Scenic Route 210 takes you through the quiet Helenental valley west of Baden to Mayerling—the scene of a tragedy that is still passionately discussed and disputed by Austrians at the slightest provocation. On the snowy evening of January 29, 1889, the 30-year-old Habsburg heir and Emperor Franz Josef's only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, and his 17-year-old mistress, Baroness Marie Vetsera, met a violent and untimely end at the emperor's hunting lodge. Most historians believe it was a suicide pact between two desperate lovers, because the pope had refused an annulment to Rudolf's unhappy marriage to Princess Stephanie of Belgium. There are those, however, who feel Rudolf's pro-Hungarian political leanings might be a key to the tragedy. Given information gleaned from private letters that have more recently come to light, it is also possible Rudolf was hopelessly in love with a married woman and killed himself in despair, taking Marie Vetsera with him. In his grief, the bereaved emperor had the hunting lodge where the tragedy occurred torn down and replaced by a rather nondescript Carmelite convent. Mayerling remains remote: the village is poorly signposted, but tourists (and some organized tours) still find their way there.
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