Friday, March 29, 2013

Back to Vienna

Well, I had to make a trip back to Vienna to collect my visa from the Czech embassy. They can't just mail it to me because it has to be attached to an empty page in my passport. I must say it is interesting, probably because I've never had a visa before. Basically, my passport now looks like it has two identification pages. The visa page is laid out the same at the main id page and has all the same computer type codes. I will have a complete post on how you can get your own Czech visa if you want, so be on the lookout for an "International Scavenger Hunt" blog post.
For this trip I visited the Vienna military history museum, or Heeresgeschichtliches Museum for short. I don't expect you to try and type that into Google, so I've made the name a link so you can get more information if you want. Everyone who knows me knows I love my military history. I frequently wow people at parties by explaining that the Battle of Letey Gulf was the last time anyone "crossed the T." I've made that a link as well, because I want you to keep reading without falling asleep.
As a military history buff the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum didn't disappoint. Granted, it's mostly about Austrian military history. There are various displays about other countries, but they are there to show the adversaries. The World War II section was particularly impressive and not like any of the glorious "look how we kicked Jerry's ass" museum exhibits you see in the U.S.
I want to start at the top with the museum, even though it covers the history of the Austrian military from somewhere in the 1600 to about 1945 there was one section that blew me away. The Franz Ferdinand exhibit really impressed me to no end.

Maybe it's because I like cars and I like history, but this is one of the most impressive cars I've ever seen in my entire life. This is THE actual car Ferdinand was assassinated in. You could try to argue that seeing the limo JFK was riding in at Dealey Plaza is almost as profound, but you would be wrong. Countless millions died in World War I which resulted from what happened in this car. Very few cars have been involved in events that changed world history like this one. There is even a bullet hole in it, look above the rear wheel. For the record, the Associated Press defines the time of assassination as when a person is mortally wounded, even if they die later. Lincoln was assassinated at the Ford's Theatre, even though he did not die there. I really can not think of a more historically-important automobile. I invite you to write a comment if you can think of one.
The exhibit didn't end with the car. Why would it?

Here is Ferdinand's blood-stained uniform. It might be vomit, or a combination; I've been in Prague a while so I've seen a lot of both on clothing. I'm pretty sure it's blood. The hole next to the collar on the left side of the photo, Ferdinand's right, is where the fatal bullet entered. I'm pretty sure that is what the sign said. I took a photo of it and will translate it and make an edit if I have to. To me, the car and the uniform were worth twice the €6 price of admission to see.

Then you have three of the guns used in the assassination and the grenades the killers really wanted to use, they are up there at the top. If you're under 18 and or haven't taken a world history class; do yourself a favor and click this link it will explain everything.
Honestly, the only things I think I've ever seen that are more historically significant are the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and The Constitution and they are all in the same place. Cut me some slack though, I've on been in Europe for five months or so. I know there are way more important things to see. I would have to say this is right up there with Bull Run for me, but a little more intense. In one instant, in the back seat of this car, the world changed forever. I know some parents who can tell their children that too, but it's not really the same.

Here's a close-up of that bullet hole, in case you missed it.
Since we're pretty close with Frans Ferdinand and everything I'll jump right in to some of the WWII display. It was in a seperate wing of the museum and included some cool stuff I didn't photograph like a Kublewagon (Volkswagen Thing) and an Air Force Will'y Jeep, which was a good restoration but not as cool as Little Audie.

In my last Wien post I showed photos of Flaktum, or flack towers. Here is a flack cannon, a baby one. Big brother is a bit more intimidating:

Imagine those towers topped with these nasty pieces of AAA darkening the sky with flak and shaking the ground firing as fast as possible. If you look behind the large cannon, you will see a example of the damage flack can do to an aircraft.

This is a half-track and it's just really cool. I'm not sure why it has or needs a front wheel, but I'm also not a 1930's military vehicle engineer. I first saw one of these in the film Saving Private Ryan and thought it was awesome. That is why I took this picture.

This photo doesn't really do a great job of showing the almost certain possibility of the driver's clothing getting caught in the track mechanism but it does do a great job of showing that the guy driving it was seated tightly between two huge fuel-tank bombs. I also get the impression that having some of the controls between your legs made things difficult. There were also foot controls for something. Still, I really just included the half-track photos because I think the vehicle is cool.

This is an Enigma Machine. It was the Nazi's coding device. Really, it's a laptop running just one program. No one was able to break the codes this thing created until one of these machines was captured. I'm pretty sure the film U-571 was all about how the U.S. captured a German U-boat carrying one of these things and changed the course of the war. The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum has two of these things. Maybe they use them to send secret messages during parties. They are both complete with instructions.

