Cities / Towns Visited: 25
Countries Visited: 10
Steps Taken Today: 21,430
Steps Taken Around the World: 1,011,883
We rose early, and after indulging in our included breakfast we set out for stage one of today’s adventure. We wound our way through the city and arrived at the cable car station at the bottom of Mount Nordkette, quickly purchased our Innsbruck City Card (only really worth it because we would be cramming the day full of attractions), and walked straight into the cogwheel railway that takes you up to the first cable car. The bright morning sun shine all around, and although we were tired the alpine air and the lush green forest around us was rejuvenating.
From the top, we walked over to the first cable car which took is up to the middle station, where we had a chance to look out at the city below while we waited for the connection. One more quick trip and we were at the summit. The chilly wind whipping past, over the patches of snow and rock. From the peak, the city sprawled out in the valley below, cut in two by its river, golden rays of sunshine piercing the clouds. It was an inspiring way to start the morning, standing up there, realising just how small you are, but that even so, you have great potential.
We made our way back to the lower cable car station, but before we hopped back on the cogwheel railway we had somewhere important to go; the Alpen Zoo, the world’s only zoo dedicated souly to alpine animals. ‘What was the strong draw card?’ you may ask. Well this will not come as a surprise to some of you, but we were off to see our spirit animals. After walking through the gates, and quickly passing the beavers, we arrived at my partners animal; the brown bear. As we stood watching it pace along the upper part of its in closure, just beyond the glass from where we stood, a pang of sorrow overcame me. This poor majestic beast, trapped in this enclosure barely a fraction of the size of the territory it should be traversing. These animals only pace when they’re stressed, and every part of me just wanted to give him a literal bear hug. I hope very much that he was rescued from poor conditions, was injured, or was born into captivity and thus couldn’t survive alone in the wild. No other reason would excuse this entrapment.
We moved on next to my spirit animal; the wolf. As we approached, we could see one far up the back, simply resting in the sun. In such a relaxed position, so akin to a dog, it is easy to forget just how deadly they can be. We swung around to the side of the enclosure, where they have a glass viewing panel, and from here a second would sat just ten or so metres away. My heart melted at the beauty of such a creature, but again ached for their lack of freedom, these beasts that can cross the length of this enclosure a hundred fold or more in a single day. I left a part of my soul there with them as we quickly swung round the rest of the zoo, briskly viewing the bison, moose, vultures, ibex, and numerous other mountain dwelling fauna. It was time to leave though, we weren’t even halfway through our itinerary and it was almost noon.
As we reached the base of the mountain we moved quickly inward to the Hofburg Palace, one of the many previous residences of the now dethroned Habsburgs. You are forbidden from taking photos inside, but this was kind of nice, as it meant you spent less time looking for a good angle, and more time reading the panels and learning about the fascinating history of the family. It focuses a lot on the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, one of the most noteworthy rulers, who mothered 16 children, one of whom almost all of us know; Marie Antionette (yes, the one who was separated from her head during the French revolution). I must say, I learnt many a thing I had known not prior to arriving. Their kingdom was enormous, and their rule spanned more than six centuries, but was all undone by the first world war, after which they were forced to resign from affairs of state, and when the final emperor refused to give up his crown, had to seek refuge in foreign lands until his death. We wandered the grand rooms, from the bedroom where Maria Theresa’s husband had died of a heart attack just before their son’s wedding, to the ornate reception rooms, and finally the massive grand hall. I must say, that was my favourite room, as instead of decorating it, as per usual, with painting after painting of deceased ancestors, the empress decided to have it filled with portraits of her children and grandchildren; thus looking toward the future rather than the past, and in turn making a statement about her families security in continual rule. There was even a beautiful portrait commemorating four of her children who died either in childbirth or in infancy, portrayed as cherubs sitting on pure white clouds.
From here, it seemed only fitting to quickly head into the Hofkirche; the church used by the royal family when they were in Innsbruck, and which holds a collection of large intricate statues of some of the royal kings and queens from the long reigning dynasty. It’s always heart-warming to see a royal line which had so many strong women, including those who ruled in their own right, even if they had to fight hard to be permitted to do so.
Our last activity for the day involved getting a free shuttle bus from the main station out to Swarovski Crystal World. As you arrive and you walk through the entrance and towards the exhibition, you stumble upon the huge fountain which sits between the two entrances in a man-made hill which covers the building. Its pretty spectacular, if not a little strange, but we soon discovered that this was just a taste of what was to come. The exhibit takes you through a series of rooms displaying crystal art works in different themes and with different backdrops and ideas. I have to say, alot of them were just plain weird; like if Willy Wonka gave up chocolate making, began a raging drug addiction, and took up crystal art. It made me wonder if there is a double meaning to crystal meth.
After spending an agonising and somewhat extended amount of time window shopping in the gift shop, we bravely managed to leave without having bought a single thing; no crystal wolves and bears, no crystal Disney characters, no jewellery. We spent the next forty minutes or so wandering around the large gardens, which are also home to some crystal art installations, including a large piece with reassembles raindrop filled clouds hanging over a pond in which they have coloured the water black, as to help reflect the crystal’s light show. Unfortunately it was overcast though, and thus there was minimal sparkling to be had. Eventually it was time to depart back to Innsbruck, as we had another date with a train.
It was a painless ride to Salzburg, aside from the lacklustre and overpriced meal we were forced to buy on the train as we had run out of time to eat prior to the trip. One of the meals came out swiftly, but the other arrived more than an hour later, and only 15 minutes before our arrival time, we had to remind them about it, and it was lukewarm at best. With no time to get it reheated, or replaced we simply ate it. They did manage to ensure they swooped in as the train was pulling in to get their money for the poor meal though, and made roundabout excuses as to why we couldn’t pay with card. After a successful, but jam packed day, we left the train annoyed as we trudged to our hostel. It was late, so we just settled into bed in our dorm, which we were sharing with a perky American couple who were friendly, but probably thought we were not in our irked and exhausted state.
As we nestled in, it was with a sigh of relief I let my muscles relaxed. Today had been a day of careful planning and precision timing, and I was pleased it had all run so smoothly. The smallest delay could have thrown a spanner in the works, but the transport gods seemed to have been smiling on us. Innsbruck was beautiful, if quite pricey, but I left wishing we had had more time to explore it. It has a rich history we only skimmed the surface of, and it is clear why the Habsburgs favoured it for a summer residence. Today, more than most, shows the benefits and rewards of planning. We were able to see every attraction we had hoped to, an it barely felt rushed at all. There are two types of people in the world, those who are happy to just arrive and see what happens, and those who map out their trip to the letter; both have benefits, but our day is only possible for the latter group. My brain, in its infinite ability to to relate two seemingly unrelated topics, brought me to consider today in regards to crystals. Maybe I had simply seen too much and my brain was scrambling, but I guess it’s not too far fetched to see today as the success of a crystal method of planning; in that if all of the activities were a beam of light, and planning were a crystal, if it all lines up and refracts as it should, it comes our the other side as a perfect rainbow.