Sunday, March 7, 2010

innsbruck, austria

Sorry for the delay in updates! I know you all live to read my blog [cough, cough], so I'm sorry that I was in absentia all weekend. You probably know that I spent Friday and Saturday in the beautiful Austrian city of Innsbruck, located in the western Tyrolean region. My journey started as many do at the Santa Maria Novella train station here in Florence.

Me and my friend, Mary. Our train departed at 9:49 PM and we rode north through the night.
We arrived, obviously exhausted, around 4:30 AM in Innsbruck. We spent over an hour just hanging out in the train station, waiting for the buses to start running so that we could catch the D line to our hostel, located on the other side of town. After boarding, we realized that the driver of the bus spoke absolutely no English, and I restored to gesturing and holding up fingers to purchase bus tickets. We were dropped off close to our hostel, and found it with ease.

Unfortunately, we were not supposed to arrive at the hostel until after 9 AM. But what were we to do? It's not like anything was open at 6 AM, and it was certainly too cold for us to just plop down and we entered the hostel. Like a sign from the gods, the door was unlocked, and we stepped into a waiting room where a little doorbell said "Ring if you need a room." So I rang it. I was greeted by a disheveled and bewildered Austrian woman, who scolded me for taking a train that arrived so early. I'm fairly certain that I was called crazy and inconsiderate, and after many apologies on my part and a lot of ranting on her part, we were given the key to a room where we proceeded to pass out until around 9:30 AM.

The hostel was really cute.
Fortunately, the woman was in a much better mood when we returned for official check in around 9:30. She gave us a map and told us to head to the historical city center to find some pastries for breakfast.

In the daylight, we were amazed by all that we had missed in the early morning darkness: the Alps! They were HUGE and surrounded the city on all sides like massive stone walls. Throughout the entire weekend, I was awed by them.

And did I mention it was COLD? Those are icicles on the metal bars.

The town itself was adorable, all stereotypically Austrian and quaint.

It seemed like every corner was a photo op. This is me on the Innbrucke, the bridge over the River Inn that gave the town its name.

We spent the better part of the first morning just walking around, looking for one of the elusive authentic Austrian cafes that the hostel woman had assured us would be in no short supply. We finally caved to our hunger and settled for what was obviously a chain restaurant, as we had seen one on nearly every corner. Have no fear, however. We each ordered a sandwich that filled us up for HOURS. We ended up skipping lunch simply because we weren't hungry. After fueling up, we walked around the historical center of town.

The Triumphforte, built by Empress Maria Theresia.

More Alpage.

This statue was outside of the Fernandeum, a museum that we didn't get to go into. Of course I made time to parody its statue, however.

Emperor Maximilian I's Golden Roof.
After walking around for a bit, we decided to into the Golden Roof museum, where we paid only 2 euro to enter and get an audio tour! Sweet! It was really interesting. I managed to not get sleepy until the VERY end, despite my lack of sleep. The Golden Roof was built by Maximillian in the 15th century in order to impress all who entered Innsbruck, which was the center of his territory. Where the roof is now located used to be the part of town one would see first when entering. The roof itself isn't made of pure gold; the shingles are made of copper and then covered in gold plating.

The historical district.

We decided that our next move would be to head towards the Schloss Ambras, or Ambras Castle, located on the outskirts of town. Our main issue was figuring out how to get there. Though Innsbruck is small, this distance didn't exactly look walkable. After following some faulty instructions by a misguided but trying-to-be-helpful souveneir seller, we managed to nab a bus map and I figured out that we needed to catch the Sightseer if only we could find one of its stops!

Sweet success!

The Sightseer was one of those buses that allows you to kind of hop on and off at will, so we jumped off at the Bergeisel stop, right before the Ambras. It is the site of the ski jump stadium used in the 1985 Olympics that were held in Innsbruck. It's also got a GREAT view of the entire city.

Olympic rings.

The entire city!

The bus took a little longer than expected to return, but we did make it to Schloss Ambras eventually...

This is the main castle. There were seveal other smaller buildings around it.

