Sisi - Homes
Empress Elisabeth'S Other Homes:
Herzog Max Palais, Ludwigstrasse, Munich:
Built from 1828 to 1831 in Neo-Renaissance style by the architect Leo von Klenze, and decorated in classical style by Schwantaler, Kaulbach and Langer. The palace was fitted out with a "circus" for equestrian pursuits. One room was dedicated to the Knights of the Round Table, where Sisi's father, the eccentric Duke Maximilian, could entertain his friends. The palace was the scene of many balls and levees, and even contained a room in the style of a Parisian "cafe chantant". After the First World War and the end of the monarchy in Bavaria, it fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished in 1938 by the Nazi authorities. In 1954 the headquarters of the Landeszentralbank were erected on the site.
Possenhoffen Palace, on the western shore of Lake Starnberg, south of Munich:
Bought in 1834, by Duke Max. The original building was much altered, the four corner towers having "pepperpot" roofs, stables and visitor accommodation added. In Elisabeth's youth Possenhofen had a neo-classical, Biedermeier style. It was, and still is, surrounded by a large park, which is heavily wooded, with plantations of rhododendrons. The park runs down to the shores of the lake, from which splendid views southwards to the Alps may be had. After 1920 the castle became derelict. It subsequently served as a children's home, rest home for mothers, military hospital, and even a motorcycle repair workshop. In 1984 it was converted into very expensive flats which are much sought after by media and government personalities. It now has the rather mundane address of Karl Theodore Strasse 14, 82343 Possenhofen. The buildings are NOT open to the public, but the park is. After her marriage to Franz Joseph, Sisi did not reside in Possenhofen, but stayed at the Strauch Hotel in nearby Feldafing. It is now the "Kaiserin Elisabeth Hotel" where a fine marble statue of her may be seen.
The Hofburg Palace, in the centre of Vienna
The Hofburg is ancestral state residence of the Habsburgs in Vienna. Elisabeth detested it due to its lack of facilities, e.g. proper plumbing, its lack of privacy, and the strict protocol observed there. Her feelings towards the Hofburg are expressed in a poem which she composed in 1854:
I have awoken in a dungeon,
With fetters on my wrists.
My longing grows ever stronger.
And Freedom! thou, turned away from me.....
Sisi's apartments in the Amalia wing of the palace consisted of her bedroom, a dressing room (which also functioned as a gymnasium), a bathroom, a study and an anteroom. This suite was entered from the "Schwarze Adlersteige" staircase. From 1858, she began to refurbish these rooms according to her more refined taste. These rooms and others in the Hofburg are open to the public.
Laxenburg Palace, south of Vienna:
Elisabeth spent the time after her marriage here in this lovely baroque palace . She enjoyed riding in the park, with her English groom, Holmes; but this was disapproved of by her mother-in-law and the Emperor. Crown Prince Rudolf was born here and, during the conflicts with Italy and Prussia, Elisabeth converted part of the building into a hospital for wounded combatants. The palace, which was badly damaged at the end of the Second World War, is now the headquarters of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, but the splendid park with its mock mediaeval castle is open to the public.
Schonbrunn Palace:on the western outskirts of Vienna
The stupendous baroque magnificence of the palace and park of Schïż½brunn was intended as an answer to the French royal palace of Versailles. The palace has hundreds of rooms, many of which are still used on state occasions, but the suite of rooms used by the Empress can be viewed as can those of the Emperor, as well as those which date from the time of Empress Maria Theresa. The palace is surrounded by large formal gardens which include the world's oldest zoological garden and Roman remains. Sisi's rooms were equipped with a circular staircase to the floor below, which allowed her to avoid contact with unwanted guests!
The Hermesvilla in the Lainz wildlife park, on the outskirts of Vienna:
Lainz was originally an imperial hunting park. It was here, in a vain attempt to keep Elisabeth in Vienna, that Franz Joseph built her this exclusive residence, which was completed in 1886. The decoration is sumptuous, if somewhat heavy. Built to please Sisi, it seems that it did not. Most of the interior decoration is ponderous and exaggerated. Elisabeth's bedroom features an immense rococo bed, and the walls and the ceiling of the chamber were decorated by the court painter Hans Makart on the theme of scenes from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", depicting the characters of Bottom, the fairies, Titania, (queen of the fairies, with whom Sisi identified), and Oberon, king of the fairies in his chariot drawn by leopards. To some the taste displayed is somewhat gross. The Hermesvilla did, however, have extensive stables, which must have been very much to her liking! Some rooms on the ground floor became the residence of Sisi's favourite daughter, Archduchess, Marie Valerie. The Hermesvilla is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
Gödölö Palace, 35 miles north-west of Budapest, Hungary:
This was originally a baroque palace, the Grassalkovich Palace, which had been given to a Hungarian magnate by Empress Maria Theresia. After the "Hungarian Compromise" which created the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867, and which owed its success to no small degree to the part played by Elisabeth in promoting it, the grateful Hungarian government gifted the building and surrounding hunting estate to the imperial family. Elisabeth spent many happy summer retreats here. As well as sumptuous living quarters, Godollo boasted the finest stables, where Sisi kept her outstanding team of horses, and even a separate kitchen dedicated to the creation of exotic pastries and cakes. Crown Prince Rudolf had his own personal suite of rooms here. Elisabeth played hostess to her large entourage of English and Scottish hunting friends, including the Earl of Spencer and "Bay" Middleton. After 1945 the palace was used as a barracks and military hospital by the occupying Soviet troops, much to its detriment. Since 1993, however, much tasteful and authentic restoration has been done, although not all of the building is, as yet, totally refurbished. The royal apartments have been recreated authentically, and future plans include converting the stables into a luxury conference centre and hotel. The palace is open to the public from 1st April to 31st October -- Note, the palace is closed on Mondays.
Achilleon, Gastouri, Corfu, Greece:
The Empress had a lifelong fascination with the Homeric myths and was fluent in ancient and modern Greek language. From the moment that she saw the island of Corfu, she felt that she belonged there. Elisabeth persuaded Franz Joseph to acquire the Villa Braila for her. She began planning and building her "dream home" in 1888, and it was finally completed in 1891. However, as with many of her other projects, she became disillusioned, and it was eventually sold to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who used it as a summer retreat. The entire concept glorifies Elisabeth's identification with the Greek hero, Achilles, a statue of whom, in the final moments of death, is to be found in the beautifully laid out gardens. It was executed by the Berlin sculptor Ernst Herter. Elisabeth was a devotee of the German poet, Heinrich Heine, and had a statue of him erected on the terrace, but this was sold by the Kaiser and is now to be found in the main square of Toulon in France. Elisabeth had full rein with regard to the outward and internal appearance of the building, decorating the terrace with caryatids in ancient Greek style and statues of the nine Muses. At the head of the imposing staircase is a large and impressive mural depicting "The Triumph of Achilles" by the Viennese artist, Franz Matsch. Many of the furnishings were purchased during the Empress' travels and were bought in Italy. In a secluded part of the gardens is to be found a monument to her son, Crown Prince Rudolf. After World War I, the villa became the property of the Greek Government and much of its internal contents "disappeared". In subsequent years, the villa became a gambling casino, but nowadays it houses the offices of the Greek National Tourist Association. A small museum on the ground floor is open to the public during the summer season.