Member from 1855-1912
Empress Josefina of Austria
Josefina went down in history as one of the smartest and fairest empress that Austria had ever seen. With her beloved husband Theodor by her side, she reigned the country many decades with a special diplomatic skill, made friendly connections to all neighbouring countries in Europe and was admired by the public. She loved hosting big events on her summer residence “Bergkristall Castle” which was located not far from Vienna. She cared for the royal gardens with all their little corners and beautiful fountains and statues with great dedication.
She enjoyed a high reputation in the whole of Europe as one of the most open-minded and progressive rulers of that time. However, there was another side to the shining empress Josefina, an adventurer and pioneer, which was known to only a handful of people and kept a secret. Today, only the ACE knows of it.
On court, Josefina collected a secret circle of adventurers, scientists and artists around herself. She used her influence as an empress to support all kinds of travels and expeditions. In her royal salon, the new, the unknown and the unbelievable were discussed, everything that went over the current knowledge and imagination of the time. Therefore, it was not surprising that she became the biggest patron of the adventure club of Europe in Austria and even sponsored a headquarter for the Austrian department, high up in the Alps.
The empress was a frequent guest at this headquarter. There was not much else that brought her as much joy as her regular trips to the mountains.
She remembers in her memoirs:
“Yes, truly, I loved the mountains. I spent much time in my life there; it just feels like my home. To be far up, discussing with scientists, pioneers and adventurers and speculate about new inventions, yes, that was really my greatest joy.”
This is how Josefina finally became honorary chairwoman of the ACE in Austria and the club is still using the headquarters by her until today.
A couple years ago, ACE members found one of her diaries up there, filled with different texts and drawings. This raised the hopes of finding out more about the youth and childhood of the empress, as her origins are a mystery even for the ACE itself. There are many secrets and legends entwined with her childhood. She certainly did not come from a royal background: The young emperor Theodor returned with her accompanying him from a hunting trip in the Alps. A little while after, she was his bride and finally the new empress.
Her diary shines a little light into the unknown, however it adds more questions, too. One learns that Josefinas nickname as a child was “Fina” and she apparently grew up in midst of the Alps. Many passages of text mention a small community in the mountains who call themselves the “Yomis”. Allegedly, they are small, gnome-like creatures with turquoise skin and are unusually skilled in forging with magic gems, in a way which only they know. In the Alps, it is often talked about the legends of the mountain spirit, which can be stored in these gems and crystals. The community of the Yomis must have known how to use this magic masterly, because Josefina’s diary shows detailed drawings of items and jewellery studded with gems. The ACE could neither prove this legend to be correct, nor find such a piece of jewellery.
Yet, Josefina describes the items in great detail:
“Each of the Yomis wore a different gem. Some were violet, others green, blue or orange, too. Each one in their own way. I saw hair clips, brooches, bracelets and necklaces. Each was beautiful and shone in a way, which could only make a person smile. A kind of calm and happiness seemed to come from them all. It was a bright sea of gems, which united the Yomi magic with the spirit of the mountain.”
In connection to the legend of the Yomis, the legend of the “dragon heart” is also mentioned in Josefinas (or Finas) diary. It tells the story that a long, long time ago, a bad wizard created an especially powerful gem, which he called the “dragon heart”. In this gem, he locked the entire magic and vitality of an ancient dragon who lived in the mountains. This way he could bind the dragon onto himself. The dragon would be obligated to infinite loyalty to whoever was the owner of the “dragon heart”. With the help of the dragon, the wizard enslaved the Yomis. In a grotto, deep underneath the mountains they were forced to mine more and more gems to increase the power of the wizard into the immeasurable with the help of the gems.
Whether the Yomis were ever able to free themselves is not told in Josefina’s diary. However, there are many hints that Josefina and the Yomis fought together against the wizard. Should they have succeeded in destroying the dragon heart and break the curse, the dragon and the Yomis would have been free again after many years of confinement.
The empress remained silent on the truth of the story all throughout her living days. Yet, many figures of Yomis stand in the royal garden of the empress. Another reference, which is known by the ACE, are the crown and sceptre of the empress. In both is a chip of a big crystal included that is similar in colour and composition to the descriptions of the dragon heart. Sceptre and crown are of an unknown and beautiful craftsmanship. No blacksmith in Austria could have ever forged such detailed and fine decorations. Besides the Yomis…