History lesson: Schloss Ambras is actually a medeival castle that was refurbished by Archduke Ferdinand II for his wife, Phillippine Wesler. Because Phillippine was not considered of lower status than appropriate for an Archduke, she and her two sons were not allowed to live together in the main castle within the city. The two sons were also stripped of their hereditary rights.

I was really fascinated by the museum inside. There were a lot of portraits of Phillippine and her sons, as well as the Archduke's second wife, his niece, Anna Caterina Gonzaga and the daughters that she bore Ferdinand. Further into the museum was the chapel, which obviously held a fair amount of religious art.

Ferdinand's family tree.

Random interlude: there are a lot of random crucifixes in Innsbruck. Just throwing that out there.

As I mentioned before, Mary and I never really got hungry for lunch, so when we were done with the Schloss around 5 PM, we were both STARVING [and cold!]. We headed back to the hostel to pile on some more layers and to get a dinner recommendation out of the hostel owners. They directed us to the restaurant right next to the Golden Roof, called Gasthaus Goldenes Dachl [The Golden Roof Restaurant, essentially]. I was expecting it to be really touristy, but I was pleasantly surprised!

I ordered Bauerngrostl, a Tyrolean specialty with potatoes, some kind of pork, parsley, and a fried egg. It was warm, hearty, and DELICIOUS. Exactly what my exhausted tummy wanted.

Rationalizing that we had walked ALL DAY without lunch and that Austria was known for its sweet strudels and fruits, we each guiltlessly ordered a dessert, and were not disappointed.

My apple strudel, with a kind of cream sauce. Heaven on a plate.

Though we may be college students, I think that anyone would be completely wiped after touring a city all day on less than 4 hours of sleep. We headed back to the hostel, each took a glorious hot shower, and settled into bed with our iPods...before 9 o'clock. Ha. It was worth it. We awoke well-rested and ready to check out of the hostel at 8:45 AM...and realized that it was SNOWING outside! We were out the door and searching for breakfast by 9:30. Of course, all of the cafes we had seen close to the hostel were CLOSED. Don't ask me why; it was 9:45 on a Saturday morning: prime breakfasttime.

Doing the Austrian thing with my leopard print umbrella in the snow.

We returned to our trusty breakfast spot of the previous morning, Der Backer Reutz, which we decided was the Starbucks of on every corner! We ordered sandwiches again and decided that we should go big or GO we split an apple/cheese pastry:

Feeling confident in our newly-mastered bus skills, we took one up into the mountains to see the Alpenzoo! Unfortunately, it turns out my beloved Steve Madden boots are NOT snow boots and have absolutely no grip on the bottom. I managed to claw my way, slipping and sliding, up to the zoo entrance, terrified of what was going to happen when I had to go back down.

I may or may not have broken some bush branches in my desperate attempts to stay on my feet. Don't blame me! They should install a rail, in my opinion.

We had a great time at the zoo. In spite of the heavy snow, most of the animals were still out and about, or at least visible in their cages (except for the terrarium animals, like snakes, but they always suck). I just wish that the animal descriptions had had English translations.

Probably not exactly what the horns were meant for.


That owl had a dead mouse in its claws. Ew.

Braunbar! [Brown bear].

After the zoo, we were pretty much done with outside-time. It was cold, our hair was wet, and we were ready for some warm indoors action. We first choose the Bell Museum, and again caught a bus to take us there. When we arrived, however, it was CLOSED, so we waited another 30 minutes to catch another bus back to the center of town, where we discovered the best museum ever: the Tyrolean folk art museum! Through this museum, we also had access to the Hofkirche, or Court Church, the main church of Tyrol back in Maximilian's day. They also gave us a coupon to get any drink at the museum for 1 euro. SUH-WEET.
We spent the better part of 2 hours touring the museum, learning about life in 14th and 15th century Austria. I thought most of it was pretty cool, though I did get bored in this exhibit dedicated solely to the different kinds of parlours that were seen in people's homes. HUH?
After that, we were ready to see the Hofkirche!

