Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Sisi Story and More Royalty

Silver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaThere are many familiar historical figures enshrined in monuments, buildings and other places in and around Vienna. In it's heydays, Vienna nurtured many leading lights of Western classical music such as Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Schubert, and Brahms. This city also brings back memories of both the World Wars: remember WW1 was sparked by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo? He was an Austrian prince and is buried just outside the city in his private palace. As for WW2, Hitler was born in Austria, and lived for a while in Vienna. I heard stories yesterday of how they still discover vintage bombs during road construction.

Silver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaSilver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaThere was one story that touched me, the story of a princess I hadn't heard of before. She was named Elisabeth, but more commonly known as Sisi. A Bavarian princess, Sisi was married off to the Austrian prince when she was very young. Right from the beginning she disdained the pomp and formality of the Royal Habsbergs. Her unusual attitude and her beauty made her a darling of the people. She rebeled and constantly travelled to stay away from Court life. Towards the end, she suffered from bouts of depression and obsession with diet and beauty regimes. She was tragically assassinated by an anarchist during one of her trips. This story seemed so much similar to Princess Diana's!

Silver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaSilver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaI bought tickets to the exhibition of the Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg Palace. I also checked out the royal Silver Collection that includes kitchen utensils, tableware and table linen from the House of the Habsburg. It is interesting to note how rudimentary even royal kitchens were during that period. This is true of the Imperial Apartments too. While there was a lot of gold, silver, velvet and other expensive material, I am sure the Royal Family would have been awed by the 'luxuries' even a common man can afford today such a cookers, toasters, running hot water, etc., which they clearly lacked. Note: Most pictures in this post are those I took during this tour.

Imperial Apartments Hofburg Palace ViennaImperial Apartments Hofburg Palace ViennaWhat I loved the most was the elaborate dining table with it's glittering table settings. The intricately hand-painted porcelain was stunning too. During most dinners, apparently they even allowed people to hang-around and watch the family eat. Hmm, did they made people pay for this privilege? I bet Walt Disney would have approved if they had!

Silver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaSilver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaSilver Collection at Hofburg Palace ViennaAfter that long walk around the Hofburg Palace, I was hungry. I sat down at a road-side cafe for some coffee with a pastry. This place, Demel, is very well known as for its ice-creams, but even the dessert, Mohr im Hemd, a chocolate souffle with whipped cream and chocolate sauce was wickedly delicious! As for coffee, every cafe has dozens to choose from. Here they had the Melange (espresso with milk and foam), Brauner (espresso with cream), Verlangerter (espresso infused with hot water), Einspanner (espresso with whipped cream), Anna Demel (house coffee with orange liquer and whipped cream), Irish Coffee (coffee with whiskey and cream) and Cafe Bailey's (coffee with Bailey's Irish Cream).

Demel's Desserts in ViennaToday I walked back through shops selling seasonal vegetables, mushrooms and fruits. Austrians (like Indians) prefer buying their greens and fruits from small vendors rather than large supermarkets. The green expanse of Stadtpark - an oasis of greenery, jogging tracks and water bodies right outside my hotel - and the trams on the streets add to the city's charm. This is a city made for people who love walking.

Haddock and Porcini at S'parks ViennaAt dinner I ordered an entree of Porcini and Haddock, fried haddock over a bed of potatoes and porcini carpaccio, sauteed with red baby leaf beet and lemon chervil sauce. Porcini is a seasonal mushroom which tastes fantastic!

Kaiserschmarr'n Dessert in ViennaDessert was another local favorite: Kaiserschmarr'n, a softly browed pancake served with home-made plum stew. Mildly sweet, unlike most other Viennese desserts, this one was freshly made to order. As you can figure out, I love this city!

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11 comments:

Priyank said...

Sad to hear about Sisi, and the dessert looks wonderful! A customised dessert? Yumm

Lakshmi said...

love stories...missed Vienna last year, but we went to Salzburg ..love that country

Shantanu said...

@priyank: Yup, dessert country! They taste even better than they look.

@lakshmi: My next post will be on Salzburg. :)

RennyBA said...

What a great, readable and very well documented story from a city I would love to go to of course. I'm going not that far from it in a week though: Milan.

What wonderful art from the history - great pics as always.

I love the food too - mouth is watering - again, as always from your post.

Have a great week ahead :-)

Shantanu said...

@renny: Thank you my friend. While I am now back in Pune, I have a lot more from Vienna coming up!

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

tempting

foodette said...

This makes me excited about when I will be in Austria next year. I am not going to Vienna, but definitely hope to eat some of the delish things that I saw in this post!

Shantanu said...

@harekrishna: Thanks for pointing me to the TOI article.

@foodette: If not Vienna, it must be Salzburg; which is my next post!

indicaspecies said...

Lovely post!

Shantanu said...

@indicaspecies: Thank you; some more coming up, this time on food.

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