"Imperial Apartments - Sisi Museum" Hofburg Palace - Sisi Museum - Imperial Apartments Tip by nicolaitan


The most popular attraction of the Hofburg is the Imperial Apartments tour, which is comprised of three separate sections for which tickets can be bought separately or together. The putative highlight is the Sisi Museum, five rooms devoted to the iconic 19thC Empress. Photography is strictly forbidden.

EMPRESS ELIZABETH (SISI) - (1837-98) Born a Bavarian duchess, she was selected at age 15 by Emperor Franz Josef I for marriage instead of her older sister, and married at age 16 in 1854 in Vienna at St. Augustine's church. Stated to have been a carefree and uninhibited child raised in a rural atmosphere, she tired quickly of court protocol and the social formalities of Vienna. By 1860 there were three children, the last crown prince Rudolf - the wifely obligation was fulfilled - unhappy and not thrilled by the philandering Franz Josef, she left detested Vienna for the first of many Mediterranean trips allegedly to recover from a lung disease but more likely according to historians a venereal infection.

The couple reconciled in 1867 as Hungary was joined formally to Austria and she became the Queen of Hungary. One of her very few political interests was support for Hungarian causes and as Empress she is of little other political import. After giving birth to another daughter in 1868, she was again gone from life in Vienna and the Hofburg travelling all over southern Europe with an assortment of lovers. Hofburg family denied her contact with her children and she avoided the rigid austere lifestyle of Franz Josef who took a popular actress as a mistress. She was particularly entranced by Greece and its history, spoke Greek, and read all the Greek classic literature. Over the years of travel, Sisi became increasingly reclusive and obsessive, rarely seen in public, and particularly after the murder-suicide of Rudolf and his young lover in 1889 ( the Mayerling Incident ). In the last few years of her life, the estranged couple became more friendly, linked by correspondence rather than time together. In September 1898 an Italian anarchist named stabbed her in her heart with a primitive shiv and her unhappy life came to an end.

Much is made of Elizabeth's compulsive behavior concerning her legendary beauty, ankle length hair, and 50cm waistline. She exercised regulary, ate little ( probably anorexia nervosa ), and spent 2 hours a day dealing with her famed ankle-length har. Sisi's beauty, rebellious spirit, unhappy later life, and untimely death have made her a legendary figure in Austrian history.

THE MUSEUM - five rooms filled with Sisi artifacts and written expositions document her life in a not overly sympathetic manner. The rooms are filled with elaborated floor length dresses, personal toiletry items, a reconstruction of her private railway car, and a desk with hand-painted envelopes. Jewelry, both original and reproduced by Swarovski, is on display. Special jewelry for mourning the death of Prince Rudolf. And in the assassination room, one can see the primitive sharpened file used by the assasin, the feathered black coat which covered her after the attack, and her death mask.

The comprehensive audio guide extols her virtues, describes many of the displayed items, but does not attempt to gloss over her obvious psychiatric difficulties including her obsessions with diet and exercise and her extreme withdrawal from private and public life. Over the last few years her legend has been embellished by drawing parallels to the life of Princess Diana with which she had much in common including estrangement from her husband, a rebellious and independent spirit, multiple lovers, and an untimely death. But the differences are not overlooked here, most importantly her underlying mental instabilities. A very interesting museum, worth the visit, even if much is contrived.

Address: The winter palace of the emperor
Directions: In der Burg
Phone: +43 1 5337570
Website: http://www.hofburg-wien.at/en/things-to-know/sisi-museum.html

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Feb 20, 2010
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