Habsburg life

When I was about 4 years old, I wanted to marry my cousin Josh. For no other reason than he was nice to me, seemed cute and was one of the few boys I knew. (Sidenote: I just realized I’ve also used these dreadfully minimal standards for some of my adult romantic choices.) If I were part of the Habsburg dynasty, this dream of marrying my cousin would likely have become a reality. Especially if Josh was heir to a parcel of land my family was desperate to acquire. Plus, age 4 was a pretty solid age to get betrothed. I would have been an old maid a few years later.

Vienna dripped with Habsburg opulence. It felt like being in the fine china section of Macy’s. I didn’t want to walk too close to anything in fear of my purse bumping and breaking things. The buildings in the city center stood side by side with their facades looking like the world’s tallest layer cakes. And at night, the twinkly lights and glowing domes made the town uncomfortably beautiful. Especially while watching the city bustle from the window of a cozy cafe booth. It was in this booth that I decided I was glad to not be part of the Habsburg clan.

Besides the incest thing, there were other traditions that didn’t sit well. We went to the Imperial Crypt – an underground mausoleum for 140 of the most beloved members of this family tree. Dozens of iron caskets with intense, swirly, gothic ornamentation filled the halls, each with a description of the departed’s importance in Austro-Hungarian history. Later when visiting the catacombs beneath St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we passed two walls of shelves stacked with various sizes of copper urns, and learned they each held the internal organs of the Habsburgs. Except for their hearts. Their hearts were kept in a third location in the Hofburg palace. Obviously.

We visited Schönbrunn Palace – the Habsburg family’s 1,400ish-room summer home (SUMMER HOME!) – and got a peek into their lifestyle. We heard stories of Franz Joseph, his image-obsessed wife/cousin Elisabeth and their pale children. We saw the “Mirror Room” where 6-year-old Mozart had his first performance. We walked through the immense ballroom and imagined throngs of fancy people who convened here for over two centuries in wool suits and poofy dresses, falling in and out of love, making deals and changing the course of history.

It was also here at Schönbrunn that we attended the Strudelshow – an up-close look at the techniques and secrets of the perfect apple strudel. Strudel was a traditional pastry in the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Habsburgs were like, “hell yes,” when it came to enjoying it, which made it extra popular. Except for Elisabeth who wasn’t a fan of eating. But that’s a whole other story.

The Strudelshow ticket came with a small piece of apple strudel – or you could upgrade to a bigger piece of strudel and coffee, which I obv did. The baker gave us a brief history lesson and then demonstrated the intensive rolling and tossing method to make the dough so thin you can read a newspaper through it.

She filled it with thinly sliced apples, spices and sugar and rolled it up, twisting the ends to make sure the filling didn’t spill out all over the oven. I had the pleasure of meeting her and danke-ing her for the entertaining and delicious lesson. Plus, I got their secret recipe to make at home and the number for the 24-hour hotline to ask any burning strudel questions.

The takeaway: Making strudel is way too much work. The plus side of being a Habsburg is having servants to make it for you. I suppose that’s one thing worth marrying your cousin for.

2 thoughts on “Habsburg life

  1. Im a Habsburg descendant. I didnt know incest was popular. But life must Of been interesting And to be catered to. My Greatparents came here In 1907 And. gave their royalty. I. Wonder if My Greatgrandma knew WW1was right around the corner.

Leave a Reply