3 Things to Love about Innsbruck

IMG_3789.JPGNature is literally all around.

Nestled in the Tyrolean Alps, you will see the mountains rising above you whichever direction you look. There are hike trails all around and you can be on your way up the Nordkette within twenty minutes of walking from the main train station. You can catch a train, bus, or chairlift to any of the trails around town or if you feel like truly leaving the city, simply to the next town. The network of hiking trails in the Innsbruck region is vast! You can walk for a day – or a week.

 

IMG_3700.JPGInnsbruck is Austria in microcosm.

Small cities are like big cities, except with less of everything. 
Innsbruck is a very livable small city. Public transport is great, the city is quite compact and it is bike- and pedestrian-friendly. The locals are laid-back and very outgoing. There is not much of a consumer culture in this region. A lot of the locals just start heading up the mountain trails for a short hike or their daily run in the afternoon. Maybe it’s just the mountain air, but life in Innsbruck seems so relaxed.

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Men in Lederhosen

There are a lot of breakfast clubs in the city and plenty of the Austrian coffee culture we all want to experience. Unlike so many European cities, the Altstadt is actually not a tourist ripoff and the cafés there are frequented by locals.

There is no shortage of Austrian fare and with the activity that comes with the Innsbruck lifestyle, no reason to think twice about getting an Apfelstrudel with your coffee or having that Kaiserschmarrn for breakfast. You’ll burn the calories… eventually.

And men in Lederhosen?  ✓

 

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The best drinking water in the world – free, as it should be.

Innsbruck has extremely high-quality water straight from the Alps and there are drinking fountains all around the city and along the hiking trails. It’s quite crazy to think that the same water you use to shower is of the same quality as the one you drink.

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Innsbruck: Stuck in the middle

Returning from a short yet very eventful two-day sojourn in Innsbruck, I find myself periodically looking up at the sky and thinking something is very missing.

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Innsbruck is surrounded by the Alps while Berlin is part of the Great European Plain

I love my rocks – so much I collect them as souvenirs. Mountains have always been impressive, albeit daunting. This year, after all I’ve seen of the Alps, I vowed to climb a mountain. Innsbruck seemed like the baby of the hiking world: relatively short mountains and well-marked and well-traversed hiking trails scattered within such short distance of the city.

I managed to convince my good friend Himeel that Innsbruck was a good idea. We didn’t have proper plans because we weren’t sure of the time, and time was indeed a challenge for us. Innsbruck lives on two seasons: Summer and Winter. It’s spring now, and not a good time for specifically heading out there to hike. There is not much snow left for the winter sports so a lot of the ski lifts are closed, while the few snow left means a lot of the higher altitude hiking trails are still closed.

I was aiming to do a long day hike on a segment of the Adlerweg (Eagle’s Trail) and then doing a relaxing walk on the famous Zirbenweg. We were disappointed by the knowledge that the Patscherkofelbahn, which runs all the way up to where the Zirbenweg starts, is closed until the end of May.

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Café Katzung

Himeel and I spent a good chunk of time at Cafe Katzung, gawking at the maps we procured from the Tourist Info Office. While Austrian café culture was playing all around the two of us, we were only concerned about finding a trail to walk. We both has this unspoken dread of having nothing to do in Innsbruck.

By 12:30, we were making our way up to Hungerburg, having decided we didn’t want to take the funicular. Doesn’t it look so close in the map and what is a few hundred meters uphill?

Unfortunately for us, we took the wrong trail and ended up covering a steep ascent in such a short time that up in the Alps in early spring, I was reminded of Philippine summers. It was burning, and contrary to the weather forecasts we had been mulling over in the past few days, there was plenty of sunshine.

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At the end of this first ascent was a blessing from earth: the best water I have ever tasted in my entire life. Innsbruck, I later learned, has one of the best water in the world, and there are drinking fountains scattered all over that you never need to carry so much water when hiking as long as you know ahead where you can fill them up.

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Himeel with Woody the staff drinking fresh water from the Venusquelle

After that stretch, it was a relatively flat walk all the way up to the city district of Hungerburg. The day was still young and we still had plenty of daylight left so we decided to push through with the plan we drafted earlier: Hungerburg, up to Arzler Alm, then walk to Höttinger Alm and spend the night there.

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From Hungerburg, it was a good walk through a pine forest to Arzler Alm, unfortunately we had to change plans because Höttinger Alm was on spring break. (Yes.) That meant, go all the way back to the city, stay there overnight, and worry again about what to do the next day.

But it was fine. Himeel got his wurst and pommes and beer, and I got my coffee. We were ready to keep walking a few miles more.

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Arzler Alm

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The forecast finally turned out right for a couple of minutes when we got back to Hungerburg and it rained a little. That was a perfect excuse for some gigantic slice of Poppy Seed Cake and the Ginger and Honey Tea I needed so desperately. I was in a bad state the whole week and was on the verge of canceling this weekend trip before deciding my immune system was good enough to survive a bad cold without resting.

It seems tea makes me superhuman.

 

On our descent, we met more people making their way up – running their way up in fact. The trails and nature are in such close proximity to the city that it feels like locals just rush up to retreat from everything – city life and all – in the afternoon.

Day 1 ended with just a few meters short of 23km covered on foot. My legs were fine, it was my back that took the toll of the heavy backpack. A backpack full of things I didn’t even need.