Being woken up in Graz by a scary voice
*This post was previously live on my older/erstwhile site TheWingedFork.
Where? Grat-zuh? Where? Grat-zuh? Where? Grat-zuh? Where? Grat-zuh? Where? Grat-zuh? Where? Grat-zuh? Where? Grat-zuh?
I was woken up in the middle of the night by a low repetitive voice that almost scared me witless. After turning on the night lamp in our hotel room in Graz, Austria, I realized that the sound was coming from my sister over in the next bed. And in whatever dream state she was in she sounded freaky. Her voice belonged to someone else, the accent, the intonation, the low purr.
I waited for almost 3 minutes for her to stop, and tried to shake her awake, which she didn’t, before finally hitting her with a pillow. So she wakes up and asks what the hell is wrong with me. She had no idea she’d been saying these words, so just turned over and went back to sleep.
About an hour later, she does it again. This time the words are ‘Se-ven, se-ven, se-ven, se-ven, se-ven, …’ Of course, this resulted in my spending the rest of the night awake, wondering what on earth had gotten into her.
Well, actually, I wasn’t wondering. I had this crazy idea that she’d gotten taken control of by Mary Vetsera. Now, I don’t believe in ghosts, but that was the first time I had ever heard that voice from my sister (also, the last so far) and my mind was spinning with a thousand explanations. In the middle of the night, Mary Vetsera seemed like the perfect person to blame.
Talk about crazy. Ha! But anyway, what happened was we were in Vienna the day before, because it’s one of the must see places to visit in Austria; And we did a bit of sightseeing including Mary Vetsera’s coffin. It was a sisters’ only trip and we were travelling across Austria on our own, with our handy Eurail passes. On our last day in Vienna we wanted to see some of the Vienna attractions, specifically Vienna Woods and the famous Mayerling chapel.
We usually walk or take local transport, but found out we’d be wasting an awful lot of time getting from Wien Oper to Mayerling. We would have had to take a 40 minute train or bus ride from Wien Oper to Baden bei Wien, and then change to another 30 minutes bus ride from there to Mayerling.
We were staying in one of the best area to stay in Vienna, but having only half a day left in Vienna, being without a car, and the distance being too much to cover on foot, we joined a seat-in-coach group that day. Turned out to be a good thing too, since we later found out you can’t get entrance to Heiligenkreuz without being part of a tour.
Lush green Vienna Woods
The trip started by entering the Vienna Woods or Wienerwald and learning about its history. The Vienna Woods was earlier a hunting grounds for the royals, but now is an easily accessible outdoor destination for walking, hiking, mountain biking, and so much more.
Vienna Woods were designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. Bordered by the rivers Golsen, Traisen, Danube and supposedly the Treisting, it is a beautiful place with a diversity of wildlife and plants.
Vineyards and meadows, fields and pastures add to the vibrant array of colours that livened up our senses. We could have easily spent days exploring the woods.
Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Vienna
Alas however, we were on a seat-in-coach ride and were quickly shipped off to Heiligenkreuz Abbey in the Southern part of Vienna Woods. We were lucky however, since the Abbey is still in use and entry is only given to guided groups.
Built-in 1133 by St. Leopold III of the House of Babenberg, it is the 2nd oldest Cistercian monastery in the world. The Monastery is also known as the Vienna Woods Monastery since the Cistercians still take part in farming and forestry to support themselves.
We were shown some of the artist Giovanni Giulianni’s work – the Holy Trinity Column in the centre of the Courtyard, St. Joseph’s fountain depicting biblical scenes, the exquisitely carved statue of Jesus washing St. Peter’s feet, and other beautiful work done by him. He is buried in the Abbey, along with other famous artists and sculptors who worked there.
Most of the monks do not like being photographed, except for some who happily posed for group photos and told young children more about the Abbey or Stift Heiligenkreuz as it is known in German.
They showed us the Fountain House with a fountain built in Rome that used to serve as a washing room till the mid 16th century. We also saw the beautifully sculpted Chapter House, the long Reading Corridor, the sombre Funeral Chapel, the clement Fraterie and the light-filled Abbey Church.
By the way, the Funeral Chapel was also called the Chapel of the Dead, and is still used to keep a day’s vigil for deceased monks. The candelabra in this room were designed by Giovanni and look like dancing skeletons. But no, they weren’t the reason for my sister’s night voices. That bit comes next!
Information about Heiligenkreuz
Address: Markgraf-Leopold-Platz 1,
2532 Heiligenkreuz im Wienerwald, Austria
E-Mail: [email protected]
And this is the tour we took that allowed us to enter there!
Karmel Mayerling’s tragic history
A 10 or 15-minute drive from Heiligenkreuz Abbey and we found ourselves at Karmel Mayerling or Mayerling Chapel. This Chapel that is maintained by the cloistered Carmelite sisters was a hunting lodge with a tragic history.
Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, who was married to Princess Stefanie of Belgium, bought the hunting lodge at Mayerling in 1887.
At age 30, he met the 17-year-old Baroness Mary Vetsera in 1888, fell in love with her and had an affair till the Emperor Franz Joseph demanded that they end their relationship.
Rudolph and Mary could not bear to be separated and so committed suicide together in their bedroom at the hunting lodge. Rudolph first shot Mary in the head and then himself.
To prevent a scandal, Mary’s body was smuggled out at night and buried in the Heiligenkreuz cemetery. Rudolph was declared mentally unstable so that he could have a Catholic burial.
But there are stories and there are scandals, and then there are secrets that you’ll never know. Here’s one! There was a book written by Henry Wysham Lanier in 1937 called He Did Not Die at Mayerling.
