Our guide and bus driver had colluded together to see if they could find us some snow to look at, along the way to Innsbruck, as we were all looking forward to a winter wonderland, which had not as yet, arrived as yet. So they took us along a back road through Bad Reichenhall and the Lofer Mountains, magnificient Tirolean scenery, along ski road and lodges, dotted here and there with artificial snow, made from machines. Well, I guess that they had to have something for the early winter guests to do?!!! I was happy to see any white stuff, frankly….
Historically, the Hapsburgs ruled Austria and Innsbruck in the 1200′s right up to the 1500/1600′s. This was a time of Roman Empress Maria Teresa, and the triumphal arch situated at the south end of Maria-Theresien Straße, which was modeled after roman archetypes, was built by the Empress on occasion of the marriage of her son, the Duke of Tuscany, later Emperor Leopold II, to Maria Ludovica from Spain. The marble reliefs were created by Balthasar Moll in 1744. The ones on the south side show Leopold and his bride Ludovika, the ones on the north show Empress Maria Theresia and her beloved husband, Francis I Stephen of Lothringen, who sadly died during the celebrations. Times have not always been so rosy since, however. Despite losing almost all its territory and empire during WWI, there are still some success stories in Austrian business. Red Bull, Geiger, and Swarovski are all Austrian companies.
Innsbruck has a population of 118.000 and is at 1,985 ft /605 m above sea level. Entering Innsbruck, you can’t help escape seeing the enormous Ski Jump and the Patscherkofel Mountain which we guessed, most of the skiing takes place. This is 7,381 ft or 2250 m, and I imagine there would be heaps of black runs or skiing off piste!!!
There are often street entertainers too, some are a little strange, like two guys dressed as a Madonna and child and ?feminine male partner?? Still a bit confusing for me….
When searching for a replacement piece of luggage (damaged by porters!) in an Innsbruck retailer, we found the most amazing folk art painted cupboards and dresser, painted in ‘Alpbachtal’ style. The shopkeeper told me that she had already had one dresser restored, but she was not happy with the results of that restoration, as she felt it did not do the art justice, so even though her other cupboard is dark and has been antiqued by age, she will not have it restored, as it will still retains the special beauty of the original brushstrokes. I think I agreed with her.
The fairy tale becomes real in Innsbruck at Xmas time as the towns people decorate windows and walls with characters from the German fairy tales such as Snow Queen, Hansel and Gretel and the Golden Goose and Puss N Boots.
During the free time in Innsbruck, most of the females of the species practically ran to Swarovski to grab some jewellery bargains. Having a bit of Norwegian silver, I opted to go on the afternoon optional excursion to an authentic Austrian farm on the hills outside Innsbruck, called Axams. Another wonderful example of an unique Austrian village where they appreciate decorative and traditional art.
We ditched the bus for an old fashioned carriage ride, complete with horse drawn poop bags, which got to serve the purpose for which they had been made. I began to think about times gone by when horse drawn vehicles predominated the streets. How the streets would have had the sweet sick aroma of horse dung. What a stink it must have been. The carriage ride took us to the Goetzens Church, am amazing edifice to the devotion of the Austrians to the catholic faith. And then on to Fritz’ Farm!
‘Fritz’ (- was that really his name: how appropriate!) then entertained the passengers at his farm stud, where we saw beautiful throughbreds, tasted snapps and listened to Fritz yodelling and entertaining us. It was a shame that the snow did not allow for a sled ride, as what would normally be found in Austria in wintertime, but I quickly learnt the Austrian countryside is just as delightful with a green carpet. Except for those darn power lines, and the odd Austrian getting in the way of a good landscape shot!!!