Charli in the Frame.

Innsbruck, the capital city of the Federal State of Tyrol in Western Austria, was first settled in the Stone Age and there are indications that it has been populated continuously ever since.  Today, 119,249 (Jan. 1, 2010) people call it home. The city name comes from German and means “bridge over the Inn.”
At 500 km long the Inn River is a well travelled one flowing through three countries.
It begins its journey in the Swiss Alps, makes its way into Austria cutting through the centre of Innsbruck as it goes, and ends up as the right tributary of the Danube in Germany.

Market Square across the street from the Altstadt

Known for winter sporting events, Innsbruck has hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, the 1984 and 1988 Winter Paralympics and will host the  first Winter Youth Olympics in 2012.

During the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815, the state of Tyrol was briefly ceded to Bavaria.   That explains the provenance confusion over one type of soup which Charli and I sampled while in Innsbruck.  We also had this soup in Oberammergau and were told it was a typical Bavarian dish.  In Austria it became a typical Tyrolean dish, and when I was in Möckmühl, it was a typical Schwäbisch dish.  So, since Schwäbisch is a dialect spoken in Bavaria, and Tyrol was once part of Bavaria (long enough to claim ownership of the soup), it is actually a Bavarian dish.  Mystery of the Soup solved!!

What is this fought over soup, you ask?  Generally a plain broth (beef or chicken) with very thin, flat strips of crepe/pancake added to it.  Sounds unappetizing and looks dodgy, but is quite good.

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If you ever have occasion to stay in Innsbruck I would highly recommend the Hotel Weisses Kreuz, an inn/hotel since 1465.  It is centrally located in the Altstadt (old town) which is pedestrian only (except for taxis). Mozart stayed there for a few days with his parents when he was 13.  The rooms are fairly small, but very clean and comfortable.  The staff was probably the best we had come across in our travels so far – professional, courteous, friendly, very helpful, and multi-lingual.   A generous and excellent breakfast is included in the room rate, and internet access is free, but can be iffy in the rooms because of the very thick walls.  Unlike many old hotels it actually has an elevator, although I’m sure it does not date to 1465.

Charli and I went to Austria because Charli had done a project which incorporated information about the Swarovski Crystal Museum.

Swarovski Crystal Museum entrance

The Museum  is well worth going to, but in the summer be prepared for long line-ups.  Beware the gift shop.  Faced with all those shiny baubles (I was a crow in a former lifetime) resistance was futile and I was soon parted from my money.

What it's like to be inside a crystal

We were in Innsbruck only for 2 nights so didn’t get to do too much more than explore the Altstadt, see the Crystal Museum, and take a cable car up the mountain.

Now, that was something.

Stationn for mountain tram

The cable car from Innsbruck takes you up to one of the mountains which are part of the Nordkette (a ring of mountains). Once up there you can go hiking on any number of trails, but be prepared it is very high up and the weather changes quickly. Bring a jacket for sure, it may be summer down below, but it is quite cool and windy up the mountain.

There are three legs to the cable car journey, one takes you to the Alpine Zoo and a restaurant, the second takes you to an informal restaurant.  From this second exit point numerous mountain bike trails are also accessible.  You travel quite a distance up, but it is bearable, and even with my aversion to heights I could look down once in awhile to admire the view.  The third leg, however, is very steep – going almost straight up the side of the mountain so it seems.

View of Innsbruck from Second Station

Despite Charli’s rapturous exclamations, I steadfastly ignored anything except the mountain face directly ahead of me, only once turning my head to suggest that it might not be a good idea for her to lean against the door on the downside end of the cable car.

Mountain Views

I was inordinately pleased with myself though, as I noticed that several people that had come up the first two legs would not go on this one.  In fact during the first leg there was a big thump. I immediately thought “eeeee….the cable broke and is hanging by a thread….we’re all going to die!” All heads swivelled to the back (origin of the sound) and we saw that a woman had collapsed. What a relief that was for me; no catapulting down the mountainside this time.   Poor gal though, she spent the rest of the cable journey on her knees clinging to a pole, and I wouldn’t doubt that her companions probably had to hog tie her to get her in the cable car for the journey back down.  She had come onboard with several Italians, so there was a lot of voluble conversation and much back rubbing going on (her back that is).  The rest of the group, German and English, took stock of the situation and went back to admiring the increasingly distant city view.

Sun and Moon dancing - Swarovski Crystal Museum

While we were in Innsbruck we were surprised by the amount of Italian that we heard.  Several times we caught ourselves wondering if we hadn’t taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Italy.  The other thing that caused me momentary confusion was that everything was Tyrol and/or Tyrolean with very little reference to Austria.  Thankfully, I hadn’t yet gone on my alternate-route-finding pilgrimage, or I would have thought that I had really outdone myself.

Crystal jellyfish

We found only one annoying thing about our trip to Innsbruck and it was one that we had already run across in our travels in Germany, but obviously hadn’t adjusted to!  It was the closures.  Despite it being tourist season, shops closed between 12 and 2PM or 1PM and 3PM and closed for the day by 6PM.  Cafes were open, but if you wanted a fancier sit down meal you had to wait until 6PM when the restaurants opened again for the day as they generally closed by 2PM after the noon rush.

All in all, Innsbruck is definitely worth visiting, no matter what the season.

Cheerio,

Anita and Charli

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