Also called The Autobiography of R, the book supposedly tells the tale of Prince Rudolf who left Austria and went to live in America. Is it true? No one knows!
Anyways, the hunting lodge was donated to the Carmelite convent, and a beautiful chapel was built on the exact spot where Rudolph and Mary were found dead.
To this day, the nuns say prayers for the restoration of Rudolph’s soul. The exhibition rooms to the right of the church show furnishings and paintings from the hunting lodge.
There is a statue of the Madonna in the Chapel representing the sorrowful Mother with a dagger through her heart. It was donated by Empress Elisabeth, Prince Rudolf’s mother. Did she know that she would die the same way? With a dagger through her heart?
But Mary’s Mayerling story wasn’t over yet. In 1945, at the end of World War II, her coffin was broken open by grave robbers. It has been on display in Mayerling since 2007, almost an eerie sight.
A few of the group that was with us stepped into the last room containing the coffin and high tailed it out of there. (Maybe it was our guide’s vivid storytelling.)
My sister stopped to take pictures, and read the information on the walls. Hmm, that’s probably why she did the voices the next day. She’s been normal since then, but I’ll definitely let you’ll know if anything strange happens. 😉
Anyways, after that we went on to see an old gypsum mine that had a lake under a lake under a mountain. But I’ll tell you about Seegrotte in the next blog!
Info about Karmel Mayerling or Schloss Mayerling, Wien
Address: Mayerling 3, 2534 Mayerling, Austria
E-Mail: [email protected]
This the tour that takes you to Heiligenkreuz and Karmel Mayerling in half a day!
Of course, there are many more specialized tours that help you discover Vienna and the surrounding region!
31 thoughts on “Heiligenkreuz, Mayerling, and Scary Voices”
Wow this is so so stunning! I absolutely love that fountain. I will definitely make this a part of my trip next time I’m in Vienna
Yes, Giovanni Giulianni’s architecture is truly amazing. Other than the fountain, there were a lot of exquisite sculptures in the abbey that we didn’t get a chance to take pics of.
I love reading about ancient royal scandals…not so different from today’s tabloids!
True. Only the ancient scandals have that added sense of intrigue and mystery.
This would definitely freak me out – your sister is lucky you had a nice soft pillow to throw at her! It sounds like it didn’t ruin the rest of your trip though! Thanks for sharing the scandals with us – it’s always good to have a bit of scandalous behavior 😉
Yeah, the pillows there were really feather soft. My sis is lucky. Although, the way I look at it, I’m luckier that she didn’t keep at it the whole night. I would have probably moved into another room 😉
Thanks for posting Lottie!
I had no idea Vienna Woods was a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – amazing! I stopped here for one night back in 2014 + Vienna was a lovely city – wish I had more time to explore than just do a quick walking tour + dinner! Lovely architecture!
Thanks for posting Kristie!
I didn’t know about Vienna Woods being a UNESCO Reserve till I got there either. It is so beautiful.
Vienna looks amazing 🙂 I really like your style of writing. I have just visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia and find the same as you- many of the monks don’t seem to want to be photographed. I suppose I just have to appreciate the moment instead of trying to photograph them.
No one has mentioned my writing style before. They’ve always focused on the quality so far. Thanks very much Jennifer. 😀
True about the priests.
I has been to Vienna two decades back. Feels like forever. I enjoy learning about the ancient scandals. They add mystery and charm to the place. Plus I love listening to stories 😉
So true Tanvi! The ancient scandals, and event the plain old stories add so much mystery and charm.
Great story teller you are 🙂 And the photos are perfectly fitting into your stories.
Thanks very much! My sis gets credit for most of the pics 🙂
That’s wild. It would’ve freaked me out if my sister started talking like that in her sleep. I do wish I’d known about the UNESCO World Heritage Site when I was in the area a couple years ago. I love visiting those.
Well, I didn’t sleep for a few hours after that. But she hasn’t done again, except for once. So I’m safe, I think .
And yes, Vienna Woods is a great place to visit. I did wish we could spend more time there.
The start of this story was so creepy! It sounded like your sister was possessed!! The architecture here looks gorgeous, I would love to visit. Beautiful photos.
Ha! I thought so too. Didn’t sleep for most of that night. Most of the pics were taken by my sis. Will let her know you liked them.
I visited Vienna last winter and still have several destinations to check out on my bucket list, including the Mayerling. Thanks so much for sharing so much history and background on the place!
Very interesting article with lots of history and beautiful pictures. I did not know the story about Rudolph and Mary. I liked your style of writing: lighthearted, compelling, and humorous.
I saw a ballet based on Mary and Rudolph’s story once (Mayerling). Complete with big death scene. Very odd, frankly.
I just love your photos they so make me want to visit and I really appreciate the way you tell a story and make it funny. Wish we could get a housesit in or near Vienna as it is a place I really want to visit.
Such a sad Romeo and Juliet-type story. I remember seeing an old movie about it withe Omar Sharif as Rudolf and I was besotted with him so cried like a baby.
is there anything in Vienna that isn’t absolutely beautiful? what a city..
Thank you for sharing your story with us! It sounds like your sister was having some very strange dreams! I loved the photos, especially those candelabra. Macabre, but truly fascinating! I’ll make sure it’s on my itinerary if I get to Vienna
Vienna is a city I’ve been wanting to visit for years but just haven’t managed to get there yet! It looks so old and beautiful from your photos. Love your storytelling style too.
What a freaky story. I cannot believe that happened. Perfeect story for Halloweeen though.
And the chirch looks so beautiful. Wpuld love to check it out myself. And I’ll save time and just get a car like you!!