jueves, 2 de diciembre de 2010

Sissi is alive in Vienna's Heart

Austria must be one of the smaller XXI century European countries. But Vienna, it’s capital, its cover by a royal hallo that will always remind visitors that less than 200 years ago it was an Empire of nine kingdoms.

Love, intrigues and tragedy covers the walls of the Schönbrunn and Hofburg palace. The love story of Emperor Franz Josef (1830-1916) and his wife the Empress Elizabeth (1837-1898), worldly renounce as Sissy, has inspired many hands to write version of the romance between a handsome young emperor and his love, the beautiful Sissi. The success of the Sissy trilogy in ’50 made the couple famous worldwide.

The movies has made us believe the story of a 16 year old 'Sissi', that follows her mother and sister Helene to the Austrian court in Ischl where young Franz Josef and Helene “Nene” where supposed announce their engagement. Franz Josef meets the beautiful Sissi and fall in love immediately, getting happily married, without expecting that his arrogant mother, unhappy with the marriage, will make anything to provoke intrigues that the couple must endure in order to stay together.
The journey thought the life and myth of this Imperial story is a “must see” in a Vienna visit, and the best way to start is visiting the Schönbrunn palace in Schlossstrasse 47, in the thirteen district.

The Schönbrunn palace was placed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1996, due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings. It’s in the possession of the Habsburg dynasty since Maximilian II, now property of the Republic of Austria since the end of the monarchy in 1918. Destroyed in some occasion, the palace has endured difficult times and wars becoming one of few the standing examples of the Austrian Rococo architecture. Its walls are painted on a bright yellow color, seal of every façade made for the Habsburg.

The guided tours take you around the official offices, and guess-salons and some of the private imperial rooms. The taste of the Rococo decorative style are found mostly on the walls and ceiling, covered with white-lacquered surfaces with gold leaf ornaments in a harmoniously game with white porcelain tile stoves and it magnificent bohemian crystal chandeliers.

If you are a Mozart fan, you should visit the Hall of Mirrors, where in 1772 with only 6 years old he presented a concert.

The visit also takes you to the Imperial family summer private rooms. Franz Josef and Sissi’s quarters has two curious remarks: First, it’s decoration was done on a simple and unpretentious Biedermeier style, contrasting the luxuriousness of the rest of the building. Second, for a XIX century royal family, Franz Josef and Sissi where revolutionaries. They broke with the protocol of separate quarterage, instead the monarchs had a common sleeping room which you can visit in the journey.

The Hofburg palace was the former official residence of Sisi and Franz Josefand it’s in Vienna city heart. Originally, Hofburg was a medieval castle, but it became a magnificent residence for the Imperial family when the Habsburg's power increased. Nowadays, Hofburg includes many building among them: various residences (with the Amalienburg), the chapel (Hofkapelle or Burgkapelle), museums (the Naturhistorisches Museum & Kunsthistorisches Museum), the Imperial Library (Hofbibliothek now the Prunksaal), the treasury (Schatzkammer), the national theatre (Burgtheater), the riding school (Hofreitschule), the horse stables (the Stallburg and Hofstallungen)and the Hofburg Congress Center and the Sissi and Imperial Apartment Museum.

The Sissi Museum and Imperial Apartments is a place that offers a panoramic view of the daily life of the empire. Normally the ticket covers all three expositions: the Silver Collection, the Sissi Museum and the visit to the Imperial Apartments. The museum route opens its doors with Silver Collection, a very sumptuous worth-seen collection acquired and conserved by the Habsburg for generations. The visit continues with the Sissi Museum where more than 300 items are on display. Finally, the journey takes you to the Imperial Apartments located at the Imperial Chancellery Wing and the Amalia Residence, which contains the apartments of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth, showing fittings and furniture mostly date from the second half of the 19th century.

Elisabeth’s private life it’s discussed intensively at the second floor exhibition. You will find personal objects and several dresses, including a dress from her childhood, one on the few remaining summer dresses, reconstructions of her wedding-eve dress and the Hungarian coronation dress. Portraits, painting of prominent artist of that time, and Sissi's watercolor painting box and drawing are some of the beautiful antiques of this fairytale Empress, making the path thought the museum a chest full of surprises.

The exposition it’s organized in a contraposition between the mith “Sissi” and the real Empress Elizabeth. Obsession, rebellions, myth, beauty cult, sport, arts, and effusive poetry, are some elements used to undress the life and feeling of this carefree girl that grew in Bavaria, had unexpected marriage with the Austrian emperor, and died tragically in Geneva on 1898.

The difference between the myth and the reality are not for us to tell, but for you to find in a magical trip to Vienna.


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