This tomb was actually designed by Emperor Maximilian I for himself, before his death. However, it took more than 100 years to be completed, and he was obviously buried somewhere else before its completion. Maximilan was never moved, and remains buried elsewhere in Austria, but his tomb remains an elaborate reminder of his great political legacy. [Also, a little-known fact: at the time of his death, Maximilian had all of his teeth removed, his head shaved, and his body covered in lime and ash. Apparently this was how he wanted to appear before God. What a strange, strange man.]

That black figure on top of the tomb is Maximilian, kneeling. Slightly narcissistic, this man.

Hofkirche courtyard.

The entrance to the museum.

I wanted to climb the city tower, but it closed at 5 PM and we got there too late :[

One last shot of the city center.

This was the main bus stop, Marktplatz, that we came to know and love/hate.

We killed a little more time souveneir shopping before heading to dinner at Gossers, a restaurant that had been recommended to us by a woman we'd met on the train to Innsbruck. We never got her name, but we'll call her Greta. She told us that this place would have great Austrian food and was located in the Rathaus Galerien, which meant nothing to me at the time. It turned out to be a gigantic Austrian mall, and Gossers turned out to be the equivalent of a Chili's or an Applebee's. Slightly different feel that what I had been expected, but again, with no lunch, I wasn't in much of a mood to protest.
I ordered the beef goulash with bread dumpling, and Mary ordered cheese spratzl, which Greta had personally recommended. I wasn't wowed, by my dish, but it was again, hearty and filling. We decided to split dessert, a giant cheese strudel this time.

The weekend had so far been very relaxed and unstressful, exactly what I had wanted out of my Austrian adventure. At this point, it was dark and cold, so we decided to catch yet another bus back to the hostel to pick up our luggage, after which we planned to sit down in a pub and have a beer before our train departed at 11:05 PM.
This plan went seriously awry. I, obviously overconfident after less than two days of bus-catching, made the executive decision that the D/E line was the same as the D line, which we had taken to our hostel the previous morning. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. After about 10 minutes, I realized that we were on a completely different route, headed way, way north of Innsbruck, up into the mountains. By the time we realized where we were headed, it was too late to jump off.
We reassured ourselves that the bus would eventually turn around and head back to Innsbruck. However, we had had a previous experience with a bus that had stopped, and the bus driver had told us it was the last stop and made us get off. We sat on the bus, terrified of what would happen if the driver suddenly stopped the bus in one of the tiny towns we were driving through, and told us that this was the end of the line. Visions of freezing to death in a town called Rum or Absam were dancing in my head; equally terrifying ideas about missing our train were screaming through my brain.
After we'd been on the bus for an hour with no sign that we would turn around any time soon, Mary got up the courage to ask the driver if we would EVER go back to Innsbruck. Fortunately, the answer was yes, and half of my nightmares faded away. But as time ticked by, I was still afraid that we'd miss our train; after all, we still had to return to the hostel, grab our stuff, and get back to the train station hopefully before 11:05. After nearly two hours on the Bus of Terror, we got off back where we started at Marktplatz.

We were overjoyed, to say the least.
We had just enough time to practically RUN up to the hostel, and then speedwalk all the way back across town to the train station, where, after all of our panic, our train had been delayed by 20 minutes. Typical.

A little crazed, but happy more than anything to be on the train.

I slept most of the way back to Florence, where we arrived around 6:30 AM. I collapsed in my bed upon my return, and spent the rest of the day just uploading photos, watching TV, doing laundry, and grocery shopping. All of my Innsbruck photos have been added to the photobucket for your viewing pleasure (link in the sidebar).
My roommates and I experimented this evening in the making of ribollita, a typical Tuscan soup, which I will share in my post tomorrow.


  1. um, im pretty sure that that is EXACTLY what those antlers were for. def totes.

  2. You will eventually get the hang of bus schedules probably excel right about the time you come home.....typical murphys law. Glad you had time in the snow knowing how much you love it. Great travelouge!!!!!

  3. The picts are fabulous! You are very fortunate to have such a wonderful experience. By the way, could you send me a care package of the many dishes displayed on your blog???!! I'm starved by the end of each update!

  4. Bars are not a deal breaker and there are a lot of hostels without them but they make for a great place to socialize with other hostel guests.

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