Austrians threw a party for one of their most famous sons, Arnold Schwarzenegger, celebrating his 60th birthday Monday in Vienna with strudels, schnitzels and an unusual gift — the original street number from the house where he was born.
"A Day for Arnold," proclaimed officials in the southern village of Thal Bei Graz, the California governor’s birthplace. A brass band played, a priest held a special birthday Mass and 59 locals joined Mayor Peter Urdl onstage in a ceremony to wish Schwarzenegger well.
Urdl said he sent a birthday present — Thal 145, the enameled number of the house where Schwarzenegger was born on July 30, 1947 — and announced the number would be terminated.
"This belongs to him. No one here will ever be assigned that number again," he said.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARNIE!" the daily Oesterreich headlined Monday.
In an interview with the Vienna newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Schwarzenegger said he had a simple birthday wish: that the United States, his adopted country, recovers its international prestige.
"My wish is that this great country once again gets the reputation it once had around the world," the daily, which interviewed Schwarzenegger in Sacramento, quoted him as saying. "At present, that’s not the case. I hope a lot changes soon."
Schwarzenegger said he doesn’t feel 60, describing himself as enjoying "top fitness" and feeling "dazzling" for his age.
"Age consists only of numbers on a birth certificate. What’s important is what one has in his mind and body, and I still have plenty of both," he said. "There’s still so much I want to give to the world."
The former bodybuilder turned action movie star emigrated to the U.S. in 1968 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1984.
Although Schwarzenegger remains fairly popular in Austria, he lost a bit of his luster in 2005 after he refused to block the execution of a convicted California gang founder.
Most Austrians are vehemently opposed to capital punishment. Schwarzenegger’s decision not to intervene triggered a wave of protests that culminated with the renaming of Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium, a 15,000-seat soccer arena in the southern city of Graz.
An indignant Schwarzenegger responded by severing ties with the city. He returned last month for the first time since the dispute for a low-key holiday.
Kronen Zeitung said it asked Schwarzenegger what he’d desire if a "good fairy" were to appear and offer him five wishes.
Besides a resurgent U.S., Schwarzenegger said he hoped for continued married bliss with his wife, Maria Shriver; that the couple would be good role models for their children; for political success in the rest of his term as governor; and for continued health and vitality. "When my father turned 60, I was just 20, and at the time he seemed terribly old. Now I’m 60, too, but I don’t feel old at all," he told the newspaper.
© 2007 Associated Press.