150th engagement anniversary – Franz Joseph and Sisi

18 August 2003

After having arrived in Salzburg the day before, I decided I would go to Bad Ischl the next day to visit the Kaiservilla. After a ride by bus of more than 1 1/2 hour I arrived at Bad Ischl and pretty easily found my way to the Kaiservilla. Big was the surprise when I found out that I , without knowing it, had chosen the day on which usually the birthday of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria is celebrated. And this year it was exactly 150 years ago that Emperor Franz Joseph, on his 23rd birthday, announced his engagement to his cousin Princess Elisabeth in Bavaria.

The festivities had already started in the morning with a mass at the church in Bad Ischl. Present there were among others Archduke Markus of Austria-Tuscany (great-grandson of the couple), his wife Hilde and their three children. However his wife and children had travelled to Vienna after the mass, and only Archduke Markus stayed at the Kaiservilla to attend the celebrations at the Kaiservilla. I also heard that his brother Archduke Johann with his wife and three children were there, but I didn’t see them. While I was waiting for everything to start I saw quite a lot of people arriving, including some ladies in beautiful traditional costumes. At 14:00 a few horn-blowers played from the balcony of the Kaiservilla and the celebration could begin.

The traditional parade started with tens of men (and women) in traditional uniforms and with flags of their associations. The commanding officer reported the troops to Archduke Markus, whereafter Archduke Markus held a short speech. Then he and the leader inspected the troops. Then the troops marched away and the rest of the celebrations could begin.

Moving towards the stage I ‘met’ (an of course fake) Princess Elisabeth as well as Emperor Franz Joseph who were walking around the area. The Austrian actor Michael Heltau climbed on the stage to tell the story of the engagement of Emperor Franz Joseph and Princess Elisabeth. From time to time he stopped to let the little orchestra play music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and to let two dancers show Biedermeier dancing. The programme lasted until about 15:00 and ended by a speech of Archduke Markus. I used the break to have a look inside the Kaiservilla, accompanied by a guest who appeared to stay at the Kaiservilla as a guest. He knew a lot about it and I got a very nice private tour through the villa.

While I was inside and later in the park, the programme continued with light classical and popular music. From time to time I heard a little of it. The programme was supposed to continue until about 18:00, but shortly after 16:30 the sky, that had been blue with a few clouds all day, turned greyer and greyer. It didn’t take long for the rain to start falling down heavily and soon the festivities ended and everybody went home. However before I left for the railway station I got a very nice small excursion by car through Bad Ischl from the men I had met. But then it was time to say goodbye to Bad Ischl and I returned to Salzburg safely around 20:00 in the evening

Next year on August 7 and 8, 2004, the 150th anniversary of the wedding of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” will be celebrated with a big festival “The Empress’s Dream (Sisis Traum)” at the Imperial Park in Bad Ischl. Tickets will be on sale from 15 September 2003.

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