Indian VIPs’ favorite hotel in Vienna

Mrs Indira Gandhi during her stay in Hotel Imperial in 1971
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Hotel Imperial in Vienna

“We have enjoyed every moment of our stay in the Hotel Imperial. The services, courtesy and comfort of the hotel is wonderful and we cannot wait to come back again to experience again the joy of living at the Hotel Imperial.”

In the ornate Kaiser suite of Vienna’s Hotel Imperial, I was poring over the guestbook when Michael Moser, the hotel’s archivist and former Chef Concierge, flipped a page. I read the message written in blue ink in slanting handwriting and signed by Gayatri Devi, the Maharani of Jaipur on September 12, 1967.

She is not the only royal to have made Hotel Imperial her home on a Vienna sojourn. The hotel’s guest list reads like a Who’s Who of the rich and the mighty.

Built in 1863 as the Viennese residence of the Prince of Württemberg and transformed into a hotel in 1873, Hotel Imperial redefines magnificence. Tasteful furnishings, marble bathrooms, and walls cocooned in silk. Precious antiques conjure up the atmosphere of nineteenth-century Vienna. The Royal Staircase leads up to the breath-taking Royal Suites. Magnificent chandeliers sparkle and shimmer from high stucco-adorned ceilings radiating aristocratic flair.

Hotel Imperial has been the fave snooze-place of the presidents, princes, kings and everyone who is someone in the world of art, literature and music. Queen Elizabeth stayed here in 1969 and the Emperor of Japan turned in with 400 suitcases.

Michael Jackson stayed incognito until he walked across the street to shop and fans gathered around the hotel in the frosty night. Jackson dropped a duvet from his balcony and all night there was music on the streets. For Madonna, it became a base camp as she flew out daily for concert in Prague and returned to Imperial every evening for the famous square almondy Imperial torte and Weiner schnitzel. Rolling Stones, JF Kennedy, Bismarck, George Bush, the Clintons, Vladimir Putin, Leopold II, to name a few.

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Mrs Indira Gandhi during her stay in Hotel Imperial in 1971

Add to that that one night Hitler stayed in to March 1938 to announce the annexation of Austria.

In its sepia pages, Hotel Imperial’s guestbook still holds the signature of several Indians. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore checked-in in 1926, Mrs Indira Gandhi chose this hotel as the base during her two official visits to Austria. The Maharajas of Baroda and Sawantwadi were special guests. So were President KR Narayanan and Pratibha Patil.

History elegantly lives in Vienna’s Hotel Imperial. And Moser can share enough Indian tales over a cup of coffee and a bite of the scrumptious aImperial torte.

Preeti Verma Lal

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