the hills kept me alive. no music required.

The gold and crackle of fall is at hand, which, for most of my life meant one thing: the mountains. As a girl, when I was not on horseback, I climbed the hills surrounding my summer home, Possenhofen. But once I reached adulthood and found myself being forced into one after another poufy ensemble, I made it a point (much to the dismay of the Archduchess) to scurry about the alps whenever I could command a coach to take me away from Court.

I had my favorite climbs: The Schmittenhohebahnen, The Katrin alpine (shown in the picture above), and other Saltzkammergut vistas.

Of course, my retinue found this habit taxing. After all, my ladies-in-waiting were a phlegmatic lot. Ascending a palace staircase was often the extent of their daily exercise–they were not about to go traipsing along hill and dale. We found an amenable solution. I would have the ladies gathered up and placed in a carriage, so they might gossip and fiddle with their handwork as they bumped along the lanes beside me as I hiked.

In rain and snow, in the heat of summer, off I went. And when the road grew too narrow or rutty for the carriage, I bid it adieu and marched along with whichever escort drew the short straw until the poor companion begged that her gout or boils were getting the better of her and could we please, please turn back.

As for hiking “couture,” I adapted the boots, dark, practical skirts and close-fitting jackets from my extensive collection of hunting habits. In fact, I do believe I could take some credit for an entire fashion trend. Especially the large leather umbrella I hoisted above my head (not only did this protect me from curious onlookers and the horrid sun, but offered the extra benefit of keeping the flab off the arms).

When I required a bit of a break and some refreshment, I would pop into a country inn, choosing always the most remote corner, and there I would have my glass of milk.

Occasionally, the carriages were not available, in which case I went walking without them. But I was not able to convince the Court that I could manage solo. Ah, my poor, loyal Lady Festetics, the little butter ball. After a couple of hours chasing me around the black forest, she begged for a ham, or even a sweet roll. My forced marches were entirely too much for the Countess. Once, when out rather late on an excursion, we were racing against sunset, necessitating a bit of a jog back to the summer castle in Bad Ischl. A policeman became alarmed, seeing such a sight, convinced that an evildoer was in hot pursuit!

Though history finds it odd that an Empress would choose to get sweaty and march about in boots rather than sit like a pampered cat on a velvet cushion, but for me, it was my lifeline to earlier days–when I was free to explore at will, rather than be kept in the proverbial gilded cage to grow dusty and fat.

3 thoughts on “the hills kept me alive. no music required.

  1. I was just thinking about how people say Sisi was anorexic, and I decided to see what 5′ 8″ at 111 pounds looks lilke. I went here:
    and I can tell you that from these pictures I do not think she was anorexic. Anorexics look like skeletons with hanging flesh on them. These ladies are slim, size 0 to 4 depending on body type. Sisi was very slim, she was NOT anorexic. In fact, she might have been passed over as a model in our day and age as TOO FAT! Pity we cannot see, under all those skirts and all what type of body shape she had, because a few of the ladies at that website are even rather curvy, if very slim. Just a thought. Always good to see a real comparison before throwing around words like Anorexic.


    • Thanks for that! I am in the “she was slim” category myself. Folks love to toss up “eating disorder” along with other somatic pathologies when it comes to Sisi. I’m in the “crazy like a fox” camp. Was she controlling? Was she disciplined? Was she furious with much of the expectations that ran counter to her personality and politics? Yes, yes and yes. So what? She was obsessive, yes. She abhorred fleshiness and padding, but not any more than the Tiger moms of our day.


  2. Indeed, it seems a situation where people, some are academics and scientists, who should know better who come to a conclusion and look for evidence to support the conclusion instead of looking at the evidence FIRST and then coming to a logical conclusion. For example, Sisi was anemic and had edema, for them they say that is evidence that she was anorexic [anorexia being a ‘sexy’ modern diagnosis]. We already know that Sisi had ‘kidney problems’ right around the time that Franzi started taking mistresses, so most probably he gave her an STD which caused her kidney issues. People with kidney issues, OFTEN have issues with edema. They body does not flush toxins or excess fluid properly. Also, same with anemia, that can cause edema, and anemia can be caused by a WHOLE slew of issues other than anorexia. It can be caused by WHAT you eat, as opposed to how much, it can even be caused by rectal bleeding, or internal bleeding, from unknown reasons. People wanted the anorexia diagnosis and they worked backwards, instead of using the correct way of scientific inquiry. IMHO

    Easy way to find out about her health, do a CT or MRI on her corpse. However, I doubt they would allow that. If I were a rich person, I’d pay for her and Rudolph’s bodies to be scanned. Especially, after the modern post-mortum of Vetsara.


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