Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Innsbruck - In the Austrian Tyrol

From Switzerland we travelled on to Austria.  We caught local trains to Biel and then on to Zurich.  From there we caught the RailJet train to Innsbruck through the Arlberg Pass.  It was an interesting journey but not as spectacular as we had hoped as the usually snow covered peaks were looking a little bare in the absence of snow.  The pix were taken through somewhat grimy windows which always seem to have a reflection (see white strip above the hills in first picture) of the fluorescent lighting in the coaches.

Not a racy looking engine like the high-speed trains, but very powerful
We live in hope - there's some snow.  Will there be more?

Our small Pension was close to the station so we quickly dumped cases and set out to explore the city.  Innsbruck occupies an important position in western Austria about halfway between Munich (Germany) and Verona (Italy).  It is the location of the important bridge ("bruck") across the river Inns.

View of the mountains as we left the station
The Triumphforte built in Roman style to celebrate the marriage of the
son of Empress Marie Theresa in 1765.  One side has motifs depicting
the wedding celebrations, but the "sad" side commemorates her
husband who died during the 10 days of wedding celebrations.

The tower of the town hall.  We climbed to the viewing
platform for a wonderful view of Innsbruck as the
surrounding mountains cast a long shadow in late afternoon.
Now that's my kind of kebab.  Not sure
about its authenticity in middle eastern cuisine.
It's easy to lose track of building identities.  I think
 that this is St Josef's with a famous cloister.
The shadows from the setting sun creep across the building
leaving just the fine details of the upper works illuminated.
The horse drawn carriage - so important to Austrian tourism.
Attractive buildings line many of Innsbruck's inner city streets.

"St Ann's Column" in the centre of the "old town".  Erected in 1703
to commemorate the liberation of the region from Bavarian troops.
Although the column is topped by a figure of the Virgin Mary it takes
its name from the day of dedication (The Feast Day of St Anna).

The Organ Grinder (but no monkey these days)

A small section of the panoramic view from the town hall tower.
From the tower the famous "Golden Roof" is quite visible.

The Golden Roof was built in 1500 by the Emperor Maximillian I to allow
 his entourage to view activities and festivities in the town square below.
Houses on the "other side"
of the River Inns

A modern artistic addition to a building in the old town

The windows of this bakery-cafe were arranged as an advent calendar

The stage set for the concerts which were part of
the Christmas markets which ran until New Year
The Golden Roof looks even better at night
Looking along a small shopping lane towards the Hofburg Palace
The hills which almost encircle Innsbruck are
usually snow-covered by this time of the year.
Innsbruck's theatre
The Hofkirche (Imperial Church)

The Hofkirche (Imperial Church)
Some of the many domes and spires in Innsbruck
Wilten Basilica in the suburbs of Innsbruck
The Hofburg - one of the many palaces of the Habsburg dynasty
The Triumphal Arch by night
... and that was just the first day.  Still to come - our mountain excursions

On our second day in Innsbruck we decided to "get high" and look down on Innsbruck, taking advantage of the fine but cold morning.

The early morning sun catches the
 hills to the north-east of Innsbruck.
The new (2007) funicular railway replaces older segments of the connection between Innsbruck in the river valley and the hill towns above it.  The futuristic stations were designed by Zaha Hadid.  We rode the funicular railway for the first stage and transferred at Hungerberg to the first of the two cable car gondolas which took us high up the mountain.

One of the mountain railway stations.
Boarding the Nordkettenbahnen which
connects Innsbruck with Hungerburg.
As the slope increases the cabins pivot within
the external frames to maintain their levels.
"Two levels" above Innsbruck and we are into some patchy snow.
It looks good to visitors like us, but isn't much use for sport.
The sun chairs were out to let you catch some sun but pictures
of this bare ground would never make it into the brochures.

There was just enough snow for the children's
ski school.  They made it look so easy!
Looking down towards Innsbruck from the middle cable car station.
Looking up from the middle station to the top station and café.
The cable car about to dock at the top station.
After returning to the town we toured the Hofburg (the old palace, now a museum - no photos allowed) and then went to the adjacent Hofkirche which was built on the instructions Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor.  Innsbruck became the capital of the Tyrol in 1429 and for many years was the centre of the Habsburg Empire and home to the Holy Roman Emperors.  The Hofkirche was the Imperial Church.  It contains one of Innsbruck's greatest artistic treasures - a massive black marble cenotaph surrounded by 28 larger-than-life bronze statues of the ancestors (some rather fanciful such as King Arthur) of Emperor Maximillian I.  It is a memorial, not a tomb, as the Emperor is buried more simply in the Castle Chapel at Wiener Neustadt in Lower Austria.

Albrecht Durer was one of the many artists
and craftsmen who worked on the statues.
From the old Gothic Hofkirche  we then went to see the fine Baroque Cathedral of St James (St Jakob).  his was heavily damaged by bombing during WW2 but was fully restored within a few years.  It has a particularly splendid organ - beautiful to both the eye and the ear.

The sun sets early in Innsbruck in the winter and the long shadows of the mountains creep steadily across the city from early afternoon.  While there was still light we caught the bus to Bergisel Sprungschanze - the site of the ski jump to the south of the city.  Innsbruck is the only town/city to have 3 Olympic torch cauldrons.  The city hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, and also the Youth Olympics in 2012.  Although there has been a jump on the site since 1930 the modern jump was designed by Zaha Hadid (he also designed the funicular stations) and attained its present form in 2003.  There is seating for 26,000 people beside the downhill slope and around the landing area.

No, these workers are not indulging in some daredevil downhill
sport.  They are polishing the surface ready for a stage of the
European Championship to be held less than a week after our visit.
The Tower is impressive as you ride
the funicular "lift" to its base.
Here's the view from the platform on top of the tower.

The three Olympic cauldrons.
After all the mountain air and outdoor activity it was time to engage in some indoor cultural appreciation.  The musical performances from the "Familie Gundolf" may not be to everyone's taste, but there was no doubting the enthusiasm of performers and audience alike.  Yodelling, musical saw tunes. alpine horns, thigh slapping and other Tyrolean activities were all performed with gusto to an appreciative audience who also appreciated the large pots of local beer.

A bit of "oompah" gets any night off to a good start!

The alpine horns join in for a local folk song.
Our train south to Venice didn't leave until after lunch so there was time to take the bus east from Innsbruck to the nearby town of Wattens where the Swarovski factory has been producing lead glass crystals and high precision optical glass since 1895.

The entry to the "Crystal World" exhibition was beneath the
"giant" spitting icy water into the almost frozen-over pool.
Although there were many examples of "bling" on display some of the avante-garde and high tech art installations were quite spectacularly impressive.  Few could be photographed well because of the artistic lighting effects and highly reflective surfaces.  Here are a few attempts to depict some of the spectacular works we saw.

This is part of a maze of metal rods and
crystals set between mirrors placed at various
 angles.  The "forest" looked infinite!

Judy displays her shopping bag at the end of the tour.  Those
"discounted" tickets proved to be quite expensive after all.
From Watten we collected bags and made our way to the station for the journey south through he Brenner Pass to Bolzano, Verona and then on to Venice.
Paul & Judy
January, 2016

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