By Sylvia Westall
THAL, Austria (Reuters) - Arnold Schwarzenegger took a trip down memory lane in Austria on Friday, visiting his childhood home to open a museum dedicated to his life.
Hundreds of fans - many clad in Terminator-style leather jackets and national dress -- gathered in the soggy southern village of Thal to see the former California governor and Hollywood action star.
"It is a little house that stands here behind us, it is an old house, it has been repainted in yellow and it has been freshly renovated. But it was here that I spent my youth," Schwarzenegger told the rain-soaked crowd crammed into the garden.
Speaking with a soft Austrian provincial accent, Schwarzenegger said the museum was now home to mementoes including the first bodybuilding weights he hoisted as a teenager and the desk from his governor's office in Sacramento.
The 64-year-old said he hoped the story of his curious transition from bodybuilder to movie star to politician would inspire others.
"It is my great wish that everyone who visits this museum fully understands that everyone can be successful in their own way. Everyone. Stay hungry! That was one of my first movies, it has always been my philosophy. This house should carry this message," he said.
Local officials unveiled a huge bronze statue in the garden of a bare-chested young Schwarzenegger flexing his muscles in a body-building pose, veins bulging from his legs.
Schwarzenegger was born in 1947 in Thal, a small, traditional village set in forest-covered hills.
His passion for lifting weights there as a boy led him to the Mr. Universe, Mr. World and five consecutive Mr. Olympia titles. He moved to the United States when he was 21.
He recounted memorable moments in his life, such as lifting weights 4-5 hours a day, attending film premieres, his marriage to Maria Shriver and the birth of his children.
Schwarzenegger, who in May announced his separation from Shriver after admitting to fathering a child out of wedlock, is working on his second autobiography.
"Everyone can achieve what I did because personal success does not have so much to do with millions, with headlines in the media - that are not always positive -- and nothing to do with the pat on the back from Barack Obama or other big names," he said as his 18-year-old son Patrick, one of four children he had with Shriver, stood beside him.
One fan outside the museum needed little convincing that the star of such blockbuster films as "Terminator," "Total Recall," "Last Action Hero" and comedies such as "Kindergarten Cop" and "Twins" was a good role model.
"Arnold is a first class man. He opened our Terminator motorcycle club in Slovenia," Branko Slikar said, clad in a leather jacket, long grey beard and sunglasses.
"He is the number one body builder, the number one actor and the number one politician," he said, pumping his fists in the air.
Schwarzenegger this year halted discussions for a new "Terminator" movie and all other Hollywood projects, saying he wanted to focus on personal matters after admitting to fathering a secret child with his housekeeper 13 years ago.
He was ridiculed in U.S. media over the affair, with some media outlets dubbing him the "Sperminator." Shriver, a member of the Kennedy dynasty, filed for divorce in July after 25 years of marriage.
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall, editing by Paul Casciato)
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