SIGHTS in Innsbruck:
Those that want to get up there in Innsbruck don't always have to climb up to the mountain tops. The city tower will get you there too. The story behind it is just as considerable as the number of steps up here: since 1442, the tower has been ised as a watch tower, a fire department tower, a clock tower and even a prison. These days visitors come here on their own free will to enjoy the uninterrupted views of Innsbruck. It is even better to come here in the middle of summer and pant your way all the way up the 148 steps as temperatures inside the tower are much lower than those outside. And when you make your way to the top you can look out for enemies and fires, just like in the old days. You are also sure to see the onion-domed tower, the huge clock towers, the old town and the mountains in the backdrop. Don't forget to leave your fear of heights at home!
You will find cable cars in Tyrol like sand at the beach, the the 'Hungerburgbahn' is unique: it will take you from the Innsbruck city centre directly to the city's most beautiful lookout-point. The star architect Zaha Hadid has cast her spell yet again and shown us who's the boss. The Hungerbergbahn stations are as cool as ice and are so futuristic that they look like they're going to take off. The cable car will comfortably carry you up to the top of the Hungerburg and at 850m the air is clear, the view is captivating and the architecture shows no restraints. And were not just talking about Zaha Hadid's work - the 3000m high mountains behind Innsbruck remind us that nature commands the most beautiful design. By the way, it's called Hungerburg because there used to be a snack-bar up here that was meagerly stocked. Today you will be sated by the panorama views alone.
Who would've guessed? It is dangerous, it looks great and in the end Austria is standing on the winnners' platform. That's right: ski-jumping at the Bergiselschanze. And this is how it goes - 50m up the tower, a 98m run-up and after the 120m trip through the air a successful landing. Or you could simply go 50m up the tower, enjoy the view and savour a piece of Apfelstrudel in the tower cafe overlooking the jump. The complex is another wonder from Zaha Hadid, which she crafted in 2001 and won the national architecture award for it in 2002. No wonder, the ski-jump represents the perfect combination of sport and architecture and boasts a great panoramic view worth the 455 steps to the top, which is not just for athletes to enjoy. Even the sport-adverse can take off here as there is also a lift that will take you up to the cafe. So just pretend: it's winter, you are sitting on the wooden bench, your feet are fixed to two skis and there is a sea of red-white-red flags below you.
EAT in Innsbruck:
Once upon a time the Seegruben gondola brought skiers to the snowy slopes of the Tyroler mountain world. Nowadays she has found rest on a terrace. So what happened? Simple really. The disposed gondola was purchased by the Schwarzer Adler and promptly turned into a Tyrolean séparée. Now guests can cruise in style on the restaurant's rooftop-terrace and hold a summit meeting in a dignified space. As creative and comfortable as it is, the eyrie costs ?50 per half-day, which can be dropped once racked up a large enough bill. This is no large feat, considering the menu on offer: exclusively fresh local produce and Tyroler specialties quickly turn into a feast and will push your belt to the limits. For those who find the gondola a bit too draughty can always find respite in one of the parlours. The wood used for the ceiling panelling in the Arquin parlour come from a cottage high up in Navistal and the pictures on the walls are painted by local artists. The Adler (eagle) parlour has been preserved in its orignal condition whilst the Jäger (hunter) parlour is fitted out with modern leather. And military soldiers from the nearby barracks used to drink in the Pfiff bar, which now plays host to Innsbrucks only vodka bar.
Always being served can become boring. Not to mention the eternal waiting! But for the control freaks amongst us, there is always the Teppan Wok. Here you know exactly what lands on your plate, because you put it on there yourself. And those who opt for the vast buffet can choose from either meat, fish or vegetables. Or all of them together. Afterwards, take it to the chef and watch as he fries it up and tops it off with a few sauces. It is so easy to get exactly what you want here and you don't have to wait around for slow service. The only question left remaining is whether everything that you put on your plate actually fit together. Those who doubt their ability to put together a winning dish should opt for the tried and tested fried chinese delicacies or simply go straight to the sushi bar. And then take a seat: the Teppan Wok offers a great ambience blends Japanese purism with the florid chinese style and modern comfort.
The wall is still standing in the Stiftskeller. But in contrast to our friends in Berlin, the Innsbrucker carefully maintain their wall, the old town wall. And guests dining in the Fischerstüberl (fisher's parlour) can admire it in all its glory. But the other rooms in the Stiftskeller also have great stories behind them; theres a fresco by Kölderer in the Rittersaal (knight's hall), the Maria-Theresia-Stube is named after the empress who built this establishment in the honour of her deceased husband and the wooden lamps in the Bürgerstube (commoner's parlour) are very old. Now that we've mentioned the empress, the Kaisersaal (emperor's parlour) has enough space for Sissi and all her servants and is often used for weddings. So what is there to eat? Schweinsbraten, Käsespätzle und Schnitzel have filled the royal guests with enthusiam throughout the ages. These long runners are sure to please today, and likely into the future. As the motto says, 'never change a winning plate'.
