Chillin’ with the Habsburgs

Let’s talk ANTM—America’s Next Top Model, of course.  If Prague were an ANTM contestant, she’d be the edgy girl who, when it comes to makeover time, gets feminine, wavy extensions put in over the jet-black, spiky do she came in with (how will she overcome such a drastic change of identity???).

Vienna is the classic, aristocratic beauty.  Her cheekbones cut glass, her pores are so tiny they make you want to die, and she knows how to take a good photo from the first challenge…doesn’t everybody?  Okay, moving past the way-too-specific metaphor, Vienna is gorgeous.  Had it not come after Prague on the trip, I think I would’ve liked it even more, but whaddayagonnado?

We spent the first day in the center of Vienna, starting in Stephansplatz and making our way to the Hofburg Palace (Habsburg hangout #1), where we saw more cutlery (and chamber pots) than I ever really cared to see.  The audio tour through the Imperial Silver Collection really got me in touch with my aristocratic side.  “The 30-metre Milan Centerpiece is clearly superior to its predecessor, the Old French Centerpiece, in its gold carvings and pristine mirror plateaus.”  I recently considered buying a shirt that was dry clean only.

The ticket also included admission to the Sisi Museum, a more relaxed exhibit dedicated to the myth surrounding Elisabeth, the reclusive wife of Emperor Franz Josef whose popularity rose drastically after she was assassinated by an Italian anarchist.  This was my favorite part of the visit.  Elisabeth was a weird lady.  She was completely obsessed with her looks and weighed herself every day, adhering to crazy diets in order to stay below 103 pounds (She was 5’8”.  If that’s not shocking to you, don’t talk to me, you skinny bitch).

By the end of the visit, I felt pretty bad for Franz Josef.  After the Sisi Museum, we went through the royal apartments.  Franz Josef’s study proudly displays several portraits of his wife, including a big one right in front of the desk that served as the 19th century equivalent of desktop wallpaper.  Elisabeth’s study features an exercise machine of her own invention and a set of rings mounted in the doorway.  Right in the next room is the bathtub where she periodically sat for a full day while attendants washed her knee-length hair in a mixture of cognac and egg yolk.  Something just doesn’t add up here…

We rounded out the first day with a trip to the Leopold Museum, best known for its Egon Schiele collection.  Habsburgs in the morning, tortured Austrian expressionist in the afternoon.  Instead of trying to describe Schiele’s work, how about I just let it speak for itself?


I had never even heard of Schiele before this trip, but it turns out he did some incredible work, especially considering he died in 1918.

We spent the last full day in Vienna at Schloss Schonbrunn, the Habsburgs’ summer residence.  Just think Pride & Prejudice, but multiply Darcy’s mansion by about twenty.  Many of the gardens had already been dug up for winter, but we were just in time for beautiful fall color. It was a nice last day of an exhausting vacation, which came off surprisingly well (if I do say so myself).