Ok so they call this hotel, the Hotel Central and by the sound of the planes coming into land it is not only central to the town centre but also central to the airport. Then again Innsbruck isn’t that big so I guess “central” can be used to describe most things in Innsbruck. Luckily after a few planes had past overhead we got to once again, hear the all to familiar (but very pleasant) chiming of church bells echoing across the township.
A later start today, breakfast at 8am and then up and out by 9am. We had purchased an Innsbruck card the day before from the Tourist information Centre. Whilst it cost 31Euro each, it gave us access to all public transport, one chair lift up and down and entry to a number of museums and attractions.
Catching the Number 1 tram from just outside the Tourist Information centre we made our way to Bergisel, a trip of about 10 minutes. At Bergisel you walk up the hill another 10 minutes and reach the site of the Olympic ski jump. Claire had enquired as to whether anyone could go on it but upon, seeing it, understood why we had laughed and said that this would not be possible. Ski jumps are incredibly high up – a massive big mushroom building stretching into the sky. At the top of the mushroom in this case 40 metres off the ground, is the point at which the skier starts their take off, gaining speed on the descent. Then in some crazy form of excitement, they jump off the lip of the slope and propel themselves into the air for a further 100 metres or so. Unfortunately we could only get to see it from the outside of the perimeter fence as they were preparing for a World Cup event that is taking place here next week. (Hmm a walk up hill for nothing…maybe nothing; think of the calories burnt!)
After scoping out the place to see if we could get any decent photos, we walked back downhill and waited for the number 6 tram which would take us up to the township of Igles. With this tram only arriving at 17 past the hour, we had a small wait and pondered how different it was to the last time we had tried to do this trip and needed to wait for the post bus to take us up the mountain not knowing if and when it would come. This place still remains small but its infrastructure has improved considerably, one guesses to cope with the increased people who live here and also for the increased number of tourists who visit.
The trip up took about 25 minutes and on the way we were jointed by a menagerie of people and animals (yep animals – dogs, cats you name it can go on public transport with their owners…and they don’t have to be guide dogs). One lady had two big dogs on leads and then three smaller dogs in a baby’s stroller. Another brought a bike on the bus. Not sure how this would go at home but it made for interesting travel viewing (and seems to be a regular occurrence as we have also seen it on the trains).
Upon getting to Igles, the Noah’s Ark of animals and people departed. Unlike previously when we were dropped near the township, this time we had to walk around 5 minutes to get into town. It wasn’t a big deal as we kinda felt like locals “tramping” along small lane ways, across rippling brooks and past tiny little chalet houses.
After checking in with a helpful lady at the Tourist information Centre in Igles, we walked up the hill a further couple of minutes to catch the cable car up to Pathcherkofel. At this point we saw a multitude of skiers both with skis and snowboards. Great we thought – one of those moments when we are so totally a tourist and way out of our own local environment. You can spot them easily – they’re the ones who want to take photos from inside a fogged up cable car when squeezed next to twenty or thirty other people with skis and ski gear. These people just see it as a “bus” to get them to the top of the mountain. At least this time we weren’t carrying shopping like last year when we caught the cable car from Grindelwald to Wengen.
Atop the mountain we decided to take in the view with a few hot chocolates at the Panorama Restaurant, and then decided to make it an early lunch when we got a seat that looked out across the entire valley and over to the Alps on the other side. We selected a few traditional Austrian favourites: Goulash soup with bread, Weiner Schnitzel…oh and spaghetti bolognaise for our fussy eater, Philip. It didn’t really matter what it was though as all of the food was great…the view might have had something to do with it!
In the time that we had been at the top, the cloud had cleared and the entire valley floor was visible. The mountains looking straight across were also a brilliant white, radiating against the bright blue tones of the sky. Claire kept saying it was a “Swendi” day in reference to a place in Switzerland that has incredible views but “Swendi’s” are hard to come by and the small cloud cover drifting in the valley meant it was close but not quite.
It became a duelling battle of cameras as each of us tried valiantly to capture the vastness and beauty of what we were seeing in a small image on the screen. We did revert to panorama both on cameras and using the iPhone in an effort to capture the expanse. After a couple of hours atop the mountain we headed back down the cable car where luckily the “J” bus was just pulling up. We jumped on board and it took us through the valley back to Innsbruck and then halfway up the other side to a town called “Nordketten”. Here using our Innsbruck card once again we we able to go up the cable car and look across the valley of Innsbruck and to the mountains where we had been in the morning.
This destination had a more “hip” feel with fewer true skiers (more families), an outside ski bar and numerous deck chairs in various sizes – baby bear for the kids, mummy bear the adult single sizes and daddy bear; double deck chairs. Here people sat, ate, drank and sun baked Austrian style whilst looking out at the most incredible view. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
Coming back down the mountain we caught the bus back into Innsbruck and then made our way to the church tower which is right in the centre of the Old Town. Here you can climb the 148 steps to the top and look down into the Old Town and beyond. This afternoon the place was going off and we needed to check our watches to make sure we hadn’t got our dates wrong and that it wasn’t the 31st of December. Everyone had red balloons with “happy new year” written on them; there were about 20 activities for kids to do and the stage that was set up was playing any number of tunes including the favourite “Birdy dance”.
We again went to “Republica” for dinner as it is the main part of the Old Town, served good food and was very reasonably priced (38 Euros all up) and then just had to buy a few pieces of Swarovski for the collection.
After that we headed to an ice cream shop but unfortunately it had closed early – guess the locals aren’t into ice cream when it’s zero degrees. It looked really good though so something to put on the “next time we’re here list”