And what WWII museum exhibit is complete without a Nazi paper lantern? Pretty much all of them but the one at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum as far as I've seen.

Do the Fatherland proud and hang your Nazi lantern high. I don't know, it's just weird I think. Maybe they sent them to Japan. Many people associate paper lanterns with Asian cultures.
From about 1750 on there were a lot of guns. Actually, they had some muskets from the 1600s and they looked like they were just beastly to use. The person shooting them actually had to have a stand for the front of the musket to rest on. I'm not surprised, the things look like they weighted 50 pounds at least. I know one guy who could shoulder fire one, but he will remain nameless.

This is a detail photo of the "sights" from an early 1700s flintlock "sniper" long gun. I first tried to call it a rifle, but this was a smooth-bore gun. Soldiers of today have it easy compared to this. I honestly don't know weather you look through it, or put in on the Pope's head. I think part of the size was to help protect the shooter from the huge flash that came when you fired the gun, but I really can't say. I can imagine using it though and I know I'd never hit a dang thing. I never hit anything anyway and that is with good, modern sights.

Then I saw this bad boy and fell in love. This is a 38 "kaliber" pistol. That's right, not .38 caliber but 38 kaliber with no period. The sign underneath this gun showed only question marks where a date was supposed to be. It should be sometime in the late 1700s. Think Revolutionary War time frame. Understand, this isn't a blunderbuss where you take the nearest thing with some mass and cram it in the barrel. This is a calibered weapon, somebody actually made a lead ball to shove in this thing. People in the U.S. who don't like guns say the Founding Fathers meant muskets when they wrote the Second Amendment. Well, this sucker was made right around that time, so the Founding Fathers must have meant something like this. Aside from the fact that it must take at minimum 500 grains of powder to fire I want one. This makes a .50 caliber handgun look like a toy for young girls.

You can see the rest of the display here. Those other guns look downright tame compared to that 38. I bet you'd never need to shoot it. I think just brandishing this thing would be enough to scare pretty much anyone away. Of course with how short it is I bet you couldn't hit anything farther than 10 feet away. And reloading, come on if you hit a person with this, you don't need to reload. When your bullet is the size of a person's fist it has some stopping power.

There were "modern" guns in the museum also. Everything Austrian military seems to have stopped about 1945. I wonder why. This was one of the coolest gun exhibits I've seen. It is one of the first repeating rifles used by the Austrian Army, sometime around 1898. I don't think I've ever seen and actual cutaway of a gun like this before. They even cut the bullet in half, although that is black powder in there and this type of bullet didn't use that, but anyway. I suppose sawing bullets in half is a bit dangerous and you have to make due. Safety over accuracy is something I can get behind here.

Not to put too fine a point on it (pun completely intended) but humans have been killing each other with pointy things for a lot longer than they have been with guns. These are bayonets from the late 1700s because when it takes 2 minutes to reload your gun you don't want to be caught defenseless. These things are nasty and most likely killed more people than the guns they were attached to. They aren't the worst blades in the museum. There was actually a whole display of Turkish weapons. Evidently the Austrians and the Ottomans weren't friends.

See, I told you there were nastier things. These spears were labeled something "spiken." All I know is I would not want to be at the business end of one of these. If you survived a hit from one of these it must have taken months to recover.

The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum claims to have the largest collection of cannons in the world. Most of them are outside and it was cold and they were in a cage thing and whatever I got lazy and didn't photograph them. I was at the museum for four hours, cut me some slack. I did however photograph this mortar. It's almost a cannon and it was inside where it was warm. As a side note, check out that floor. It was creaky as all get out, but really cool.

If you're going to hurl lead from a tube you might also want to have something you can hurl from a man. These are early grenades. You took a hollow ball made of iron, or glass there in the back; filled it with powder, shoved a wick in it and hurled it at your foes, or dropped it on the ground and ran like hell. I think I read somewhere that more grenadiers were killed by their own weapons than by enemies. After seeing these I know why.
That is pretty much it for the important things I have to say about the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum. If you're interested I've been pasting Heeresgeschichtliches Museum into the text, because it really is a bastard to type. Anyway here are some fun photos I took too. The tank garden was closed until next week, bummer.


There were a lot of dolls in the museum. Some where small, some large. I liked these. It also turns out Austria had a navy. From the exhibit they had a navy for a long time. I still can't figure out why a landlocked nation needs a navy, but I'm a small-picture kind of guy. There was an exhibit of mannequins wearing Austrian navy uniforms and I really liked the light. It was a bit eerie, so I will leave you with that.


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