Travelling through Austria: Innsbruck.

Is there any better place to go in summer when there are temperatures over 35°C than to the capital of the alps? To skip the scorching heat of Vienna, my friend and I decided to head to Austria’s western border, and on our way back make a short and less than 24h-stop in the beautiful capital of Tyrol: Innsbruck.

Although many of the tourists are drawn to the city or region because of all the sport activities one can do there and the Bergisel Sprungschanze Stadion, Innsbruck offers a range of cultural activities too, with many museums, theatres, old buildings and monuments. Or for those who are interested in a staircase adorned with 20,000 crystals (and much more other interesting things there I hope?!) – the Swarovski Kristallwelten are there as well… So Innsbruck is truly a unique mix – a place where the alps meet the valley, and where the city is one with nature, with attractions between 574 and 2,350 metres above sea level.

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The city

Innsbruck is with over 130,000 people the biggest town of West-Austria and the fifth-largest city of Austria. The name translates into ‘Inn Bridge’, as the city is located in the Inn valley, not far from the German and the Italian border, engulfed by the alps. It is a perfect location for doing all sorts of sports: a hub for winter sports such as skiing, ski touring, or ice skating (hosted the Winter Olympics in ’64 and ’76) but also interesting for summer sports such as hiking, climbing, biking, or water sports.

Traces of first inhabitation in this area date back to the Stone Age, and Romans established an army station there. During the Middle Ages it quickly became a transportation hub because of its prime location near the Brenner Pass, the easiest route over the alps. A market was erected in the 12th century (where the Old Town is today) and the revenues generated by the transit helped the city to flourish. Innsbruck soon became the capital of Tyrol and was briefly the residence of a Habsburg emperor. During WW2 it was heavily bombed, but the thriving tourism industry and the economy lead to a rather quick reconstruction of the city.

The historic Old Town brings one back to the late Middle Ages – with arcades constructed in the typical Innsbruck-Salzach style, late Gothic façades built around 1500, with colourfully decorated bay windows. However, the glory of the Old Town and the landmark of the city is definitely the Golden Roof (which can also be seen by the tourist masses standing in front of it) – a roof of an alcove balcony added to the “Neuhof” building around 1500. It is decorated by 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles, all still original apparently. Only 50 years older than the Golden Roof is the City Tower close to it. With 51 metres tall it was quite an impressive building in the late Middle Ages and a proud symbol of the city. Other imposing buildings of the town are the Triumphal Arch which was erected in 1765, on the occasion of the marriage of Empress Maria Theresa’s son to someone from Spain, and the Cathedral of St.James which dates back to 1180.

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City Tower

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Innsbruck Cathedral

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Triumphal arch

 

The Alps

A visitor of Innsbruck cannot walk through the city without noticing the impressive alps that more or less surround the city – the Karwendel Alps (2,334m) in the north, the Patscherkofel (2,246m) and Serles (2,718) to the south.

The Nordkette – North Chain – (obviously, in the north, where else?!) is part of Austria’s largest nature park Karwendel Nature Park. This mountain is not only interesting for sport enthusiast who want to hike or bike up or down there – it’s for everyone who wants to enjoy the breathtaking and unique panorama of the city and mountains.

The Nordkette can be reached directly from the city centre by a funicular and subsequently a cable car. Visitors can take the funicular from the city centre up to the Hungerburg in just 8 minutes to get a first impression over the city. From there a cable car takes one up to the Seegrube at an altitude of 2,000 metres in less than 15 minutes. Another cable car continues 300 metres higher to the Hafelakar where one can take a short walk to reach the top of the mountain. So one can take the whole journey from the city to the top of the mountain without doing any real hiking! This is especially interesting for people who do not have enough time for the hike and/or do not have the necessary equipment (or shoes!) to successfully do so. My friend and I were definitely one of those people. And once (almost!) on top of the mountain we could not miss the occasion and just had to drink a Schnapps before making the descent (with the cable car). That’s just how you do it in Austria. That’s a vital part of the experience! ;)

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Cable car on its way to the Seegrube

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see the little house on the mountain? that’s the last station to reach the Hafelakar

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Somewhere over there in the south is Italy. Supposedly.

