Innsbruck, Austria


Where do I begin? Traveling from Regensburg, Germany to the heart of Tyrol in a DB train car, I honestly had little expectations for this city that played host to two Winter Olympics. Innsbruck was to be a refuge before making the jump to the chaos that is Rome. I envisioned a small town butted up against stereotypical Alpine peaks. I pictured folks from all corners of Europe walking the streets hauling skis towards some cross-country ski meet. Well, it was early October! There was no snow in town. Innsbruck had not quite awoken from its summer slumber, but regardless, it was alive and vibrant.

What struck me most about this place was its incomparable ability to morph from a nature / shopper's paradise during the day to a people-watching / partying haven at night. Next to Toronto, which I contend is one of the most fashionable, in-touch cities in the world, Innsbruck has to be one of the hippest places out there. It's not spoiled by tourism (I'm looking at you, Rome). It's clean. The locals are welcoming.  I just wish my father and I had more time to see this city.

The most memorable thing we did was the Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen. I'm not sure what that means, but basically we took a cable car most of the way up to Hafelekarspitze. Here's dad close to the top.

Getting there is half of the fun. We ended up taking a funicular to Hungerburg Station (about the halfway point between Innsbruck's streets and the top). Funiculars are nothing new, but dad and I were amazed when this space-age transport started to scale the mountain. Two funiculars run concurrently on the same track, and there's a point in the journey when the track splits to allow both unhindered passage. This is clockwork. Absolutely amazing. We boarded the cable car only a few steps from Hungerburg Station. There's not much to say about it. The car glided smoothly along the cable, and the very long cable did its job. The view at the top was somewhat spoiled by cloud cover, but we could definitely appreciate how high we were.

Dad and I also rode one of those touristy "hop on and off" buses you see in every big city nowadays. It was a relaxing way to see the city. No complaints. Not great, but well worth the money (especially if you don't have time to explore the city on your own). We also visited the casino, but a strict dress code prevented us from entering the casino floor. If you plan to gamble, bring a sports coat or be willing to rent one.

From a restaurant perspective, we were not blown away. The food was perfectly fine, but I have the feeling that Europeans don't make culinary pilgrimages to Innsbruck. The highlight had to be the apple strudel. I am no strudel aficionado, but I was told that Innsbruck is one of the best places to get this delectable treat. We were not disappointed.

We only stayed in Innsbruck for one day and two nights. You could probably do it justice in two. We walked most everywhere as our hotel was centrally located near the Golden Roof. If we could do it all over again, we'd spend more time in this jewel of a city. Clean. Friendly. Scenic. We'll be back.