The State apartments of the Hofburg, the exterior of which is not very imposing, are full of beautiful furniture and mementoes of historic interest. The Weisser Saal and the famous Mirror Chamber are of splendid proportions, although not particularly lofty, while the marble floor of the ballroom is less comfortable than magnificent.
Vienna has two seasons - one that commences on January 6 and lasts until Ash Wednesday, and a second one which begins just after Easter and lasts until the Viennese Derby day, early in June.
The first Court ball, of which there are two during the season, takes place in January, and begins at nine o'clock. Presentations are made at this ball only, which is restricted in numbers and very select.
All the ante-rooms are lined by gorgeously uniformed guardsmen, in tight, light-coloured or white cloth breeches and heavily embroidered tunics. The Diplomatic Corps is first received in the Mirror Room by the members of the Imperial house, and follows the Royal party to the Weisser Saal, to the foot of the Imperial dais, which is placed at the end of the ballroom. To the right of this dais all the married and elderly ladies of the greatest families are assembled. Half-way down the room, on the same side, are collected all the young girls, or "comtessen," as they are called, without distinction of rank. The men, who are nearly all in national costume, with picturesque fur capes and embroidered garments, occupy the rest of the space round the room, with the exception of the portion to the left of the Royal dais, which is reserved for the Diplomatic Body. Here the latter must remain standing "in attendance" until supper-time. Only the Ambassadresses may be seated on chilly marble seats.
Duties of the "Vortanzer"
More guests are invited' to the second ball, which is less rigidly exclusive. The room is then divided through the centre by a scarlet silken cord, below which, at the end of the room farthest from the dais, all those of secondary rank are obliged to remain, and are never permitted to pass the barrier which divides them from the "smart set."
The young girl in Vienna has a position all her own. She holds her own receptions, from which all mothers are excluded, she is penned up apart at balls. The "Vortanzer " is a very important individual, who is responsible for all the dancing arrangements, who determines the duration of each dance, and directs the cotillon with all its complicated figures. Revolt on the part of the "comtessen " would place him in a most embarrassing position. All ball hostesses place themselves unreservedly in his hands, if they wish their ball to be a success.
The chief "Vortanzer," or dance leader, holds his appointment from the Court, and is himself of exalted rank. The institution is supposed to be of most ancient origin, and is traceable to the days when King David danced before the ark.
Society in Vienna is divided into sections, or cliques, of which the chief are the old nobility, the leaders of the great financial and official world, the lesser nobility, and the haute bourgeoisie.
The aristocracy keep very much to themselves; the financial world and the haute bourgeoisie are subdivided into Christian and Jewish sets, the latter having anything but an enviable position if brought in contact with the "charmed circle."
The petite bourgeoisie of Vienna is a class quite apart, living on small means in comparative obscurity, but animated by a spirit of gaiety and delight in unpretentious pleasures, which is the keynote of the proverbial Austrian joie de vivre.
Dinner-parties are very early - between six and seven - and this is due to the Austrian love of the opera and theatre, both of which begin early. At dinner-parties a lady sits on the left of a man, and not on the right as here. They leave the room together arm-in-arm at the termination of dinner, when the men go to another room, usually adjoining the drawing-room, to smoke. They are frequently joined there by the ladies, who are nearly all inveterate smokers, and who often prefer the cigar to the more feminine cigarette.
The demi-toilette is worn at Vienna at smaller parties and at the theatre.
In this most Catholic of countries, Lent is observed with, the greatest strictness. On Holy Thursday twelve of Vienna's poorest inhabitants of either sex are entertained at the Hofburg, where the ceremony of the "Washing of the Feet " is still kept up. The Emperor himself has knelt down for the act, while the ewers and towels were held by Archdukes and Archduchesses.
The House of Hapsburg has been haunted by tragedy. The memory of the beautiful and haughty Empress Elizabeth, who fell by the hand of an assassin, is cherished by many who knew her. She was a pathetic figure, in spite of her exalted position, and the quasi-isolation of her life was due, no doubt, chiefly to her introspective temperament and undue pride. The Archduke Rudolph was the victim of the might of Eros, and morganatic marriages in the Royal house have not tended to the solution of its complications.
The "Weisse Frau"
All the Hapsburgs believe in the power and warnings of the "Weisse Frau," who watches in the invisible world over the fortunes of their dynasty.
Our present Ambassador, the Right Hon. Sir Fairfax Leighton Cartwright, arrived here from his post as Minister to the Bavarian Court in 1908. His salary is 8,000 per annum, with £300 extra for clerk hire.
The magnificent Opera House of Vienna. The Austrian love of music is very great, and attendance at the Opera is universal amongst all classes who can afford it. Performances begin much earlier than in England, a fact which regulates the hour for dining during the two seasons of the capital Photo, Photochrom.