Apparently, she wasn’t very nice, hated being royalty and generally vanished for years at a time, missing out on seeing her children grow up. However, once assassinated, the beautiful Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary, became a cult figure, lionised and praised above all others. In other words, the country fell in love with a beautiful princess that wasn’t.
And so, the Cult of Sisi was born. It was all the fault of the press who pretty much despised her when she lived but made a big thing of her after her unfortunate death. Actually, her death was a bit unfortunate for others whereas she was more than happy to end in such a quick and easy way.
Don’t get me wrong, she was very beautiful. And she had the most amazingly long and luxuriant hair – servants spent three hours each day brushing and dressing it while she studied foreign languages.
She also loved travelling. Not arriving or getting home but the actual travel bit. She rather liked the train and had her own special little carriage.
If you were to believe everything written about her by adherents of the Cult of Sisi, you would swear she died young and beautiful in tragic circumstances. In truth she was 61 and happened to be the only royal around at the time her assassin (Luigi Luccheni, Italian anarchist) went looking for one to assassinate.
We found out more than we’ve ever wanted to know about her (and various other Habsburgs) today while visiting the Royal Apartments, the Silver Museum and the Sisi Museum.
I also discovered that they (the Habsburgs) had an awful lot of china and cutlery, lots of it in rather tasteless gold. The Silver Museum is full of it. Apparently they didn’t really want gold plates, candle sticks and cutlery but all the silver went to making coins during the Napoleonic Wars.
There’s only so many plates and bowls you can look at before your head and, subsequently, brain starts turning to jelly…so we moved on to the Sisi Museum. This was a long trip through her life though starting with her death then going back and forth a bit. It was a tad confusing at times, prompting me to almost ask an attendant whether Sisi was dead or not when depicted as the black mannequin.
From Sisi’s Museum to her apartments…and the apartments of other prominent Habsburgs. This was like any royal residence we’ve visited in the past though, by this time, I was pretty much mentally exhausted and didn’t really take a whole lot in. There was also a huge crowd of tourists there with me.
The highlight of the day, however, was something I’d organised from London back in August. We went and saw the performing Lipizzaners at the Spanish Riding School.
At first it looked like it was going to be a bit of an impossibility to actually get in to the performance area. We tried three doors, each time being sent to the next one along. Still, eventually, and not before time, we found the door we needed and went in search of our seats. Which already had people in them.
Mirinda wasn’t too happy at this stage. The main arena (basically a manege with balcony seating) was beneath us and around us were hordes of standing bystanders jostling for advantageous positions before the horses appeared.
Then, to our rescue, came a young Viennese programme and DVD salesperson. He quickly shoved the wrong people out of our seats and sat us down instead. We actually had terrific seats, overlooking the edge of the balcony into the sand of the performance space.
And the horses and their riders were fantastic. Thoroughly entertaining and well worth the money. The people taking flash photographs after being told repeatedly not to, were a bit annoying (“…flash is irritating the horses…”) but, other than that, it was all wonderful.
Seriously, anyone going to Vienna and not seeing the horses is really missing out on something quite special.
While we thoroughly enjoyed the horses, our favourite thing about this place is the cafes. They are brilliant. We can’t get enough of them. And they never hurry you up. You could easily spend all day in one. Mind you, the weather was a bit rubbish today so the alternative wasn’t much chop.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to admire a festive figure in a shop window. It was a life size representation of a woman. It was also a cake. Extraordinary. The shop sells cakes and pastries and, according to Mirinda, was so crowded she didn’t get a chance to actually see anything they were selling.