four centuries of bad hats

I have gone on and on about my hair in past posts. I have written of the three-hour ordeals involving washing, conditioning, delousing, the weaving in of flowers and jewels.

And here, I bored you to tears with my thoughts on the relationship between hairstyles and tarts.

And who could forget my reportage on the Sisi Museum’s display of wigs meant to model my various styles?

Well, I’m sick of talking about my hair, so I’m going to rant about hats, instead. Hideous hats of all eras. Not only the ones popular in my day (which, you must agree, were rather tame). No, the hats that I wish to malign are those ridiculous head dresses that found popularity before and after my reign.

Case in point: the photo at right showing my dear great-grand something in-law, Marie Antoinette. Born nearly 100 years earlier than myself, she epitomized the lavish and overkill of France in the 18th century. Really, Marie, we know you were born into a huge family, but your cries for attention were all so obvious! Is it any wonder that your silly head ended up severed from your shoulders?

Well, those Regents and their pomp were no match for the Victorians and their gloom. I submit: those are actual dead parrots on that hat! Can you imagine? Who but the most oppressed and misaligned would deign to put a bird on it in such a fashion?

But ladies, if I may, none of these ghastly examples of head dress compare to hideosities in the current era. I submit: the royal wedding, so full of promise and sleek style. Remember Kate and Pippa and their gorgeous gowns, and then along comes the Duchess’s daughter smiling proudly under a … what? Something from the Tiny Toons section of Disney? Is that a hat, or did somebody stick a section of wrought iron gate on Bea’s head? Charity-shmerity, there is no excuse to allow oneself to be the family fop. Is there?

And, we don’t really have to point the finger at the royals only, do we? Recall that embarrassing get-up on the Vegas chanteuse, Celine Dion a few Oscars ago? Well, to some people Celine is some sort of queen, I suppose.

Of course, the original intention of women’s hats was not for frivolity and fashion. It was to cover the heads  of the fair sex, lest they fall victim to the carnal temptations of men. Given the atrocities in headwear over history, I’d say the original intent has survived, and is alive and well!

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Walk-don’t-run: it’s the Sisi Senior deal!

strudel at the hof

Peruse my silver, and have a snack! All for a mere 12.50 Euro.

With the falling leaves, the chilled air, and the dark days ahead, tourism plummets at the Hofburg. Ergo, the Off-Season Discount Package! For six Euro off the normal fee, you can enjoy:

Entrance to the Imperial Apartments, Sisi Museum, Silver Collection
1 hot drink and 1 piece of apfel strudel (sweet snack) or
a quarter-liter non-alcoholic drink and a pair sausages with bread
in the Café Hofburg

…there’s only one catch. You have to be 60 or older.

Offer good now through the end of March, 2012.

5 Castle Series: The Hofburg

The Sisi Museum. Quite an homage, if I do say so myself.

Moving right along, let us now dive into the deep end. Dessert before vegetables: The most Imperial of all Habsburg Palaces, The Hof.

Crown jewel of Vienna, The Hofburg was home to six generations of Habsburg royalty, including, by marriage, yours truly. Opulent and oppressive in every way, even naysayers must admit, the place is an impressive collection of all that glitters. Not only does the palace boast the Gothic Royal Chapel, where the sweet voices of the Vienna Boy’s Choir charm visitors seven months a year, but it is home to a collection of national treasures so vast, it would make a dead empress blush.

Okay, forget the fact that the fancy Neue Burg was the chosen spot for Hitler to announce his Anschluss, as palaces go,  it has a pretty impressive entrance.  Ah, but that’s the so-called “new palace.” And it does not hold a platinum candlestick to the Imperial Apartments of the Hof proper. Those fancy rooms, where I spent many a day fanatically exercising and scheming my next exotic rest cure, brim with porcelain, silver, portraits and tapestries. And, of course, this is where one can spend hours in the Sisi Museum, where I’ve been immortalized as a tragic figure.

Lastly,  if you have time, you must scurry over to the Treasury and take in the embarrassingly extensive collection of jewels. If you are a fan of excess, you are in the right place. And, the 8 Euro admission fee is a deal, where else can you see a 500-year-old unicorn horn?!

my heart: now on display at the sisi museum

sure, they show my bustle, but what of my heart?

Seven years ago the Sisi Museum opened at the Imperial Palace in Vienna, and the marketing geniuses at the Hof are just now sending out the press release. Here’s a snippet:

In 2004 the Sisi Museum opened in a section of the Imperial Apartments once occupied by the empress. With more than 300 personal objects on display, the exhibition avoids the usual clichés, presenting Elisabeth’s true personality in a sensitive exploration of the empress’s life and fate. Elisabeth’s verse is used to illustrate her emotional states of mind at each stage of her life, from her carefree girlhood to the restless, aloof and melancholic woman she later became.

I’m curious about the clichés claim. For instance, do these 300 personal objects not focus on my obsessive hair-brushing, teeth-whitening and tight lacing? Will my diary entries not lie open for scrutiny? As far as I can tell, the clichés about me are thus: I was an aloof bitch; I was vain; I was a terrible mother; I was kind to Hungarians; I had unsightly teeth; I was the central figure of a beauty cult. To name a few.

Hopefully, amongst these 300 personal objects are the locket pictures of my sisters that I held dear. My Hungarian-Austrian translation pocket dictionary. The dog brush for my wolfhounds. My pack of custom tarot cards.

Yes, tarot cards.

I was a fan of the mystical, and, indeed, I’m happy to report, there’s a fabulous new tarot app for your smart phone! Why, if I were around today, I would insist that all guests of the Sisi Museum have their cards read, either digitally, or by a Hungarian mystic, like Marie Festetics, my attendant and the go-between for my chaste love affair with Count Gyula Andrássy.

All I can do now, from my crypt, is offer my hopes that the assemblers of the Sisi Museum really do have sensitivity into my true and complicated heart, for it was full. It spilled over ten-fold. Perhaps there is some concrete evidence of that amongst the 300 personal objects.