Next stop: Innsbruck, Austria. It’s nestled in a wide valley between mountains, which has made it a popular place for skiing and mountaineering.
We arrived by train from Munich in the summertime. The train station was huge, like most are in Europe, and was bustling with people and shops that lined the tracks.
We got a taxi which drove us down a winding highway in the mountains until we entered the little market town of Völs, which is located on the border of Innsbruck (about a 15 minute bike ride away).
Völs has been around since 1188 and is only one of many small villages that are scattered around the valley surrounding Innsbruck.
Our hosts lent us their bikes and with them we were able to ride to and from Innsbruck (the bus wasn’t free) and explore several of the smaller towns near Völs and Innsbruck.
Birgitz was quiet as we rode in and we didn’t see many people about. It was another foggy day, so we thought that might be the reason. However, as we rounded a corner, we started to hear the tinkling of bells. We were delightfully surprised by what happened next:
We later learned that Austrians celebrate with colorful, ceremonial festivals when their cows have been safely herded from their alpine summer grazing pastures to the valley in the Fall.
Our bike rides took us to other villages too. We didn’t realize that the district of Innsbruck actually encompasses many other smaller towns. Not just that, Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol (a western state in Austria) so there was a lot to explore in Tyrol itself, beyond Innsbruck. Needless to say, we made good use of our bikes.
The small towns and gorgeous landscape around Innsbruck gave us a unique perspective on what Austria was really like, but our main purpose in visiting Austria was to see Innsbruck. We took the bus once or twice to get there, but mostly rode on a bike path that went for miles along the main highway connecting Völs to Innsbruck.
On one of our first days in Innsbruck, we took the Patscherkofelbahn, which is a cable car leading up to Patscherkofel mountain from the south of Innsbruck.
There are many hiking trails and other paths to explore on the mountain, but we only stayed for a short time before heading down again. Once down, we explored the village of Igls, which is a small resort town essentially in the same region as Innsbruck.
Then we took a tram back to the main village of Innsbruck:
The history of Innsbruck can be traced back to the stone age and there’s evidence showing that it’s been populated continuously.
Innsbruck gets it’s name from a Latin word, “Oeni Pons”, essentially meaning “bridge over The Inn” since it was an important crossing point over The Inn river.
Innsbruck became part of the County of Tyrol (an estate of the Roman Empire) in 1248 and became the capital of Tyrol in 1429 – it is still the capital today.
Standing at the top of Stadtturm Tower, we could see The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) across the square. The Golden Roof is considered Innsbruck’s most famous symbol and was completed in 1500.
The roof was decorated with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian I to mark his wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza. The couple would stand on the balcony to watch festivals, tournaments, and other events that took place in the square below.
The landmark is now a museum dedicated to Innsbruck’s history.
Just above Innsbruck are the gorgeous Alps, as can be seen in nearly every photo taken in Innsbruck. The Alps are lush green with sheep wandering freely along the hillsides. Hiking through them allowed us to see how white the rocky slopes were. This in contrast with the deeply green spurts of grass here and there made them seem almost magical.
We found it very easy to experience the local life in Innsbruck, especially when compared to our experiences in Vienna, another popular Austrian city.
It was also easier to explore the countryside: we found miles and miles of cornfields, rivers with people surfing off bridges, countless trails, and misty forests.
We quickly fell in love with Innsbruck for many reasons, namely, its breathtaking beauty and style.
One thing certain about Innsbruck – you can always look up and in at least one direction, you’ll have a view of the Alps.
We cannot wait to go back.