Austria Day

October 26, 2007

Today, October 26th, is a national holiday in Austria, commemorating the day in 1955 when Allied troops ended the occupation of Austria. I would be willing to bet that you didn’t know that (unless you live or have lived in Austria). Honestly, though, this ignorance is understandable. After all, it’s not as if the Austrian army scored some mighty victory against the Allied troops which caused them to leave. They sort of just decided occupying Austria wasn’t all that great, and/or they had bigger fish to fry (divided Germany, for example). Still, the Austrians celebrate it, and so we get the day off.

The thing about this day, though, is that it’s a bit creepy. In the US, our Fourth of July celebrations involve watching fireworks, listening to patriotic music, and thinking about how great freedom is. The celebration of Germany’s reunification day, unsurprisingly, is devoted to eating sausage and drinking beer. In Austria, by contrast, the entire celebration consists of a demonstration of military might in the main square of Vienna. You walk out of the U-Bahn and there are soldiers everywhere, as well as stations showing off the advanced weaponry and training techniques of the Bundesheer. It made me vaguely uncomfortable, as it was not at all what I was expecting going into the day.

Adding to the irony of it all, October 26th is supposed to be a celebration of the day that Austria declared neutrality. Apparently they don’t feel like this fact should prevent them from using the day to tout their army.

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