Arnold Schwarzenegger museum opens in Austrian hometown

By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Graz

media captionBethany Bell takes a look around the new museum in Arnold Schwarzenegger's childhood home

Arnold Schwarzenegger's childhood home in Austria has opened as a museum.

It came as the former Mr Universe, who went on to be a Hollywood star and governor of California, turned 64.

On display at the museum are his childhood bed, a motorbike from one of the Terminator films, some of his first dumb-bells, and a copy of the desk he used as governor of California.

image captionThe family lived in the first floor flat with no electricity or running water

Mr Schwarzenegger left the village of Thal, near the city of Graz, in 1966, but has given the project his blessing.

A plaque by the door reads "Arnold Schwarzenegger's Birth House Museum," although one of the locals later told me he was born in a nearby hospital.

He lived with his family in the modest first floor flat from his birth in 1947 until 1966 when he left to pursue his dreams of winning the Mr Universe competition.

Pit toilet

It was a humble beginning. The flat had no electricity and no running water.

The museum shows the house's original pit toilet, and a 1950s kitchen, with a washstand and jugs for collecting water.

In one of the rooms, the star's childhood bed is on display. "This is where he first started to dream of success," the curator, Peter Urdl told me.

It was while he was living in Thal, that he first started pumping iron.

image captionSchwarzenegger found early success as a bodybuilder

As well as trophies and photographs from his early days of bodybuilding, the museum also has some of his first dumb-bells.

And it has his original home work-out machine, a pulley with weights attached which hung in a door frame inside the flat.

The museum charts his obsessive training routine and describes how his success at bodybuilding led him eventually to Hollywood.

And it has a collection of Schwarzenegger movie memorabilia, including a Harley Davidson motorbike from one of the Terminator films and a sword from Conan the Barbarian.

Visitors to the museum can pose next to a life-size model of Arnie as the Terminator.


The museum also has a section dedicated to his time as governor of California, including a facsimile of his desk.

Although he lives half a world away, Schwarzenegger's exploits are closely followed in Austria.

A number of his policies as governor were controversial here, including his support for the death penalty.

His name was taken off a stadium in the neighbouring town of Graz in 2005, when he rejected pleas to spare the life of a California gang leader.

image captionThe museum bills itself as the world's only Schwarzenegger museum

But while Austrians are not always comfortable with his politics, many of them are nonetheless fascinated.

"He was a little farm boy and his career was so exciting and so special and I think the Austrian people are really proud," Helga Forstner, the museum co-ordinator told me.

"He always comes to visit Thal when he is in Austria," she said. "He came here on 21 June and he was really excited about the exhibits."

Thal continued to play a role in his life, years after he left home. One photograph shows the rowing boat in which he proposed to his now estranged wife, Maria Shriver, on a nearby lake.

But the exhibition does not touch on her recent filing for divorce. Mr Schwarzenegger recently admitted fathering a child with the couple's long-time housekeeper.

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