Sisi’s circular path is a short walk, only one kilometre, starting from the Elisabeth Chapel situated on the top of the Schmittenhohe. The walk is full of interest as in addition to the marvellous views there are information boards which detail the life of Empress Sisi.
Zell am See is at 757m but the local mountain, the Schmittenhohe rises to just over 2000m. The easiest way to get up there is to take a ride in the gondola on the Schmittenhohe-bahn. The gondolas are designed by Porsche and the ride is very smooth although the gondolas can be very crowded. I reckon that at least 40 people were crammed into the 10.00am ride.
Once at the top we were amazed by the view. We had a panoramic view of the city and the lake but also we could see thirty peaks above the 3000m mark.
My interest was taken by the flower meadows full of Bearded Bluebells, Golden Hawkesbeard and Arnica. I was soon down on my hands and knees taking photos.
But what of the walk.
The Elisabeth Chapel
The chapel was planned during 1904/05 by Carl and Emille Hoschke as a memorial to Empress Elisabeth. On 10th September 1908 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the death of Empress Elizabeth, Dr Johannes Baptiste Katschtaler consecrated the chapel.
The life of Empress Elisabeth, alias Sisi.
Elisabeth Eugene Amalie, nicknames Sisi was the daughter of Duke Max of Bavaria and Ludovika, the Bavarian King’s daughter was born in Munich on 24th December 1837. The family spent their summertime on Lake Stamberger See in their small castle, Possenhofen, leading to a carefree life. She grew up happy with her seven brothers and sisters.
Sisi’s mother Ludovika, a daughter of Bavaria’s King Maximillian 1, was the only one of three sisters who did not marry into a Royal family. Her husband Max, was a Wittelsbacher, thus he was accorded the title “Duke in Bavaria” only upon his marriage. Conspiring with her sister, Sophie, the emperor Francis Joseph’s mother, Sisi’s mother Ludovika secretly tried to marry her daughter Helene to Francis Joseph. The prearranged meeting of the families did not go according to plan and the Emperor Francis Joseph fell in love at first sight with the young impetuous Sisi. They were married in a magnificent imperial wedding ceremony on the 24th April 1854 in the Augustinekirche in Vienna.
Sisi the traveller.
When Empress Elisabeth was ailing from coughing and respiratory complaints in 1860, she was inspired to take her very first trip abroad alone. She went to a spa in Madeira which gave her the opportunity to escape the rigors of court life. On her return to Vienna she suffered a severe relapse. Her doctors diagnosed “consumption”. The Empress departed to a spa on the island of Corfu.
Her escape from Vienna’s Imperial Court in 1860/61 launched a journey which was to continue up to her death. She travelled throughout Europe, to Asia Minor and to North Africa. When Elisabeth returned to the Imperial Court in Vienna after an absence of almost twenty years, she had transformed from a pale, shy young woman to a self-confident monarch.
Stretching out ahead of me I could see the High Altitude Promenade. I was tempted to do it now but decided to leave it for another day and concentrate on Sisi’s walk.
Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.
At the beginning of 1867, she succeeded in reaching an accord with Hungary, despite strong opposition from her mother-in-law and members of the Imperial Court. On 8th June 1867, the coronation of Emperor Francis Joseph and Empress Elisabeth as King and Queen of Hungary took place in the St Matthew’s Church in Budapest.
Empress Elisabeth visits Zell am See.
On 7th August 1885 at 8.00pm, Empress Elisabeth arrived in Zell am See on a special imperial train. She stayed at Hotel Elisabeth which no longer exists.
Before the construction of the Schmittenhohe-bahn, guests were carted up the Schmittenhohe via a bridle path in a horse drawn coach. However Empress Elisabeth did not want to go up this way. So, on the 9th August she left with Anton Ultman, a local guide to walk up the mountain, leaving at 1.00am and reaching the summit in time for sunrise. It is a steep climb and usually takes about three hours but Sisi did it in 2 hours 16 minutes.
When she was 17 years old, the young Empress Elisabeth gave birth to a girl, who was named Sophie Friederike. A year later another daughter, Gisela was born. In 1858, Crown Prince Rudolph Francis Carl Joseph was born. Her fourth and last child, Marie Valerie Mathilde Amalie was born in 1868 in Ofen, Hungary. Sophie died at the age of two from diarrhoea and fever. Crown Prince Rudolph committed suicide when he was 31 at Schloss Mayerling in Lower Austria, together with his mistress, Mary Vetsera.
On 9th September 1898 on the shores of Lake Geneva.the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni stabbed Elisabeth in the heart with a knife he had made himself. She managed to board a lakeside boat but then collapsed. She died a short time later in her hotel. The internment took place on 17th September in the Kapuzinergruft in Vienna.
The Elisabeth Chapel.
Back at the chapel I had the chance to have a quick look inside.
The Altarpiece depicts St Elizabeth of Thuringen “Princess of the poor” standing and distributing bread to the poor who are kneeling before her.
St Martin renders his cloak with his sword. St Joseph stands with his shepherds crook.
The five stained glass windows depict the life of Elisabeth.
It had been an interesting hour but now we could relax and watch the paragliders launching themselves off the mountain.
It was now lunchtime and time for a snack. Apple strudel and coffee, or maybe something stronger.
Time now to sit in the sunshine and enjoy the view from the terrace.
It had been good to be up high and it had given me the chance to study my map and orientate myself. I now had a couple of walks planned in my mind.