After a pretty chilled first weekend back in Austria, I thought it was time to shake things up a little – and put my Österreichcard to good use – and so last weekend I, and several friends/fellow TAs – went to Innsbruck!
For those of you who know nothing about Innsbruck you can just read about it here, but basically, it’s the fifth biggest city in Austria (with a population of less than 125,000 people) and located in the west, about a four hour train ride from Vienna. It’s the capital city of the state of Tirol and, most importantly, it has mountains.
So, yes. I arrived a bit before two o’clock on Friday – the first of us to do so – and took a three hour stroll around Innsbruck, which as its population suggests, is not that big of a city. I probably walked back to the main street three or four times, but it’s very pretty, and I stumbled across the Goldenes Dachl, which is one of the main sights of Innsbruck (or so I’m told).
I admired the pretty (not real) gold roof, poked around some touristy shops in the area and nipped into a McDonald’s to try and leech their free wifi before I headed over to our hostel. Apparently this was the weekend to visit Innsbruck, however, so our hostel was a little way out of town and, unlike every hostel I’ve visited in Austria so far, check in actually didn’t open until the time they’d given us. (Five o’clock, which was still a while away.)
I headed back into town and hung about until five, then got the bus back to the hostel – where I checked in (getting a lovely compliment from the receptionist about my German, which was nice) and discovered that we were staying in the most communist/seventies hostel to have ever been designed. It was the kind of hostel I had imagined hostels looked like before I moved abroad and stayed in actual hostels – everywhere was dark brown wood and extremely questionable lighting and furnishing choices – but on the plus side, we had a six-bed room just to the four of us and breakfast was included in the price.
(As it turned out, the hostel was actually built for the 1976 winter Olympics, which were hosted in Innsbruck. It had apparently never been updated since.)
Surrendering my passport to the check-in desk, I took our bedding and the city map the receptionist had given me up to our room (which I found without getting lost, thank you very much) and headed back into Innsbruck to meet El a little while after. Back to the hostel and then back to Innsbruck to meet Peter and Charlotte (who I stayed with in Venice that time) for something to eat and a general catch up.
We ate and drank, still waiting for the boys to turn up because one of their (many, many) trains to Innsbruck had been cancelled. I alternately love and hate the Austrian public transport system – it’s so cheap for what it is and so much nicer than public transport in the UK (heated trains omg) but at the same time, if your train isn’t coming then you’re kind of stuck – and if you get a replacement bus, then, good luck with that.
But anyway, I had a nice catch up with old friends and we finally got hold of Liam and Tony at nearly ten o’clock. After getting more food, we once again went back to the hostel where I presented them with our ultra-compact room. The main thing I did like about our room, however, was the beautiful view of the mountains when I arrived on Friday. This would prove to be slightly different on Saturday, but whatever.
The rest of Friday night consisted of chilling a little, watching some YouTube videos and then sleeeeeeeep…
Which was rudely interrupted at approximately four to five in the morning by whoever was on the same corridor as us. Clearly a group of lads out for a good weekend in Innsbruck and I dozed through most of it, but it meant that we all met Saturday morning (dragging ourselves out of bed for the seven ’til nine breakfast) a little groggier than we might have otherwise.
Still, we got ready and went out – into a decidedly more rainy Innsbruck than the city I’d seen the day before. We had a little wander around some cute shops, looked at the main city-centre sights and went to a cafe for some lunch as we considered what to do about the rest of the day. The rain had been turning to snow off and on (we were standing in one street and it was raining – and then I looked up and the rain was turning into snow right before my eyes, which was pretty cool) and we’d been talking about going up one of the mountains by cable car, so we took a walk across the bridge to see about doing that.
You can actually get the cable cars from the centre of the city, too, but we went a little way out and got the first one up to Hungerburg, which is 860m (2,821 feet) above sea level. It was snowing a little bit at the Hungerburg stop and, despite the mist that had descended across Innsbruck, we could still see the city below.
From Hungerburg, you have to take another two cable cars up to the top of the mountain – all in all, it cost 7,50€ from Innsbruck-Hungerburg and then 25,90€ (or so) from Hungerburg to Hafelekar, the very top. (Before you even get to Hungerburg, there’s the Alpenzoo as well, which we didn’t visit, but I definitely will next time.)
By the time we got up to Seegrube, the next stop (1905m/6250ft above sea level), the snow was much more noticeable. There was a restaurant at that part and a lot more skiiers than we would see at Hafelekar, so we spent some time waiting for our next cable car out in the snow and having a little wander around. It was cold, but didn’t seem much colder than it had been on the ground – we just had to be careful to dodge Liam throwing sneaky snowballs at us!
After Seegrube, we got in our final cable car to go all the way up to the top – to Hafelekar. Hafelekar is 2256m (7402ft) above sea level and it was way colder up there, although it didn’t seem it at first. The brochure I picked up said there is an area around the cable car stop where you can hike – even with a family! – but the snow was pretty bad, even if it didn’t seem it at first and visibility got worse.
We had a little wander outside – there was a set of binoculars that, when you looked through them, had the names and heights of the mountains that in other weather might have been visible – and there was a slope with a cross at the top that Tony was interested in seeing after we’d eaten in the cafe. So, to the cafe we went.
The cafe was a good idea – it was much warmer inside – and surprisingly inexpensive, so we all ordered soup (I got Gulaschsuppe, which was delicious) and sat in there for a while, warming up. Some Americans came in at one point to take photos but decided not to buy anything, so the guy running the restaurant asked them to leave, and there was a man with his dog, but apart from that we didn’t see anyone at the top of the mountain.
After our restaurant interlude, we headed back out into the snow and realised that we couldn’t even see the cross any more. Still, we had a little wander up the slope, but the wind had picked up and it was incredibly cold. Liam and El took some pictures of us but we headed back inside relatively quickly to wait for the cable car to come back.
We then took our cable cars back to Innsbruck, which was noticeably warmer once we had our feet on the ground. We decided to get some snacks and drinks before heading back to our hostel for the night. Once there, El and Liam had little naps and Tony and I sat around and read/dozed for an hour or so. The rest of the evening was spent sitting in the hostel lobby on their wifi and playing card games, then moving said card games to the TV room when the lights in the lobby went out.
We still had to contend with the noisy neighbours again that night (I say we, I mean Liam did) – both when we headed up for bed and in the early hours of the morning. Still, I was exhausted from all our walking around and my serious lack of lie-ins all of last week, so I slept as well as I expected I would.
Sunday morning’s breakfast was decidedly busier than Saturday’s had been and when we’d done, we packed up and checked out, heading back into the city. It was a chilly day again so we found a cafe to hang out in until Tony’s train and then went for a little wander, as ours wasn’t for another four hours. The sun came out a little, which was nice, but it wasn’t exactly warm, so we ended up meandering back towards the train station, making sure to pick up postcards and (more) snacks.
The train came at half past four and we piled on, Liam and El transferring at Salzburg to go home. It was such a fun weekend; Innsbruck is a beautiful little city and I think I’m going to try and go back before May, if only to visit some of the museums and see what it looks like in the summer.
I’m heading off to Munich today, so next week’s post should be all about that. 🙂 There might not be as many mountains, but I think there’s going to be a pretty impressive castle to make up for things!