For years I’ve been admiring the beautiful dresses of empress Sisi and finally the day had come that I would visit her palace. For one day I got to be a princess. For the occasion I was wearing a dress. Ok, it didn’t have any diamonds on it, but it was covered in green dots. Instead of a carriage with horses, line 4 of the U-bahn took us to the castle. Together with my grandmother I made my way through the masses until I saw the yellow castle in its full glory. The sun reflected in the white statues on the roof in a warm welcome.
Inside it wasn’t that warm. Schloss Schönbrunn doesn’t exactly have central heating, so the rooms were at a chilly 12 degrees. It wasn’t any less impressive. An audio tour pressed to my ear I wandered through the rooms of the imperial family. As a 15 year-old Elizabeth came to Vienna to marry Franz Joseph. When she was only 20 she had three kids whom she didn’t really want. She hated her imperial life and wanted a lot of changes she couldn’t get.
One day this woman wandered these same corridors and rooms. She also saw the walls of Chinese rice paper, the porcelain, the colourful paintings, even if it was from a different perspective. I feel honoured that I get to see what this rich, mighty family once saw. Where they slept, ate and bathed. But there what a difference there is. Now, I am just one of the tourist behind the lines, listening to some Londoner telling about what once was. Maybe Sisi has something to laugh about in her after life.
Outside the castle you can find the shed with all of the carriages that are left. They were used by the Habsburg family on many occasions. I can imagine why Elizabeth wanted to ride through the immense gardens in her carriage. They are simply works of art. Elegant. The last carriage is elegant in a different way. It is the carriage used to transport the caskets of the dead to the cemetery. suddenly you realise you are not in some theme park. This isn’t a fairy tale. This carriage actually rode through the streets of Vienna to bring the empress to the church after she was stabbed.
For one day I felt like a princess. One day was enough. The real royalty like Sisi couldn’t really enjoy life. Her corsets were the size of my wrist. She had health problems, depressions and a diet of three bites a day. She only got to watch Franz Josephs greedily eating his Kaiserschmarrn. No wonder she barely ever joined the family dinner. No. The palace and those dresses I’ll take, but the protocols and the imperial life they can keep. Than I much rather sit in my hotel room, resting after eating the biggest Wiener Schnitzel ever!