Next year, Austria pays homage to one of history's most fascinating women. On September 10, 1898, Austria's Empress Elisabeth died at the hand of an assassin.

Exhibitions throughout the country will commemorate the beloved "Sisi." They will document the intriguing life story of a woman who was at once fairy-tale princess, expert equestrian, poet, liberated woman, dieting-exercise fanatic and inveterate traveler.

Born to Bavarian royalty on Christmas Day 1837 in Munich, Elisabeth married Austria's Emperor Franz Joseph in 1854. The couple had four children: daughters Sophie, Gisela, Marie Valerie and, of course, the crown prince, Rudolph, who would later be the central figure in one of history's most famous murder-suicides.

Sisi's life was a series of tragedies: daughter Sophie died as a toddler; her favorite cousin, Ludwig II of Bavaria, the famous "mad king," drowned under mysterious circumstances; her brother-in-law, Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, was shot by revolutionaries; and, finally, beloved son Rudolph, 30, and his 17-year-old lover Maria Vetsera, were found dead of gunshot wounds at the family hunting lodge in the Vienna suburb of Mayerling.

Said to be one of the worlds great equestrians, the Empress was obsessed with exercise and fitness. Decade-long diets coupled with a need for movement compelled her to take strenuous hikes, caused malnutrition and depression which led to suicidal fantasies. At age 60, on the promenade of Lac Léman in Geneva while boarding a ship for Montreux, she was stabbed with a file by 24-year-old anarchist, Luigi Lucheni.

Special Events

Elisabeth - Beauty for Eternity, April 2, 1998 - February 16, 1999, Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg, Hermes Villa. At Schönbrunn, the exhibition "Living quarters for an Empress" will focus on the personal life of the youthful empress and her daily life at court. The Hofburg portion is dedicated to the "official Elisabeth." The exhibit in the Hermes Villa is entitled "And no one will she'd a tear", and will explore Elisabeth's intellectual and emotional world. Contact: Schönbrunn Palace, Tel.: +43/1/811 13-0.

The Wedding Casket, April-October 1998, Bad Ischl. The famed "Wedding Casket" contains 23 watercolors by Albert Decker given to the young emperor and empress as a wedding gift by their subjects. Information: Stadtgemeinde Bad Ischl, tel.: +43/6132/233 41-0.

Elisabeth, the Musical. This popular Vienna musical which has been seen by more than a million people will run daily except Wednesdays at Theater an der Wien. Contact: Theater an der Wien, tel. +43/1/588 30-313.

Sissy, July, 10 - August 15, 1998, Schönbrunn palace theater. A Singspiel, or play with music, produced by the Austrian actor, Alfons Haider, will be staged at the theater of Schönbrunn Palace. Contact: +43/1/512 01 00 39

Sisi Open Air, September 1998, Bad Ischl. Gerhard Tötschinger will stage a mammoth outdoor production in Bad Ischl. Information: Stadtgemeinde Bad Ischl, Tel.: +43/6132/27757-0.

(U.S. Dollar prices quoted in this issue of Gemütlichkeit may be inaccurate for these reasons:

  • Prices in local currency have not been updated since the date of publication of this newsletter, and...
  • The dollar prices shown were obtained by using exchange rates in effect at the time of publication.)