On Sunday whilst in Vienna I had arranged with the Mem that I could nip out in the morning to either visit the museums in Aspern and Essling OR the one in Deutsch Wagram. I went for the shorter journey just across the Danube from where we were staying and decided Aspern and Essling it was. These museums are only open on Sunday’s from 10-12 and from April-October, so as I would be there on the first day of the season I’d pop over the Danube on the U-bahn and have a look.
Sunday morning saw me up early and out at 8 as I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to get there as I had to take a bus at the end of the tube journey. My plan was to go to Essling first, check out the museum which is in the Granary and then bus it back to Aspern next – I was also thinking that I might be able to squeeze Wagram in too if I had enough time or if the missus wanted to get out of the city for the afternoon (it was a glorious day and I thought this might be on the cards). The journey on the U1 line was nice and quick and upon leaving the station at Kagran jumped on the 26A Bus to Bad-Enzerdorf for Essling. Aspern and Essling are both now suburbs of Vienna so one had to try and imagine the terrain without the buildings but one thing that is noticeable is how flat it is – really, really flat. This explains the ferocity of the Artillery fire mentioned in accounts of the battle, there’s no elevations to shelter behind if you are in the open, it must have been brutal.
I arrived in Essling early and, thankfully, finding an open café plotted up until opening time at the museum. I have to admit I was quite excited heading round the corner towards the Granary as I have been reading ‘Thunder on the Danube’ again before I left so was eager to see this famous building ‘in the flesh’. I arrived about 9:55 and started taking some snaps of the truly impressive building, it is massive and you can completely see why it was so important to the battle it would have dominated the area at the time. I finished taking the photos and began to get an uneasy feeling as I noticed that the door to the building was still padlocked and it was now about 10 o’clock. By 20 past I had decided that whoever was supposed to be opening up wasn’t and so I headed off to Aspern in the hope that that was open and to ask why the Granary wasn’t!
The short trip to Aspern on the (thankfully) very regular 26A over I was relieved to see a sign outside the museum stating that it was open. However, the much vaunted ‘Lion of Aspern’ statue was encased in a large wooden shed, so again disappointment. The 3 volunteers at the entrance to the large shed/outhouse type building that was the museum assured me that Essling was open and called the guy there who apparently had been there since 10, I was feeling quite miffed by this time as you can imagine!
It took me about 10 minutes to check out the displays in the museum which contained a large collection of musketballs, shrapnel from shell casings, canister, roundshot, assorted swords and hangers and the odd rusty musket barrel. There were a few articles of clothing and the walls were covered in prints of the battle and uniform plates but all in all it left me cold. There was no description of the battle that I could see, no maps and if you didn’t speak German no information from the volunteers. I realise that it is entirely volunteer run and so probably badly underfunded but you would expect that one of the most important battles of Austrian history that actually ended in a victory and is on the doorstep of the capital would warrant some sort of government assistance.
Assured that Essling was indeed open and disappointed in what I had just seen I, yet again, jumped on the trusty 26A and headed back. The granary is huge once you get up close to it and the walls are bloody thick but, again, disappointment is the first thing that hits you upon entering. I was expecting the museum to take up at least half of the bottom floor but it was sadly not the case, probably about a third if that. The room is nearly filled by the diorama of the battle which is actually very impressive with tons of figures – 8,000 plus apparently – and some nicely modelled terrain. The tardy volunteer chap did explain some salient points of the battlefield but as the language barrier was up he didn’t attempt any more than that, which was understandable but I appreciated the effort. There were a couple of display cases and a map of the battle in the entrance part of the space but again, it was all slightly disappointing probably not helped by me having to stand around like a lemon outside earlier.
I headed back to Vienna to meet the missus as she wanted to go to Schonbrunn and felt quite disappointed. I think I spent more time on the 26A than I did in the Museums and think it is a shame that they aren’t funded so that they can be improved, I can see why they don’t charge for entry due to their size which must affect what they can do and I appreciate the effort of the volunteers who run them. Oh well, next time we visit, Sunday will definitely be spent in Wagram, at least you can get an idea of the terrain more there.