Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Sisi

A real Munich child

The Austrian Empress Elisabeth, also known as Sisi, spent her youth as a Bavarian princess in Munich. She has become known worldwide as “Sissi” thanks to the films starring Romy Schneider.

Apart from the summer months, which she spent with her family in Possenhofen on Starnberger See (Lake Starnberg), Sisi grew up in the magnificent Herzog-Max-Palais at No. 13 Ludwigstrasse. She was born there on 24 December 1837, as Elisabeth von Wittelsbach, Princess of Bavaria.

In 1854, she left Munich for Vienna, to marry the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph. However, she would visit her beloved native city frequently – and was particularly fond of Bavarian beer. In 1897, she became the first person to visit the new Hofbräuhaus, built by Max Littmann – though she was incognito, of course. “I will never leave Munich without stopping here,” she explained to a Hungarian companion.

As an imperial guest, Sisi first stayed in the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. Here, Dittmann’s wave bath swing became available in 1889 as the dernier cri in relaxation. This was a special, rounded tub that could be made to swing by means of shifting weights; the Empress of Austria is said to have swung on the wellness device so energetically that her bathwater overflowed into the rooms below. She was reportedly so embarrassed by this incident that she only ever stayed at the Bayerischer Hof from then on.

There are many reminders of the Austrian Empress at Starnberger See (Lake Starnberg) as well. Schloss Possenhofen is privately owned and can only be viewed from the outside, but the Kaiserin Elisabeth Museum in the historic train station in Possenhofen contains self-portraits of the young Sisi and a great many other exhibits. King Ludwig II and Elisabeth both used Roseninsel (Rose Island) as a refuge when they wanted to escape court life. They saw each other as soulmates and often met on the island in order to be able to chat or dine together undisturbed.

 

 

Photo: Frank Stolle

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