of the day for young and old was oddly enough Roman central heating. The discovery that the under floor fires were actually lit caused a great deal of discussion and excitement. This grew further as we entered the building which was wonderfully warm and everyone in our party knelt down to touch the warm floor. As we moved through the room everyone was fascinated by the two bath rooms, one with a cold bath and the other with warm water. Whilst not quite real life, this ability to touch and feel the past created additional interest in the more traditional sights such a excavated stone walls and historical descriptions of the Roman world.
As the site is located in wine country we ended our trip with a visit to a Heuriger for a little light food and of course a glass of wine. The consensus in our party was that, all in all, it had been a very enjoyable day for young and old.