After our adventures at the Rathaus Christmas market, AN and I wandered over to the Maria-Theresien-Platz for their Christmas market. Maria-Theresien-Platz is right across the street from the Hofburg Palace, the former seat of Habsburg power. This whole area is full of history and tradition. For example, on National Day each year, the military parade takes place in front of the Hofburg Palace. The Hofburg houses museums and other organizations today, like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
One of the museums in the Hofburg is the popular Sisi Museum about the life of reluctant Empress Elisabeth who lived in the last half of the 19th century. She is famous for her cult of beauty and is widely popular in countries formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire even today. She struggled with depression and did not enjoy court life. Also, the bizarre and scandalous death of her eldest son was particularly hard on her – he and his lover were found in an apparent murder-suicide. Sisi herself was assassinated in 1898 by an anarchist who stabbed her with a 4-inch knife. Bizarrely, she did not realize how gravely injured she was due to the tight lacing of her corset that served to tamponade the wound temporarily. When her corsets and the knife were removed, she died at the age of 60.
Back to the present, if you keep going through the palace, you can see where the Vienna Boys Choir practices. And around the corner, you can see the Spanish Riding School famous for its Lipizzaner stallions. Most evenings, you can also see some of the horses themselves – there’s a viewing window into the stables. I remember being struck by how many amazing things are in such a small space in Vienna the first time I visited – it’s a fairly compact city but especially in the city centre. No wonder the whole area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Title quote: Sisi is reported to have said this to her future mother-in-law, the Archduchess (& Princess) Sophie of Bavaria after meeting Franz Joseph I for the first time. It did not go over well.