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Innsbruck 24th May

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Whatever we did to deserve bad-bus day was balanced out. We had nice bus day today, which helped pack in a lot.

Breakfast is at 8.00. Hard for us, still waking at 6.30 (or worse) but the + breakfast never starts before 8.00 it seems. This is at the café/cake shop below the accommodation. It’s a good deal, for everyone including us. The icing is you get a slice of whatever didn’t sell yesterday thrown in, and the cakes are very good. They seem to make an effort to mix it up, and we never had the same thing twice.

From there a short walk to the Hofburg. The Habsburgs have snuck in and taken over the holiday again. The Hofburg was a sort of a summer palace. It lost its shine a little when Marie-Theresa’s husband died of a heart-attack at their son Leopold’s wedding, and became more of a memorial site. But there are some heart-stoppers there. The Giant’s Hall is now the Family Hall. Marie-Theresa had the rather show-all Hercules decorations painted over, and instead used it to brand her reign by filling the hall with images of her and her descendants, making it clear she was the power source and would be supplying that for the next few generations. Other Habsburgs celebrated their ancestry…Marie-Theresa celebrated the future.

There were chairs, lovely wallpaper, lush rooms and so on. There was also a bit of weirdness. The wife of the next king, Marie-Theresa’s son Franz-Joseph, live estranged from him. Sisi was the lady Di of her day, a celebrity famed for her beauty and wayward behavior. In her time the Hofburg was lived in by the king’s brother, to whom Sisi had originally been bethrothed. Her family got a better deal and she married Franz-Joseph instead, unhappily as it turns out.

But the brother who missed out apparently still kept a torch burning for her, and fitted out chunks of the palace for her to visit.

The heroic guards to Maximilain's tomb

From there to the Hofkirke, the place of Maximilian’s tomb. This time there was a brief multimedia presentation beforehand, which was a sound and light show. I liked it. It was all dark and mysterious, and twice a huge door creaked open at the right interval and we were drawn on to the next room. A huge globe showed the spread of the Habsburg dominions, there were clockwork sailing ships and it was fun.

After all that electronica you go into the cold, gloomy tomb built within the church. Its all a bit ridiculous really, given its empty and Maxilimilian’s body is somewhere else, but three generations of Habsburgs tipped a fortune into finishing it off. It feels like the scene from Lord of the Rings, walking through the Great Hall of Gondor. 28 larger-than life heroic bronze statues guard the tomb, which is a gold, marble masterpiece.

There’s also a smaller tomb for pub-owner Andreas Hofer, a Tyrolian hero, who took on and beat for a short time the armies of Napoleon and others, but was betrayed by the Austrian Emperor. Trouble-maker.

View from the clocktower overlooking the Goldenes Dachle.

Innsbruck old town has a clocktower, and square, huge thing. For €3 you can climb to the top, free if you have the Innsbruck card. (Everything we did was free courtesy of the Card. We flogged that donkey.)

Occupational health and safety is a different beast here. No one wears bike helmets, for example, except the crazies who mountain bike down the steep, stony, broken gravel slalom courses. They wear serious motor-bike type helmets and proper shin guards and so on. But city bikers negotiate tram tracks, cobblestones, hair-raising narrow roads and wayward pedestrians with not a helmet to be seen.

But you might see, say, steps on a set of stairs in department store decorated with lamps on each step as a display. Mind the cord, much less the lamp!

On the clocktower in Innsbruck is a sign warning you that you enter at your own risk, not to drop things from the top, and significantly, for “parents to take responsibility for their children”. Now that’s a sign we need in Australia!

Yes, yes, the view was stunning.

The Innsbruck Card has various photo points around town. You stand where they indicate, put your card up against a reader, and voila! a photo is taken of you complete with perfect backdrop to download. Good tourism marketing, I thought.

From there we caught the bus up to the Nordkettenbahn. The bus ground its way through tiny laneways, scraping by houses, juggling two way traffic and bikes. Two over-excited teenage girls clambered on with mountain bikes, gushing with happiness that the bus had picked them up. Bad-bus day it wasn’t. The driver used the intercom to make a long speech about the fact he wasn’t supposed to pick up bikes and hoping no one would complain. It was done with the usual Austrian mournful version of humor, and the rest of the bus sniggered and chortled.

At the top we got off, and caught one, then another, bus-sized chairlift/carriage to the top. Three earnest artistic types were doing some sort of photoshoot, one of them wearing metallic antlers, and wanted the bahn-carriaqge in the background. They were obviously waiting anxiously for it to pass overhead, in shot. The driver rang ahead and got the bahn stopped, so we swung there for a minute while the photographers clicked furiously, then we were off again. Bad-driver, not.

Innsbruck mountains

At the top you had to remember to breath. Whichever way you looked were rows and rows of tortured, ragged peaks, some with snow even though it was quite hot. The rips are filled with broken rock, to our eyes looking like a stone avalanche begging to roll. We took a safe, managed walk to the top of the highest peak nearby.  

Innsbruck from above

Below us Innsbruck and the surrounds spread out, tiny. The peak we were on is over 2300 metres, and almost straight up and down. So far up that gliders whizz by, humming slightly, often below us.

Mountain flowers

I was too busy scanning for small clumps of wildflowers, and tripped on the stone pathway. Off went my camera, bouncing merrily, wildly flinging off the memory card and battery as it spun away. It chose to stop rolling just on the edge. One more bounce and it would have been something to amuse the goats below. I miraculously found the grey battery amongst a million grey stones, put the pieces back together and it all still worked.

There was another peak, but it involved trudging through ankle deep snow, and I watched two people lurching and skating back inches from a vertical drop and wasn’t game to keep going. Sylvia also had cold feet, but more literally…her boots filled with snow in a deep drift. Enough. A beer on the terrace then three bahns back downhill (bypassing the bus this time) to be dropped off 200 metres from our accommodation.

But not finished. The Goldenes Dachl, Maximilian’s headquarters, now houses a Maximilian Museum. Closes as 5.00. The ticket handler suggested we come back tomorrow, but shooed us in for a whirlwind visit when she understood we were leaving first thing tomorrow.

It’s a small museum, most of it familiar though the other historical info we have been soaking up, but…The whole point to the Goldenes Dachl was to demonstrate the power and wealth of the empire. Over and over again much is made of the decorated balcony, magnificently carved, where Maximilian looked out onto the street. You can’t go out onto the balcony, but you can stand in the doorway and look out onto the same buildings and streetscape. In a big day that was the moment for me.

On the way back to our accommodation we stopped and bought green and white asparagus, weird miniature tomatoes and salad, and with some basics from the flat (salt, oil, pasta etc) cooked a healthy meal unseen in Austria before. The flat we are in is supposed to sleep 8 in three rooms, but we had the place to ourselves.

Tomorrow we need to be up and out early, for the train to Zell am See.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

May 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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