SHOPPING in Innsbruck:
It's time to hit the slopes - the most fun you will find in Tyrol in the colder months. But what if you don't have the necessary gear to make your way down the mountain? Before you head up the mountain, pay a visit to the Börse (stock market). They've got the stuff that powder dreams are made of. Völkl, Head, Salomon und Nitro all mean something to you? You will find all these great brands in the Börse. And for those that already have their slick boards will find Alpinestars, Billabong and Capp3L suits and jackets to cruise down the mountain in style. But the stocks are also high in summer, as downhill and BMX bikers will find the Börse as the perfect one-stop shop for all their two-wheeled desires. Another highlight is the mountain-bike rental service. If you don't want to bring it with you, then you can simply hire it out, that way you can make your way up the mountain for a sensible sum.
Those who have already worn a Dirndl know that you can't just simply slip yourself in. If you've got enough time, you should definitely drop by the Tiroler Heimatwerk for a test fitting. Firstly there's a part that comes underneath, then a part over the top, which has to be fixed at the back, buttoned-up at the front and then all bound together. It seems that back in the day, people simply had a whole lot more time on their hands. What is more, the cleavage has to fit right, otherwise you can forget it. Those who still want to give it a try should drop by at the Tiroler Heimatwerk, where the selection is so great and the cuts are so varied that you are guaranteed to find something that fits just right. The Heimatwerk stays true to tradition, without ignoring the modern. Designer tracht has recently become quite fashionable amongst celebrities; in politics, sport and the media. And justifiably so, the suits and lederhosen may look a bit out of place in everyday life, but the knitted hats and jackets look quite smart at almost any party, without being too inconspicuous. The handmade glasses, tee-mixes and wooden bowls on offer also contribute to today's sense of fashionable living.
The Pearl of the Nile. The Star of Africa. Desert Flowers. Sound like kitschy novel titles? Precious stones? Or types of tea? In case you are asked on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the last answer is correct. These types, and many others, such as Elbfeuer, Schlectwetterhexe, White Monkey and the entire palette of creative names for blends are available in the House of Tea & Coffee. It doesn't matter if it's herbs or fruits, black, green or white, Indian or Tyrolean, the House of Tea & Coffee has the right blend, the right kettle and even the right fasting teas for Ayurveda fans. The store also has heaps to offer on the caffeine side of things. Next to Attibassi and Mesta you will find Helmut Sacher along with Mocca and Wiener blends. Don't forget the Jamaica Blue Mountain. This place is so rich in coffee you will get lost in the roasted aromas. Those who don't quite understand the lure of the bean just yet are sure to be converted after visiting this store.
STAY in Innsbruck:
So we've finally got proof: size does count! The Austria Trend Hotel ignores the usual lack of space experienced in most hotels and grants it guests a lot of elbow room to unfurl themselves. This hotel hasn't let itself be intimidated by the surrounding mountains - big business takes place here, which calls for a lot of room. There are no less than three conference and two meeting rooms, along with the 104 double rooms, two suites and a luxurious wellness area spread over 260sqm. And guests find themselves right in the middle of town. That means you are only five minutes away from the city centre, the conference centre, the Hofburg and Landestheater. Those who don't have any time for the culutral pleasures Innsbruck has to offer, should at least let themselves indulge in the culinary delights in the hotel restaurant. The menu sports both nouvelle cuisine and the tried and true Tyrolean cuisine. There's free space for work, free space for the palate and also free space for the soul. The Austria Hotel doesn't constrict anybody, but rather creates a great sense of space in the valley and turns its back to claustrophobia. Double rooms are available from ?114 per night.
Many of the traditional hotels have some sort of colour in their name. Attentive ones may have noticed the Schwarzen Adler (Black Eagle), the Grauen Bär (Grey Bear) and the Weisse Kreuz (White Cross). But now theres the undisputed queen of all colours - the Goldenen Krone (Golden Crown). But it's not just the name that distinguishes this hotel, but also its location - right in the middle of Innsbruck's shopping strip. Don't want to carry your shopping bags halfway through the city? Just drop them off at the hotel! And the rooms are big enough for it. We recommend the family room, even if you don't have any children. The bay window alone has enough room a few pairs of traditional Tracht outfits and loden hats. If that's not enough, you can always spread your findings across the couch and the table. If you have blown your credit limit, then you can still go and blow a notch on your belt at the hotel restaurant. Double rooms are available from ?118 a night.
You can't really go wrong when you check into a Innsbruck hotel that features an animal in its name. Or a colour. Or even better, both of them together. The Adler (eagle) and Bär (bear) are particularly the most beloved in the Tyrolean hotel branch, but don't worry - you won't find any bears lurking around at the Schwarzen Bär, as the last grizzly in Tyrol was spotted in 2008 and everybody was on high alert. But let's get back to the animal names. Colours and animals often feature in the names of traditional Tyrolean parlours, hotels and restaurants. The Schwarzer Bär (Black Bear), with its ten rustic and supremely comfortable rooms, stays true to this concept. With amenities like LCD, W-LAN and safes, the hotel meets all the modern standards, yet the past is to be felt everywhere, for example in the kitchen, where traditional dishes are served in a cosy setting. Maybe it's the excellent wine, it could even be the unique ambience, but those who take a seat here won't be leaving their table too quickly. The upholstered benches are simply too comfortable, the food is great and the service is friendly. Shame that the old town is waiting just outside, along with the 'Goldene Dachl' and the mountains. Double rooms are available from ?95 per night.