My husband knows how much I love, love, love the musical Elisabeth.
looked at the cast and told Mark how much I wished that I could transport us there to see it.
Well, for my birthday Mark gave me a folder. He had taken the time to print out information about the musical production, print fake tickets, and print out information on the Raimund Theater where the production was to be held and put everything in plastic sleeves.
Then! We started talking about combining this trip with our postponed Italy trip that we never did take (more info on that in a minute). After talking things over and realizing that we had a hefty tax return coming that we could use to finance our whole trip we decided to do it! For documentation's sake, the background on the Italy portion of things...I have always wanted to go to Italy. Back in 2003 we had a 26 day trip through Italy planned and booked. We were going to go right after we both graduated with our bachelors degrees. The plan was for Mark to hopefully get accepted somewhere for medical school and then to defer his acceptance for a year while we just worked, saved money, and had a baby (because it's that simple, right?). Anyway, when Mark returned from some of his interviews he told me that he was really feeling like we should cancel the trip and have him start school right away. I was really sad. Hotels and flights were booked. A hot air balloon ride in Siena was planned on our anniversary. A room with a balcony/view in the Cinque Terre was arranged in an old Italian woman's home. We had cooking classes booked in Tuscany, a trullo home booked to stay in in southern Italy, and on and on...I worried that since we were ready to start having kids that we would never take the trip if we put it off. We committed to take a more condensed version of the trip for our 10th anniversary, but as timing would have it - a few days before our 10th anniversary we were blessed with something even better - baby Max.
With a better understanding of how difficult it is to get away (money, time, child care) - we realized that if we were going to take this Italy trip before our retirement that we should probably combine it with the trip to Austria to see the musical. And that is how this fantastic 2 week trip was born! And it gives you some idea of how important this day of the trip was for me (the day we saw the musical)!
I titled this day of our trip "Sisi Day" because Sisi was Emperess Elisabeth's nickname.
To kick off Sisi day we started with a delicious breakfast in the breakfast room (on the same floor as our room).
And one with Mark in it...
We enjoyed the audio-guided tour through the palace explaining the royal apartments. With our ticket we were able to view all 40 of the rooms on display (there are 1,441 rooms total at the palace). Having spent some time reading up on the Habsburg empire, I think being there really came to life for me. Ironically, I went there with my dad 13 years ago too and I loved it, but didn't really know what I was looking at or who the royalty were that had lived there. I have to say that as we learned about all that Maria Theresa did to implement her style on the palace I had to imagine what it would be like to rule such an empire (for 40 years!) while also bearing a whopping 16 children and overseeing major redecorating of a "home" that size! Yes, I realize there were servants, but she still carried and bore those children whilst the weight of an empire rested on her shoulders. As a side-note: one those 16 children was Marie Antoinette (yes, the one who lost her head in France), and two others became Holy Roman emperors.
To give some very basic background - in 1278 the Habsburg family came to rule in Austria (they actually stem from Switzerland). They became more prominent in Europe over years and expanded their rule through marriages and treaties (better than wars and destruction, I say). They ruled what we now call the Austrian monarchy, followed by Austrian Empire, and then the Astro-Hungarian Empire. I didn't realize until recently how far reaching their empire was. I find myself fascinated with learning about this royal family and (perhaps being a woman myself) how their politics were strengthened by marrying off their daughters. Here is a photo of Sisi and Franz Joseph, just because I think it's cool to see actual photos.
So, Schloss Schönbrunn became the place where these royals spent their summers. Besides the huge, lavish Rococo palace (the only palace in Europe that can rival Versailles, as was its goal) it also has huge expanses of gardens. We were lucky enough to enjoy a break in the rain while we explored just a portion of the outdoor space at Schönbrunn. While you pay for a tour of the palace, the gardens are free and open to the public - they have been since 1779 as part of Maria Theresa's reform policy. My pictures don't do it justice, but here are a few anyway.
A garden view with the palace behind us. At the top of the hill is the Gloriette - a decorative monument glorifying some Austrian military victory.
The Neptune Fountain was completed in 1780 just before the death of Empress Maria Theresa.
A close-up of the top of the Gloriette.
Here we are with a view of the palace in the background.
From all the way up on the Gloriette. I should mention that there are still acres of grounds on the other side beyond that monument as well.
One last photo as we left the palace...
Regarding the musical Elisabeth (the most successful German-language musical of all time I must add)...the main protagonists are Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Elisabeth. Other main characters include Sophie who is Franz Joseph's domineering mother (described as "the only man in the court"), Rudolf (Franz Joseph and Elisabeth's son), and Luigi Lucheni - Elisabeth's assassin. In the musical there is also a central figure 'Der Tod' (death) that falls in love with Elisabeth and lures and temps.
Sisi was a free spirited child born and raised in Bavaria. She loved writing poetry, riding horses, and was quite introverted, though viewed as charming. She was married at 16 years old and didn't adapt well to the rigors of court etiquette and the strong hand of her mother in law (who went as far as to take her children from her after birth to raise them). Elisabeth becomes depressed after the death of her first daughter and despondent after her son commits suicide. For the rest of Sisi's life she wears only black. Black pearls, lace, fan and all.
After I agreed that we really were done at the theater we walked to a restaurant where I'd made reservations. This was a place I came across on my own by searching proximity on google maps and then pulling up menus. I knew it was a shot in the dark, but it turned out great! It was called The Mill.
One random thing that was weird was the bathroom. Mark used it and it had a full length, clear glass window right by the toilet (with no window covering) that faced an ally. Also the door to the toilet didn't lock. The lack of privacy was a bit unnerving, but we got a good chuckle out of it. Oh, and no menus in English and only one server that spoke some English - this wasn't a problem for us, but with it having a menu with such gourmet descriptions we did need some help with some of the words I wasn't familiar with. I thought that was kind of fun though.
Mark ordered one of their steaks with a strawberry glaze, and requested a side of fresh horseradish which they were happy to oblige.
Dinner was the perfect ending to a perfect evening...which capped off a fabulous day! And what made it so much better was that Mark actually really enjoyed it all too. He told me that he was originally happy to accompany me to the musical because he knew that would be important to me, but that he was surprised that he ended up really enjoying it himself. And he was as delighted with the dinner as I was also. We enjoyed talking about the musical by candle light over this tasty dinner together, and I felt so grateful to have a husband that made a dream like this of mine come true for me.