Friday 27 April 2018

Vienna Military Museum

I just finished checking the proofs for our forthcoming translation of Clausewitz's history of the 1796-97 campaign that brought Napoleon to the gates of Vienna. What better place to do this than actually in Vienna, where I spent last weekend?

Archduke Charles - Austria's finest general of the Napoleonic Wars?
(Clausewitz's criticisms notwithstanding.)

As well as taking our indexer to see the Lippizaner, naturally I did a lap of the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum. Far too much to take in in a single day, of course, so I focused on Halls III and IV: 1789-1866. Having read so much about Archduke Charles's exploits lately, it was nice to meet the old boy in oil-painted person. I was slightly disappointed not to see more about the 1796 and 1799 campaigns, but as was pointed out to me, they weren't the most glorious episodes in Austrian military history ... whereas that formidable old warrior Radetzky got plenty of exposure for squashing Italy in 1848-49. He finally retired at 90, apparently. An inspiration to us all.

Some highlights of my tour:
- the French balloon captured at Wurzburg in 1796;
- The famous Austrian Napoleonic-era air rifles and the apparatus for pumping them up. (I wonder why they never caught on?)
- Seven different varieties of rocket warhead from 1848, including starshell;
- The exhibit about Austria's abortive expedition to the North Pole in the 1870s;
- The Challenger tank, I think? (1944 version, not the modern one) in the back garden. (Be warned - the Panzerhalle is only open on Sundays!);
- Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car from Sarajevo.

Not to mention the fabulous collection of arms and armour in the Weltmuseum, especially my favourite item, the wonderful Laternenschild. I could go on, but time doesn't allow.

So much to see and enjoy, and in such a lovely city. If you ever get the chance - go.