Friggatriskaidekaphobia: A fear of Friday 13th
Willkommen in Österreich*! We crossed another border today and have arrived in Austria – the last of the Germanic lands we will be visiting on this trip. Ahhhh Austria… the geographical heart of Europe; land of culture and history, and once the epicentre of one the world’s greatest empire’s. This is also a land of awesome alpine scenery (at a fraction of the cost of Switzerland and Liechtenstein!). We’re very excited about being able to explore a few of Austria’s museums and castles, but also its mountains and rolling green hills – not to mention its schnitzel houses and beer halls!
*Interesting factoid for those of you that collect such things in the recesses of your minds: The German name for Austria, Österreich, means “eastern kingdom” and refers to this nation’s geographical location in relation to the other German-speaking nations of Europe.
We caught the bus from Vaduz (Liechtenstein) to Feldkirch (Austria) this morning and, as soon as we were across the border and back in a reasonably-priced country, celebrated our border crossing with a sub-$5AUD coffee (simple pleasures for simple people, I know). From Feldkirch it was then just 2 hours by train through the Austrian Alps to reach our home for the next fews days: Innsbruck.
Innsbruck is the capital city of the West Austrian state of Tyrol. This city of 150,000 people sits in a valley at the base of the Austrian Alps, straddling the Inn River (Inns-bruck literally means “bridge over the Inn”). The city is surrounded by ski slopes and is renowned as a snow sports destination; it has even hosted the Winter Olympics twice (1964 and 1976). The mountains around Innsbruck are so close that it feels like we could just reach out and touch them. We have an awesome view of the mountains from our hotel room – very cool! Bloody cold in fact – it normally doesn’t start snowing in the mountains here until October, but what fell as rain in Vaduz yesterday turned to snow here and the mountains all around Innsbruck are covered in a light dusting of fresh snow. There is a very definite chill in the air and I’m starting to wonder if we have enough warm clothes to see us through autumn in Europe…
We’re planning to go exploring some of Innsbruck’s mountains tomorrow, but for today our mission was to see the altstadt (translation = old town). The buildings of Innbruck’s old town dates back to the 15th century, when the town became an important European centre due to the fact that Emperor Maximilian I (emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, 1493-1519) resided here. The city faded somewhat in importance after this time, though the legendary Habsburgian dynasty maintained an estate and court here until the 19th century. Today Innsbruck is a university town (the university was founded in 1669) with a booming tourism industry (they had around 5,000,000 visitors last year to the town last year, though 4,000,000 of those were just day trippers), and a lovely feel to it. We had great fun this afternoon strolling the streets of the altstadt and getting lost in amongst the narrow, cobbled streets.
Probably the most famous historical sight in Innsbruck is the Goldenes Dachl (translation = the Golden Roof). This gleaming, 16th century, copper-tiled roof (burnished to it shines golden in the sun) protects the royal box where Emperor Maximilian I used to sit and watch tournaments in the square below. The building the balcony and its metallic roof are attached to used to be the royal residence and is now a museum dedicated to Maximilian I.
We also really liked Innsbruck Cathedral, also known as the Dom zu St. Jakob (translation = Cathedral of St. James). This 18th century Baroque cathedral is the main Roman Catholic church is Innsbruck (74% of Austrians are Catholic). It’s lavishly decorated interior was amazing.
And so we come to the end of another great day of Wandering Soles. As you can see, Austria is treating us very well so far and we can only hope the next couple of weeks are as much fun as today!