no matter where you go, there you are

Thursday, October 14, 2010

city cards and the best high you can have

To begin this post, I'm going to do my spiel about City Cards. Only 3 of the cities I visited offered the city cards, each with their own specifics. Munich's was only a discount card and based on how long I would be there and what I wanted to see, it was not worth it for me to purchase one. Unlike Innsbruck and Salzburg, whose cards include a number of activities around the cities that I wanted to see and the card allows for free admission. And some of the things to do cost almost as much as the card did. In Innsbruck, with just one round trip ride to the top of the mountains and back, I utilized the cost of the card almost completely. Add in all the other wonderful things I saw, and it was the best investment of my entire trip probably. Sure, if you get the card and don't choose to go to the mountains, you don't recoup the investment as quickly but it can still be done since paying individual admission to all the museums and sights can really add up. Such was the case in Salzburg. We bought the cards and ended up breaking even between the cost and individual admission prices. I'm prolly one of the few people who would even care to add it all up and see if it was worth it monetarily but you do get to skip lines as well so there is a time consideration to factor in as well. So my recommendation for City Cards is to get them, as long as the investment will be worth it, and with free admission that worth shows itself very quickly.

After spending plenty of time soaking up Tirolean culture in the Folk Museum, it was around mid-day and the gondola ride to the top of the mountains, and a small ski area, awaited. It started as something off my checklist of things to do, and since the cost was almost as much as the City Card, a worthy investment to check out. It quickly turned into one of my favorite locales/activities of the entire trip.

View of the mountains from the streets below
To get to the top, there were three different transportation devices I had to ride. The first, from the streets of downtown Innsbruck to a small village neighborhood in the hills was completed on a small, train-like shaped car and the ride was fairly quick. From there, we walked 2 minutes to the gondola station that would take us to the restaurant and main section of the ski area. This trek also stopped at the Alpine Zoo, which Anne told me was neat but which I didn't have enough time to visit since I decided I wanted to see the Swarovski Crystal museum more. Don't know if I made the right choice, but more on that later. 

On the ride up, I thoroughly enjoyed my window position and being able to look down at all the lovely snow and see minuscule hikers with their dogs, going both up and down, and I think some may have been on skis. My giddyness started here, and the high I experienced for the next hour was thrilling. Departing from the gondola at the ski level, I had no idea there was another level I could go up, so I went outside and saw kids playing in the snow, couples sitting at the outdoor tables, chair lifts not active yet, and a breathtaking view of the city of Innsbruck and the 360 degree view of surrounding mountains. Oh, and a parachuter flying right over the city.

After spending quite a few minutes soaking up the overlook, I turned and saw the richest blue sky behind a gorgeous balance of rock and snow. 

Deciding I needed to explore, I started to follow the paths of others when I looked to my right and saw another gondola heading up the mountain further. Quickly backtracking, I hopped on the next one departing up. While waiting I saw the map they had for the area and displayed which areas of the mountain were open. There were actually quite a few areas to explore if you were a skier. 

On the ride up there was a gentleman sitting next to me with a backpack and a helmet so I figured he was just an intense hiker. Little did I know I would get a surprise from him when we got to the top. Immediately upon departure he walked determinately to an open spot with plenty of clearance and nothing blocking him from the edge of mountain. Within a matter of seconds it felt like, he pulled a parachute out from his pack, had it all strung up and ready to go, threw his helmet on and ran off the side of the mountain. Where he planned to land in the city, or towards the bottom of the mountain, I have no idea but it was quite a sight to see. And a very popular sport because as I was heading back to the gondola station, there was a whole group prepping to do their run, and at the bottom there were many gentleman with backpacks heading to the top.

After getting over the thrill of watching a man run off the mountain, I finally took the time to gaze in awe of where I was. The view of Innsbruck this time was even more amazing and expansive. I could see forever. 

Turning around was even more amazing. The Alps extended into oblivion and the snow, rock and sky contrast was so spectacular I don't know if I could find words for it. Wispy clouds moving in and out added to the magical effect the mountains were having on me. I was in absolute awe and couldn't get over how gorgeous everything all was and how great and lucky I felt being up on top of the Alps in the snow in the early days of December. Being from New England, snow isn't new to me, but for some reason it was magical that day and I felt like a kid waking up to find school canceled and all the snow in the world to play with.

Next to where I was admiring the view was another small peak that had an outbuilding on it and I could see people climbing up to the top. Wishing I was better prepared for hiking and exploring, I desperately wished I could go up there, but didn't think it would be possible. But as I started to hike a little ways up it to get a better view anyway, this lady was hiking down and she was dressed as un-hikerly as me. At this point the wind was blazing by and I stayed lower to the ground in order to not lose my traction and be blown down the mountain. However, as this wonderful lady passed me on her way down she told me it wasn't windy just a little ways up. Based on how much I was being blown over at that moment, I really wanted to say "are you shitting me?" but instead I came up with a very curious, "really?"  
Wind so strong the ice and snow was horizontal not vertical

She was absolutely right though. The magic of weather and wind and nature somehow made it so that the higher I climbed the less the wind had an effect. The hike up was therefore quite easy since I didn't have to worry about being thrown off the mountain by mother nature. And even though every step I took had me sinking at least a foot into the snow, it didn't matter whatsover. I was enjoying myself so thoroughly it would have taken an anvil to destroy my high. The top of this peak was wonderful, silent and serene. No people, no wind. Just me.

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