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The Food

Our Airbnb host was so kind to give us a view recommendations for places where we could enjoy really good food at a reasonable price. One of her recommendations was Machete – Burrito Kartell in (or near?) the university district of the city. As they say themselves – they specialise on the really important things in life: Burritos. But they do not only serve a delicious self-assembled burrito, they also serve a mean Moscow Mule (and various other types of cocktails). So it is not only a restaurant, but also something like a hip, trendy bar at night. The interior is very peculiar, very trendy, and it might not be the biggest place one can find in the city, it is definitely very cosy inside! Open Tuesday – Sunday, kitchen is working 11:30 – 22:00. For the exact opening hours check out their website ;)

The second restaurant that I can recommend is Ludwig. It is actually a burger restaurant, but they also serve a great breakfast. We actually stumbled upon it when we walked around during the evening and saw many happy customers. Only coincidentally did we end up there for breakfast the next morning, but lucky us! The vegan options were clearly marked on the menu, and they also focus on getting high quality produce from local companies. My friend and I were really surprised by their portion sizes – usually when having breakfast at a hip and trendy place one normally gets to taste only a small bit of deliciousness for an outrageous price. But this is not the case at Ludwig’s – portions were actually too big for us, so breakfast turned into brunch, and this for a very good price :D They serve breakfast Monday – Saturday from 9:00 – 11:00.

The bottom line

The capital of the alps is great for a little summer adventure, as the temperatures are perfect in my opinion – it’s not too hot but also not too cold. It is great that one has the possibility to enjoy all sides of the city – the culture plus the alps – within just 24 hours. I wish I had more time there so I could do some hiking and enjoy the nature even more, but maybe I will have the time and come back next year? Let’s hope for the best ;)

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Travelling through Austria: Lienz.

I have always wanted to pay a visit to Lienz – the ‘capital’ of the region East Tyrol, which is an exclave of the region Tyrol, located in the South(west) of Austria on the border to Italy. The city’s name is so similar to the city where I went to school – Linz. However, only slightly over 12,000 people live there, so it’s very very small in comparison to Vienna’s 1.7 mio and Linz’ 191,000.

As I’ve already been warned before that there’s not much to do or see in Lienz, we only planned on staying there for one afternoon. As my boyfriend’s grandparents offered to accompany us, we took the car and drove a few extra miles to see the beautiful Gailtal, a valley formed by the Gail river that is surrounded by the Lienz Dolomites, Gailtal Alps, Carnic Alps and the Karawanks. On our road trip we saw quite some impressive mountains as well as steep roads and meadows. As it was in the midst of summer which is the time for haying, we saw many busy alpine farmers doing their work.

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As we took our time exploring the countryside and due to the narrow roads and everything, we arrived quite late in the afternoon in Lienz – perfect for getting a cup of coffee at the main square to get a first impression of the city and its people. The main square of Lienz is surrounded by colorful buildings, with a green area, benches and a small fountain. It was quite busy that day, there seemed to be many tourists wandering around – mainly Italians :)

The first noticeable building on the main square is definitely the Liebburg, built in the 17th century and used to be the home of some barons and counts. Since 1988 it is the townhouse of the city.

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Schloss Liebburg

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After our little break at a café at the main square we just strolled around for a bit, without any clear direction. Well, we stayed more or less just in the pedestrian area, but we also explored some side roads. It was really nice walking around and seeing all the beautiful house facades and the cute alleys.

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We also came across the Johannesplatz with a Marian column. A highlight for most of the tourists (and kids!), and of course also for us was the appearance of a rainbow right above the column.

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What struck me most was that you could see the mountains almost everywhere within the city. You just had to look through an alley and there they were!

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Mountains

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It was such a lovely afternoon in such a beautiful small town – surrounded by the beautiful nature ! Even though it is not my type of city where I could imagine myself living in (as it is just too small for my taste), staying there for even such short amount of time was really relaxing and calming. If you ever get the chance of going there – do it! If you’re in the situation where you could spare a couple of hours and you happen to be ‘relatively’ near , go & explore the Lienz! :)