In what may be a refreshing change for some of you, I’ve finally visited a museum with no historical pretensions whatsoever. The Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum, aka, “Arnie’s Life,” was an unadulterated guilty pleasure, the sort you have to allow yourself on holiday (like eating at least two ice creams a day, and allowing myself to buy a Marie Claire to read on the airplane, despite the fact that it is probably the worst magazine ever, except for maybe Cosmo).
When planning our trip to Ljubljana, I happened to notice that Graz, Austria, was only about a two hour drive away. Now I’ve been wanting to visit Graz for a while on account of the Armoury there (which I’ll cover in a future post), but more importantly, Graz is also very near to Arnold’s Museum. The village of Thal is in a picturesque corner of Austria, full of dandelion-dimpled meadows that one could easily imagine Julie Andrews (or as I like to think, maybe even a young Arnie) twirling around in whilst bursting into song. Though Thal is only a few miles outside of Graz, there are virtually no signs to it until you’re well out of the city, and as we belatedly realised our GPS didn’t have a map of Austria on it, we had a heck of a time finding it. We only got there in the end because my boyfriend had the foresight to download directions onto his phone before we left, but we still took a number of wrong turns on the way. Basically what I’m saying is if you want to come here, have a functioning GPS, or else a passenger who is less hopeless with directions than I am.
I should mention that I don’t really have any particular fondness for Arnold as either a person, or an actor. I’m not really into action films, with the exception of Indiana Jones (because c’mon, Indy is hot) so I’ve only seen a handful of his movies. However, my father and brother are both into body building, and my mom has a major crush on Arnold, so we always had some of his books hanging around the house, and I consequently grew up knowing more about him than I probably should. Aside from that, whatever you think of him, Arnold is undeniably quite a personality, and there was no way I could resist visiting his house for the cheesiness factor alone.
So, all that being said, when we finally located the museum, I enthusiastically bounded out of the car and raced up to the statue of Arnold outside, only too happy to pose for a picture with my hand on his heavily muscled thigh. Admission was 6 euros, and the woman working there was of course fluent in English, so there’s no need to worry about that sort of thing. Since the museum is in his actual childhood home, it is rather small; only about five rooms. They recommend that you start out in the room devoted to his childhood, and then progress through the upstairs rooms, ending in the “Governor” room on the ground floor.
As you might expect, the museum was largely graphic in nature (in the sense that there were a lot of posters and photographs, NOT that it was sexually explicit), with accompanying facts about Arnold’s life in both English and German. Actually, the museum was home to some real gems of posters, as seen below.
We wanted to buy a copy of them to take home, but unfortunately the only posters on offer were movie-related ones. There were also lots of great photos of Arnie as a child and young man (he was actually a fine looking lad), including many of him posing in various states of undress, though he always at least kept on a skimpy mankini (which may disappoint a certain segment of his fanbase).
I was actually quite interested to learn that his father disapproved of his weight lifting, so he was only permitted to go to the gym three times a week, but kept up his workouts at home whilst listening to his neighbour practice the trumpet. Because of this, the upstairs rooms had some of his original weights and other apparatuses on display. The way you were meant to progress through the museum would take you through “Arnie’s Life” chronologically, so you got to view his childhood kitchen and (excitingly) toilet before learning about the body building years, and then his acting career.
The movie bit was more or less what you’d expect. Some memorabilia, a few videos, various correspondence between Arnold and the museum, and thank you notes to people who had given him gifts, including an excellent Austrian style motorcycle jacket which he later donated to the museum. There was also an Xbox set up with what I believe was a Terminator game in it (it was hard to tell as I spent the entire time just running into a wall. I am amazing at SNES, but with any system after that, especially ones with those stupid joysticks and all the buttons, I am a huge pile of suck), presumably to keep the children entertained whilst their fathers gawped at all the Arnold accessories.
My favourite part of the museum was all the wax figures (of varying quality) of Arnie, and I got my picture taken with every last one of them. The one with the worst toupee was probably the one in the “Governor” room at the end, which was also rife with Arnold propaganda, and some pretty neat objects, including his “Governator” cowboy boots and jacket
I mean, essentially the whole museum was just an exercise in self-promotion, though I’m not really sure what political aspirations, if any, Arnold has left at this point. In fact, as far as merchandising goes, I think the museum is missing a trick, since the gift shop was limited to a small selection of posters and books, and only one t-shirt design. I know my whole family would have been thrilled to receive t-shirts, but as they only had one size available, I guess it goes to whomever it fits. I’m not saying they should turn the entire thing into a huge shop, but maybe at least have a t-shirt for women as well, and a better poster selection.
I think I have to take this museum at face value. You won’t be particularly intellectually challenged, or learn any amazing revelations about Arnold’s life, but you will enjoy yourself. We certainly didn’t regret visiting at all, even with the hassle of finding the place. Therefore, I’m going to give it a 4/5. Arnie’s Life gives the people what they want, assuming what they want is a whole hell of a lot of Schwarzeneggery goodness.