The spa town of Bad Ischl is, among other things, renowned as a favourite place of respite of the monarch family and in particular of the penultimate Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Elizabeth, who were betrothed here in 1853. That is why the tourists like to visit also the Imperial Villa (Kaiservilla), which was a wedding present to the imperial couple.
We talked about this Villa and about other things with his Imperial and Royal Highness, the Austrian Archduke Mag. Markus Salvator Habsburg-Lothringen, one of the great-grandchildren of Emperor Franz Joseph I and the unforgettable Emperor Elizabeth called Sissi and the grandson of their youngest daughter, Marie Valerie. He has been managing the Imperial Villa since 1971.
The Imperial Villa became famous because of the film trilogy about Sissy by Ernst Marischka, which has been broadcast several times also in the Czech and Slovak Republics. Do tourists ask about the trilogy?
Yes, tourists ask about Ernst Marischka's films. However, the Imperial Villa can be seen in the first movie only, where you can see its exterior for a very short while some 25 minutes into the film. It doesn’t appear in the other two parts of the trilogy.
Do you know how many tourists visit the residence during the season and how many of them in per cent are Czech and Slovak visitors?
All in all, more than 40,000 visitors visit the Villa from April to the end of October. We do notice Czech or Slovak visitors occasionally, but we do not count them. However, I would say that about 2,000 visitors per year come from the northern and eastern neighbouring countries. Czech tourists can ask for the accompanying text in Czech for the tour. And by the way - in addition to the Villa, it is possible to see the surrounding park.
The Imperial Villa is a magical place interesting for tourists not only during the summer but also in the winter. Is it possible to visit it even during the winter season?
In the winter season, which is from 1st November to 1st April, the Villa is not open for individual tourists. Tourist groups can visit it; however, you would need to email a request at www.kaiservilla.comwith a ten-day notice.
Your work - managing the Imperial Villa residence is presumably very demanding in terms of efforts, stress and also time.
Of course, I've been doing this work for over 40 years. It is a beautiful but complicated task. One does not only do it for himself but also for the state, as well as because of the interest of the visitors. Since we also live there, it is also a fulfilling work, which is very private in the inside, but no longer on the outside.
It is well known that you are interested, among other things, in arts and cultural life. Do you combine your hobbies with your work when organizing various events, exhibitions or concerts in the Imperial Villa?
The spaces are confined in the Villa, but there are bigger spaces in the town of Bad Ischl. It happens that we organise an event in front of the Villa, but when it is raining, the event is moved to the Trinkhalle building in the town centre. Apart from that, we organize events in the summer devoted to operettas, it is the Lehár Festival (www.leharfestival.at), or another cultural festival held in late June and dedicated to the memory of the composer Franz Lehár, who died in his villa here in Bad Ischl in 1948. All the places are in about 10-20 minute walking distance from the villa.
Your work includes probably a lot of travel. How and where do you spend your leisure time?
Going for a holiday is not easy at all, and if it is possible, it is just for a short time. Rather than going to far-away sunny exotic destinations, it is travelling round Europe, but sometimes not even that. A family holiday in Austria is better and less disturbing! We like to visit Upper Austria. Moreover, I have many siblings and other relatives that we visit. I like that very much, it is cosy, and endearing. Otherwise, I am very interested in architecture and the history of architecture. Sometimes I attend memorial events, which bring me joy and friends. In the Imperial Villa, an event called Imperial Week is held each August, a very popular celebration or rather a traditional reminder of Emperor Franz Joseph’s I birthday. When and how did these celebrations originate? The annual memorial to Franz Joseph I originated on the occasion of his 70th birthday, 18th August 1900, when he had been a widower for two years. This idea was continued in the following years, also thanks to various visits, since it was occasionally possible to visit the Imperial Villa on request when Emperor Franz Joseph was still alive. During the interwar period, many visitors came for the group tours on 18th August. Sometime after 1972, on 18th August, the traditional regiments of the period with their standards took part in the memorial mass and at the local history museum on the Esplanada in Bad Ischl.
What is the celebration day like today?
In the last few years, the regiments assemble and marshal on the Emperor Franz Joseph Street at the Theatre around half past nine, and then before the Imperial Villa around noon. The formation of the regiments around the well and their following march to the church are gorgeous and a delight for the eyes of visitors. The Imperial Mass takes 90 minutes and a large number of people come to it. The participating of the visitors is voluntary and is not limited to invitations or participation confirmations. However, it is important for the visitors to arrive on time. In order to find a parking space, it is best to get there one hour in advance. Similarly, it is necessary to arrive early at the parish church, before ten o'clock. We as the family participate in celebrations whenever possible.
The number of visitors to this year's Imperial Week reached 200,000. This is a huge number.
Certainly, there are many guests coming to town, because the event is beautiful and it is celebrated with music in a joyful atmosphere. However, in the days before the celebrations, different events take place in the streets and the spa park in the centre of the town, such as a long shopping evening with street music or other events within the programmeThe Emperor above all, or?,as these festivities are, in fact, called. The Emperor does not walk the streets of the town all days long, but even today, he still has his entourage, his followers. Although the centre of Bad Ischl is not that small, at that time, parking spaces are scarce and the saying “first come, first served” is very true. As early as on 17th August it is impossible to drive through the town, as the walk-zone is everywhere! Very nice and very meaningful is a several metres long red carpet stretching across the town centre, which creates very festive but also refreshing atmosphere for both the old and young visitors. The weather is hot here in the middle of August.
Mag. Markus Salvator Habsburg-Lothringen, Archduke of Austria, was born on 2nd April 1946, in the Persenbeug castle in Lower Austria.
His father is Hubert Salvator of Austria-Tuscany and his mother Princess Rosemary of Salm-Salm.
His whole name is Markus Emanuel Salvator Franziskus de Paula Stanislaus Gregorius Joseph Florian Maria Joseph Hubert Ignatius von Habsburg-Lothringen.
He is married to Hilda Jungmayr, and with his wife, he has three children - Valentin Salvator Markus (35), Maximilian Salvator (34) and Magdalena Maria Sophie Rosemary (31).
The Imperial Week
The event begins each year on 11th August. The programme progresses gradually and on 15th August at exactly 12:27 a.m. an imperial period train towed by steam locomotive with Emperor and his suite arrives at the local station. Emperor and his suite then participate in the opening of a magnificent imperial feast at the Esplanada. The celebrations continue on 17th August, when a 2.5-kilometer long red carpet stretches in the town centre along small shops and with the music of street musicians and the performances of magicians, the commemoration, or celebration, of Emperor, the honourable guest of Bad Ischl, starts. The celebrations culminate on 18th August, the anniversary of the birth of Franz Joseph I. The celebrations begin with lining-up the parade of the town guests, the monarchy period regiments and various traditional associations from the neighbourhood, and continue with a festive mass in the local parish church of St. Nicholas. Then, masses of tourists, but also of the town citizens, follow the march of the regiments accompanied by musical bodies along the street to the Imperial Villa park. The regiments and associations gather around the fountain in front of the entrance to the Villa, coming to salute the Emperor's descendant, a member of the Habsburg-Lothringen dynasty, his Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Markus Salvatore. Everybody can have a glimpse of him, and any visitor has the opportunity to greet him, although with so many tourists, you would need to be lucky.