Portrait of an Unhappy Habsburg

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

   This morning Elenka and I caught the eight-forty-five train from Banska Bystrica to Vienna. Five-and-a-half hours later after checking into our hotel in the Museum Quarter, we made a bee-line for Hofburg Palace, the winter residence of one of Europe's greatest dynasties, the House of Habsburg. I wanted to get the real scoop on what went on between Emperor Franz Josef and his queen, Elisabeth of Bavaria.

    Empress Elisabeth was quite likely anorexic long before the word was invented. She rode about on horses, set up a gymnasium in her bedroom, and traveled the entire continent, often and alone.  It was also said that she had lovers. And all the while poor Franz Josef worked his hind end off from five in the morning until well past most people's bedtimes, ensuring that the empire and the planet's most ostentatious city were kept up to standard. Her subjects truly loved their queen. But was the beautiful yet rebellious Elisabeth good for the dynasty? 

   On September 10th 1898 as she was about to board a ship in Geneva an anarchist named Luigi Lucheni approached and stabbed her in the heart with a sharpened file. Empress Elisabeth was 60 years old when she died.

   My mission was to find out why Elisabeth had acted the way she did. And why Franz Josef had put up with her behavior. We spent the first hour looking at dishes, cutlery and pots and pans. I suggested to Elenka that they'd pulled a fast one on us. That we'd been hoaxed by the Habsburg's. Then in a dimly lit corner we came upon what we'd been looking for all along, the Sisi Museum. Sisi was Elisabeth's nickname. It was in the museum that the secrets would be revealed.

   Although Elisabeth had been portrayed in books, even movies as a fairy tale princess, that simply wasn't the case. More recent research has shown her to have been a woman with a number of mental disorders. She's thought to have been filled with bitterness and that she suffered from low self esteem. The Emperor, on the other hand, let her have her way because he loved her. Sometimes when you do such searches you wind up with unexpected results. Enlightening, but sad, that was our afternoon with the Habsburgs.  

   In the evening we met up with Mary and Jim who had left Brusno and gone on to Vienna a few days earlier. We ate good food, served by bad waiters, then walked the streets of Vienna looking at sculptures of gargoyles and naked humans until my feet and ankles went numb from the jagged cobblestone.

   The Following Day

   We flew home early this afternoon on the ugliest airplane I've ever been on. Jim, who's into airplanes, told me that this particular one could be configured to accommodate anywhere from 210 to 250 passengers. I wasn't about to try doing a head-count, but I'm pretty sure we got one of the filled-to-the-max configurations. The seats were so tightly squeezed together that I damned near had to walk sideways down the aisle to get to the toilet. Inside el baņo, the toilet seat was broken and the door didn't properly close.

   After freshening up and wedging myself into my assigned seat I looked up and saw that the plane had one of those old television monitors fastened to the wall between us and the first class section. I had to look around and over the heads in front of me. Fifteen minutes into a comedy with Sandra Bullock, I said to hell with it and gave the music selection a try. Only the country and western station worked.

When we touched down at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada Customs wanted to see everyone's passport at the gate as we got off the plane. There were a number of gypsies on board and the customs officials seemed to want to have words with them about one thing or another.         

Photos of the paintings of Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Josef provided by the WWW. 
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Lina Di Carlo on

Are you back in town for good now? Or are yo her just for refueling.

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