Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Franz Ferdinand's Last Banquet: 27 June 1914

As a part of their route to Sarajevo, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie Chotek arrived at Hotel Bosna on 25 June 1914, Countess Sophie in the morning, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the evening, respectively. The hotel was located in Banja Ilidža (Bad Ilidža), a tree-lined spa town at the source of the Bosna river. It was a fancy spa hotel with electric lighting, sulfur baths, Turkish baths, Roman ruins and mosaics, a carousel, three lawn tennis courts, a shooting gallery, bingo, billiards, a game room, rental horses with guides, fireworks, and carriage rides down a magnificent three-kilometer, tree-lined grand pathway to the pools of Vrelo Bosne.  The royal couple was ensconced in a suite of rooms especially furnished with luxurious Ottoman-style lamps, carpets, drapes, needlework, handicrafts, and furniture supplied by the prominent Sarajevo merchant Elias B. Kabiljo.

The archduke and countess hosted a gala dinner for the great and the good of Sarajevo at the hotel, on 27 June 1914. On the morning of 28 June, the couple breakfasted before retreating to the private chapel that had been specially created for them in their living quarters in the Hotel Bosna. After a prayer, a few minutes before 9:30 a.m., they set off for the Ilidža railway station, with Sarajevo their final destination.

The pre-assassination highlight of the royal couple's visit was, of course, the fabulous banquet they hosted the night before their departure. Scottish politician Struan Stevenson has published a fascinating work on momentous meals that helped shape the world, such as Bonnie Prince Charlie's feast for the highland chieftains on the eve of Culloden and the Beijing banquet for Richard Nixon, complete with historical background and the actual menus and recipes. It is titled The Course of History: Ten Meals That Changed the World and is a delight to read.

Hotel Bosna at the Turn of the Century

Stevenson's argument for including Franz and Sophie's sumptuous feast on this list of earthshaking meals runs something like this. Franz Ferdinand harbored deep concerns about visiting what he considered a hotbed of anti-Austrian feeling and was considering canceling his trip into Sarajevo the next day.  He did like a fine meal, however, and his local military staff and the local Imperial loyalists pulled out all the stops for the banquet.  All the attendees also made it clear they were really looking forward to his trip into the city the following day. So—against his better judgment and possibly partly to show his appreciation for the nine-course feast—he was off  on Sunday morning to Sarajevo for his visit.  We know what happened after that.

What is especially interesting in Stevenson's chapter on Sarajevo, though, is the menu for the evening. What a spread! When you read it, you can sympathize with the archduke, somewhat.  How could you possibly say no to the people who have put on an event like this for you?


Potage Regence 

(White Soup with Chicken and Veal Broth)

Souffles Delicieux (Cheese Souffle)

Blanquettes de Truites a la Gelee 

(Jellied Trout in White Sauce)

Piece de Boeuf et Agneau 

(Roast Beef and Lamb)

Sour Cherry Lambic Sorbet  

(Fortified with Lambic Beer)

Poularde de Styrie, Salade, Compote 

(Spiced chicken salad with apple sauce)

Creme aux Anas en Surprise (Pineapple Cream)

Fromage (Assorted Cheeses)

Glaces Variées 

(Assorted Turkish Ice Creams and Sweets)

The courses were accompanied by seven wines, including Chateau Leoville, Pommery Greno sec Champagne, and a 1900 Chateau Margaux claret.

Finally, a little tourist information for you. Hotel Bosna, owned by a private hotel company today, is preserved but not operating, as restoration is under way. The the original ornamental wooden parts of the façade perished after the Second World War.