A sunny but cool day, ( perfect weather for me) greeted us as we set off from Salzburg, along the Salach River, travelling for the most part, along roads fringing the Bavarian Alps. 'Ach' means water from the glacier, so you can imagine the colour of this particular river. It was an ice blue, from the particles of small rock washed down from the glacier. Just beautiful. Austria, on the whole, is such a delightful country, so pretty and not well known in my part of the world. I guess it struggles a little economically, particularly with the spectre of the current GFC breathing down its neck, and thus I often saw the sign “zimmerfrei” for rent on the village houses. Much prefer this to a hotel style accomodation don’t you? These houses are full of character.
Our guide and bus driver had colluded together to see if they could find us some snow to look at, along the way to Innsbruck, as we were all looking forward to a winter wonderland, which had not as yet, arrived as yet. So they took us along a back road through Bad Reichenhall and the Lofer Mountains, magnificient Tirolean scenery, along ski road and lodges, dotted here and there with artificial snow, made from machines. Well, I guess that they had to have something for the early winter guests to do?!!! I was happy to see any white stuff, frankly....
The Castle Fratzholz ?sp is found here, in the Tirolean region. It was the where the Nazi's stored much of the famous paintings/works of art stolen from Europe during Hitler’s reign. I noticed the Tirolean churches here are mainly comprising a Baroque form, with a round chancel (is this called the chancel or the nave?) comprising the altar area. Really like out of a Grimm's Fairy tale.
Historically, the Hapsburgs ruled Austria and Innsbruck in the 1200′s right up to the 1500/1600′s. This was a time of Roman Empress Maria Teresa, and the triumphal arch situated at the south end of Maria-Theresien Straße, which was modeled after roman archetypes, was built by the Empress on occasion of the marriage of her son, the Duke of Tuscany, later Emperor Leopold II, to Maria Ludovica from Spain. The marble reliefs were created by Balthasar Moll in 1744. The ones on the south side show Leopold and his bride Ludovika, the ones on the north show Empress Maria Theresia and her beloved husband, Francis I Stephen of Lothringen, who sadly died during the celebrations. Times have not always been so rosy since, however. Despite losing almost all its territory and empire during WWI, there are still some success stories in Austrian business. Red Bull, Geiger, and Swarovski are all Austrian companies.
Innsbruck has a population of 118.000 and is at 1,985 ft /605 m above sea level. Entering Innsbruck, you can't help escape seeing the enormous Ski Jump and the Patscherkofel Mountain which we guessed, most of the skiing takes place. This is 7,381 ft or 2250 m, and I imagine there would be heaps of black runs or skiing off piste!!!
Arriving in Innsbruck there was loads of free time in the old town doing the mandatory tour of the old pedestrian streets and arcades, seeing the famous Golden Roof, made from 2657 golden plated tiles and all those fabulous Rococco buildings. . The areas around Innsbruck were, for many years, mined for metals, and this was the source of the economic base for the development of the Austrian empire. No doubt some of the gold from the Innsbruck hills, made its way into those 2657 golden tiles). Our hotel was centrally located right next to the Triumphal Arch an architectural remnant of Maria Therese’s reign.
There was a lovely atmosphere to be found in these streets, as the Christmas markets predominated already in early November. I found a great soft leather wallet, with just the right amount of compartments at one store, for a fraction of the price I would pay at home at a street stall in the Xmas market. On the whole, the shops were expensive by home standards, but in the pedestrian street, you will find some department stores with bargains on certain items. I found a fabulous Kugelhof cake tin for a mere pitance. Some beautiful fabric too: elegantly patterned monochromatic Christmas tablecloth fabric, of the likes completely unobtainable in Australia.
There are often street entertainers too, some are a little strange, like two guys dressed as a Madonna and child and ?feminine male partner?? Still a bit confusing for me....
When searching for a replacement piece of luggage (damaged by porters!) in an Innsbruck retailer, we found the most amazing folk art painted cupboards and dresser, painted in 'Alpbachtal' style. The shopkeeper told me that she had already had one dresser restored, but she was not happy with the results of that restoration, as she felt it did not do the art justice, so even though her other cupboard is dark and has been antiqued by age, she will not have it restored, as it will still retains the special beauty of the original brushstrokes. I think I agreed with her.
The fairy tale becomes real in Innsbruck at Xmas time as the towns people decorate windows and walls with characters from the German fairy tales such as Snow Queen, Hansel and Gretel and the Golden Goose.
During the free time in Innsbruck, most of the females of the species practically ran to Swarovski to grab some jewellery bargains. Having a bit of Norwegian silver, I opted to go on the afternoon optional excursion to an authentic Austrian farm on the hills outside Innsbruck, called Axams. Another wonderful example of an unique Austrian village where they appreciate decorative and traditional art.
We ditched the bus for an old fashioned carriage ride, complete with horse drawn poop bags, which got to serve the purpose for which they had been made. I began to think about times gone by when horse drawn vehicles predominated the streets. How the streets would have had the sweet sick aroma of horse dung. What a stink it must have been. The carriage ride took us to the Goetzens Church, am amazing edifice to the devotion of the Austrians to the catholic faith.
'Fritz' (- was that really his name: how appropriate!) then entertained the passengers at his farm stud, where we saw beautiful throughbreds, tasted snapps and listened to Fritz yodelling and entertaining us. It was a shame that the snow did not allow for a sled ride, as what would normally be found in Austria in wintertime, but I quickly learnt the Austrian countryside is just as delightful with a green carpet. Except for those darn power lines, and the odd Austrian getting in the way of a good landscape shot!!!
Back to Innsbruck, we scoured the Xmas markets whilst the young men of the group checked out the casino, part of our hotel complex. The more refined guests partook of dinner at the Sandwirt on the River Inn. Something I won’t be pondering on is how they felt after the casino visit……