Sunday 1 July 2012

Innsbruck and Out

We were due back to England in a couple of weeks so it was time to turn west. Transport costs started to hurt as we decided to cut through Central Europe, wincing as we forked out hundreds of euros for a couple of train tickets from Venice to Innsbruck, Austria. The ride was a comfortable medium speed (160km/h) journey, with spectacular mountain scenery punctuating long sessions in dark tunnels as the train literally cut across the narrow band of Tyrolean Alps.

Mt. Patscherkofel - Innsbruck
Innsbruck was a chilled out university town setting on the banks of the Inn Brücke (Inn River), boasting effortless views of the surrounding Nordkette Alps mountains. Clean, wide tram streets lined with quaint medieval architecture existed easily amongst crisp modern but generally lowrise buildings around which the young and trendy population on bicycles ruled the roost. The words sustainable city came to mind as we passed organic supermarkets, breathed fresh air, and crossed roads with barely any traffic. Innsbruckers also appeared to follow road rules and were content to wait for a green light - a refreshing change of pace from Southern Europe.

Colourful houses across the river - Innsbruck
The next few days were spent on charming walks along the river and through the Altstadt (old town), drinking good local beers and dining on hearty Austrian fare, ticking off the schnitzel, the strudel and the requisite large-scale-meat-fest.

Wiener Schnitzel from Goldener Adler - Innsbruck
Delicious Strudel from Strudel-Cafe Kroll - Innsbruck
Mountains of Meat from Kaiserstuben - Innsbruck
I felt some travel guilt for not seeing everything there was to see and not completely immersing myself into the culture and whatnot, but that did not last. The locals were really getting into the European Cup football, and carrying six-packs of beer around seemed as normal as carrying a handbag, but at this stage of travel we were happy to just observe the festivities quietly.

First Beer in Austria, Zillertal Pilsner - Innsbruck
We managed to get off our backsides occasionally to do as the locals did and pedal-powered around for a bit. The cycle route along the Inn Brücke to nearby town Hall in Tirol took in vegetable farms and forests, crossed old wooden bridges and train tracks, and arrived at the small cobbled-stoned town with pastel coloured medieval castles complete with cone-shaped turrets and flags. We eased our obviously stressful days by stretching out under dappled light on park benches in soft, green surrounds, burning through pages of Robert Ludlum and George R.R. Martin. Innsbruck was easy living.

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