VIENNA, Austria – Austrians threw a party for one of their most famous sons, Arnold Schwarzenegger, celebrating his 60th birthday Monday with strudels, schnitzels and a 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 celebrated a special birthday Mass and 59 people 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 July 30, 1947. "This belongs to him. No one here will ever be assigned that number again," he said.
In an interview with 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.
Schwarzenegger emigrated to the U.S. in 1968 and became a naturalized citizen in 1984. Although he remains fairly popular in Austria, he lost a bit of luster in 2005 after he refused to block the execution of a convicted gang founder.
Most Austrians are opposed to capital punishment. Schwarzenegger's decision triggered a wave of protests that culminated with the renaming of Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium, a soccer arena in Graz.
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 asked Schwarzenegger what he'd desire if a "good fairy" appeared and offered him five wishes.
Besides a resurgent U.S., Schwarzenegger said he hoped for continued married bliss with his wife, Maria Shriver; that they 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 said.