Vienna: The Mayerling Incident and Other Tales

She told me to come to Vienna, and that I was welcome to stay as long as I needed with her, her family and friends. When someone extends such an earnest invite you do not decline. You incline to oblige and seek to understand, and, if possible, adore whatever they have to offer. She, Carla, opened Austrian arms. I embraced them. 


I waited for mother to get off work so that she could show me around. To pass time I went with her boyfriend, Donny for a stroll. Within two hours we had been asked to leave from Mozart's house, because despite nobody telling us, we didn't pay to enter. We also saw saw the Wiener Hofoper (The Vienna State Opera House). Donny explained to me that Emperor Franz Joseph I called it "a big shoe box", which resulted in architect Eduard van der Nüll's suicide. After this Franz only gave unbiased commentary. 

This is the opera house.

This is a shoebox. 

Eventually I met with Mum.  She seemed to know more about Vienna than Vienna did about itself as she gave me detailed histories of everything we saw. I learned the history of beautiful buildings like Stephansdom, the Belvedere, and Michaelerplatz. 

I even saw were Carla and her friends went to school and played as children. 

"I hope I am not boring you," she says.

"No! Not at all," I responded. "These buildings are nothing without stories. I am happy to see it through your eyes."

We made our way to Carla's father's apartment to take some late afternoon tea. I sat with the good Doctor and Mum discussing how a vagabond Houstonian came to be in Austria. 

"Houston you say?" he revved up. "Houston, we have a problem!"

Apparently, he had stayed up all night watching Apollo 13.

Things went quite smoothly, until they begin discussing what I should visit while in Vienna.

"You know, you should take him to ze Schoenberg. It zwas ze summer caztle of Franz Joseph," he says.

"Oh No! Diz is such an ugly place! Why would you tell him to go there?!"

"Because it iz beautiful of course. Don't listen to her. You should go."

"But he haz been to Versailles! It will be like nothing to him. There are much nizer plazes to see."

This continued for a couple minutes, and at one point was in all German. I clasped my cup of tea waiting for the smoke to clear. They paused for a moment, looking at into each other's eyes. 

"Well, he can decide for himself," she says.

He leans in my direction and looks me in the eyes.

 "Go to Schoenberg. You will see."


By dinner time Carla had finished work and decided to make traditional wiener schnitzel for everyone. That night she, Mum, and I were joined by close family friends, Tito and Suzie. She questioned me about my day as we prepared to eat. 

"So, my father invited you for to me him for coffee tomorrow ??? What did you do??" she asked. "He never invites people like that because he can't be bothered to speak English."

"Umm I don't know. We just talked about Apollo 13 and a summer castle that is either ugly or beautiful...Him and Mum argued about it."

"Oh, that's normal." she replied. "Arguing is a very Austrian."

As we began to eat I soon saw that the art of a friendly Austrian argument is quite normal. Somehow we ended up discussing the infamous Mayerling Incident. Crown Prince Rudolph, only son of Franz Joseph, 30 years old, was in love with Baroness Mary Vetsera, 17 years old. The Crown Prince had this affair despite having a wife and a child. He knew they could never be public. It would be scandalous. So he killed her and himself. Thus making a scandal. 

It happened over 120 years ago, but I could have sworn it was contemporary news by the way Mum and Suzie argued over their opinions. 

"He waz a MUR-DER-ER!" said Mum.

"No, no, no. It was a crime of passion. It is different," replied Suzie.

"Passion? She waz so young she could have found another love!"

"No, but it waz not possible! He knew that if he only took his life that she would be forced to live without his love. He could not bear the thought of this, so he took both of their lives. He did it for love."

I looked back and forth. Then to Carla. Then to Tito, who throughout the debate made witty statements.

"It is better to have love and lost, than to have loved at all. Haha!" he said from behind a glass of wine.

"You think Austrians are crazy don't you?" asks Carla. 

"Perhaps, a little. I love this place!" I replied. 

"Murderer," mum added one last time before we moved on to the next subject. 


Come back soon to read the conclusion of Shameless Vagabond's adventures in Vienna