no matter where you go, there you are

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else - lawrence block

Innsbruck, Austria is in the heart of the Alps on the western side of the country. In the month spent planning my trek, Innsbruck came up as a stop over between Munich and Salzburg. Anne had visited the city early in her semester and had said it was really nice so I thought it would be an interesting place to visit. Little did I know, it would rank in my Top 3 by the end of the day. I took the first train out of Munich to Innsbruck and arrived early morning. Innsbruck isn't as touristy, or as large, as the other European cities I'd already been to so there wasn't much available in the ways of hostels. Instead, I found a hotel for only $50 in the heart of the attractions...almost everything was a 5 min walk away. Called the Hotel Weisses Kreuz, it was the cutest and most adorable place I've ever been, and had the nicest staff ever. The hotel has been functioning since 1465 and boasts for hosting Mozart and his father for a visit in 1769. The hotel was a 10 minute walk from the train station, but on a beautiful, sunny day it passed by very quickly with sights such as the Triumphforte (Triumphial Arch) to pass the time.

Too early to check in, I dropped my bag off at the hotel's front desk, bought the Innsbruck card (most amazing thing in the world to be discussed later) and headed out sightseeing. I had about 8 hours of daylight left and I wasn't going to waste a single minute. I started with a hike to the top of the City Tower which offered a great overview of the city and surrounding mountains. Innsbruck is one of those cities that sits in the valley between majestic, snow covered mountains. Absolutely gorgeous. The mountains provide the most wonderful backdrop to the buildings and streets of Innsbruck and immediately, I wished I could live there. From the tower, the view of St. Jacob's Cathedral was also great since its surrounded by other buildings so up close, you can't get a full picture.

The Cathedral was actually next on my journey, and once again, a new geographical area made for new design of the interior of the church. This time, pink marble was the dominating factor, yet the balance between the gold of the altar, pulpit and organ and the ceiling frescoes made for a gorgeous place.
Outside, an English-speaking tour was going on and I heard an interesting tidbit about the church. Of the 3 windows on the front of the cathedral, only the center is real. The other 2 were painted on to provide visual balance.

On to...the Goldness Dachl, or Golden Roof; the city's trademark and biggest tourist attraction. The building was originally built as a residence for Tirolean soverigns, and the balcony with the gold-plated, copper tiled roof was used as a box to observe and enjoy tournaments in the plaza below.
Today, its a museum about Emperor Maximilian I, the golden roof and life in the middle ages. As part of the museum, you can step onto the balcony and with a clever set up of mirrors, you can see the roof from there. Looking out onto the square you also get a nice view of the Helbling House, a mansion that sits on the square and is heavily decorated in stuccos. And it's really pink.

The next block over was the Imperial Palace of Innsbruck, and even though Anne told me it wasn't very interesting, since it was part of the Innsbruck Card, it wouldn't cost me anything but a few minutes of my time to check it out. It was certainly open to the public, but after about 5 minutes of wandering around and trying to figure out where to go after the first 2 rooms, I decided my time would be better spent elsewhere. So I went another block over to the Court Church and the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum (Museum of Tirolean Folk Art). The church was interesting since it's mainly just the tomb of Maximilian I, not a full-time place of worship. The part I really liked was the 20-something statues surrounding the tomb. Very cool and each distinct from each other.

The adjacent building to the church was the Folk Art Museum, a collection of Tirolean furniture, toys, stoves, fabric looms etc. It was a 2 floor collection and there was a lot to see...all of it really interesting. It was like a flashback/surge into the past where everyone dresses up in cute costumes and lives in cabins in the mountains. I loved it all. A wonderful slice of Tirolean life.

A cool part, which scared me a little, was a motion-sensored door that opened as I walked by and led the the balcony of the Court Church so you can look down on the sanctuary and tomb. There was no sign explaining what the door led to so when it magically opened, it was a little scary and disconcerting. Especially since it closes when you enter the church and with no door handle, all I had was my common sense that it would open again if I stood near it.

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