Königliches Jagdschloss Tsarska Bistritza,
den 12. Oktober 1917
Royal Hunting Palace Tsarska Bistritsa,
on 12th October 1917
Fresh green-pea soup
Pastetchen auf Reichen Art
A terrine of red and white layers made separately from cured wild boar and rabbit force-meat flavored with truffles.
Backstrap of Alpine Ibex (Gemeiner Steinbock) served with a Cumberland sauce made from port, lemon and orange juice and zest and redcurrant jelly
Köstliches von Walsee
Delicassies from Walsee
Tsar Ferdinand I and Kaiser Wilhelm II in Sofia in 1917
Menu dated 12th October 1917
Dinner at the Royal Hunting Palace, Tsarska Bistritsa (in the Rila Mountains of south-west Bulgaria), hosted by His Majesty Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria in honor of a visit by His Imperial and Royal Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia
It’s not often a royal menu boasts an offering of Alpine Ibex as its central course. But when King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria hosted a dinner at his private hunting palace high up in the Rila Mountains, it stood to reason that the royal chefs would impress with an offering of local game meats.
The King’s dinner guest was Europe’s most famous and enthusiastic hunter: the German Emperor. So keen was the Bulgarian King to impress his imperial visitor that the menu-cards, placed before dinner guests, had even been penned in German.
This dinner took place in October 1917 when World War I was not going as the two monarch’s had planned. Indeed, the war had little over a year to go; and so did their respective reigns.
It was reported that Bulgarians were tiring of the war: with food shortages and soaring prices leading to civil unrest and open questioning of the country’s alliance with Germany.
The Kaiser’s visit was designed to galvanise support for the war effort; but before the official receptions and ceremonies took place in the nation’s capital, Sofia, King Ferdinand I and the German Emperor retreated to the Rila Moutnains for spot of shooting.
This dinner took place at King Ferdinand’s private hunting palace, Tsarska Bistritsa, which he built for himself between 1898 and 1914. Today the palace sits above the ski-resort town of Borovets. The alpine forests surrounding the palace were filled with red-deer, roe-deer, wild boar and alpine ibex – a species of wild goat.
It is likely that the Alpine Ibex on this menu was shot by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself. The Kaiser’s eldest son, the Crown Prince of Germany, was also a hunting enthusiast and once recalled of this rare game “the number of sportsmen in Europe who have spanned the horns of an ibex is very small”.
The second course on this menu is also likely to have been compiled from the offerings of the surrounding hunting estates: a terrine made from wild-boar and rabbit. However the dessert of Köstliches von Walsee (delicacies from Walsee) is possibly to have been some treats brought along by the Kaiser himself given that Walsee is in southern Germany.
A year earlier the Kaiser and Tsar Ferdinand had met for lunch in Niš (Serbia) where the Bulgarian monarch played host. An American newspaper correspondent at the time quite unflatteringly reported on the banquet from his close vantage point.
“I sat less than fifteen yards away from the Royal pair, and I had every chance of observing closely each change in expression or smile that flitted across their countenances”, he recounted.
“Ferdinand ate of each and all the dishes with great appetite, sipping his special brand of white wine with evident relish”.
Conversely, the “Kaiser ate and drank practically nothing at the banquet”, the correspondent noted, before observing the increasingly frail character of the once proud and bombastic German Emperor:
"All through the meal I could scarcely take my eyes from the haggard face of the author of the world-war who, on this January afternoon, looked so little like a war lord, as he sat apparently coughing away his life into the Turkish woven handkerchief which he held firmly in his right hand. His hair was terribly white, darkening a little at the parting where the roots showed. His cheeks were scored with many lines, and when I conjured up the vision of the healthy-looking Kaiser I had seen eight years previously in Amsterdam, I could not help marvelling at the change that those eight years had wrought in him. The only thing about him that was not changed was his upright deportment. He stood up firm and erect, just as one had seen him taking the salute at manœuvres or when reviewing his Prussian Guard. His pose was that of an Emperor, and contrasted strangely with the heavy awkwardness of his brother monarch".
Photo © IWM Q 23738