The accessories of empire

Vienna, Austria It has often been said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. But try to convince the Habsburgs that they were not the legitimate heirs of the Roman Empire.

It showed in their possessions. Today we visited the Imperial Furniture Collection, which contains decades worth of items owned by the Royals and examples of changing tastes of later periods.

Between 1747 and 1849, there was actually a Depot of Court Movables, dedicated to bringing furniture, carpets, tapestries, curtains and other furnishings to various places as the Imperial family moved around.

It is astonishing what they considered essential to daily life. I mean, I am contemplating our two suitcases and thinking we overpacked. The Habsburgs couldn’t move without bring a palace-worth of stuff with them.

This museum holds a small percentage of that horde, but even that is an enormous amount of “movables.” The bulk of the collection centers on Franz Josef and “Sissi.”

When three movies were made about Sissi in the 50’s, the film makers were able to access the royal collection and use the actual furniture of the royal family in the films.

We plowed through gallery after gallery of the remains of the empire, all nicely stored for the next film set designers to use for research, including Maria Theresa’s wheel chair.

Then the collection moved on to later royals and later trends in furniture, with quite an impressive array, really “Austria’s Attic.”

Furniture is one thing that proves you are worthy of the throne, but there’s nothing like jewels and royal garments to show where the power lies.

For that, we went once more to the Royal Treasury, inside the palace. The accoutrements of empiredom were elaborate. In fact, Austria lays claim to having the best jewel collection on the continent, and we’re not arguing with them. Everyone around the emperors had to dress and accessorize to keep up, so the religious items and even the guards’ costumes were equally elaborate. The collection is especially noteworthy for the crown of Rudolf II (1603) and a 2,680-karat emerald, but there is nothing shabby in any of the rooms. Napoleon’s son’s cradle keeps company with imperial baptismal gowns, the Order of the Golden Fleece (later appropriated by Brooks Brothers), a narwhal tusk — always passed off as a unicorn horn — and even a relic of the True Cross.

They had it all, those Habsburgs.

Don’s Food Corner

After yesterday’s disastrous (and disheartening) experience at Demel, we went searching for some Viennese redemption.

It started out great. At the Imperial Furniture museum, we stopped for a little late morning refresher at the museum’s café. Jo immediately noticed that white asparagus soup was a special of the day. She went for that. I went for something sweet, a multilayered hazelnut cake, which is a Viennese specialty. We were very satisfied with both of our choices.

After working up another appetite by looking at the Hapsburg treasury, we found our way (although it wasn’t easy) to a restaurant that is beautifully housed in part of the palace’s former orangery.

Jo, still smarting with the bad taste in her mouth from yesterday’s lack of wiener schnitzel, went ahead to brave ordering it one more time (despite a vow a few days ago that she had hit the wiener schnitzel wall). All went well. The version sampled today was (1) veal and (2) properly prepared with a breading that was puffed up. The accompanying potato salad wasn’t the best she’s had. But overall, she graded it A. She’s still looking for an A+, but with only a couple of days left before returning to New York, it looks like it might not happen. (We’ll have to return!)

For me, I continued along sampling more white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. It was on par with the other versions I’ve had. Four of those massive asparagus is surprisingly filling. It seems that every restaurant of quality is serving this spring-time specialty. I’m glad I got to experience it.

A final note for the day: This marks the 900th post of the GoKnow blog. I know some of you have traveled with us from Day One back in 2013, when we set off on our tour of America. Thanks for sticking with us!

5 thoughts on “The accessories of empire

  1. I haven’t missed a single one of the 900 and enjoyed them all. Can’t wait for the continuing saga.

  2. That’s quite an achievement! It’s a big task.

    And it easily matches the scale of the mighty Habsburg Empire.

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