Innsbruck – no snow but a beautiful city

As day 3 dawned in sunny Innsbruck the lack of snow had one advantage – we could lie in! After a leisurely breakfast of cheese, ham and bread with coffee and orange juice we headed to the train station to see about getting a bus to Ambras Castle. This however, proved slightly more difficult than we had anticipated and after just missing one by trying to buy a ticket we opted for a taxi rather than waiting another 30 minutes on another one. The castle was only around 10 minutes drive from town and so it was only 10 euros, not too bad really.

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We wandered the grounds to get some pretty pictures of the (not the snowy mountains) and then made our way into the first part of the museum. Having done some research we might have realised prior to entry that the castle mainly consisted of a museum which was one of the first world collections of Armoury. Archduke Ferdinand II was also one of the first people to properly display collections in a museum style taking into account how the collection was put together and lighting etc. After 3 armoury rooms which had everything from jousting horses in armour to child suits, we entered the Art and Curiosity section which again was basically a huge collection of stuff with even more armour! They had a few interesting pieces including a sculpture depicting death and some paintings although most of them were old style portraits of family members.

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The next section (and the much better one in my opinion) was the main living area of the castle. We climbed some very modern stairs with a sneak peak into sections of the old staircase and entered the Spanish room. This was a huge mirrored room of windows and wall paintings with an ornate tiled floor. This was definitely worth seeing and we spent a while wandering around taking in the different paintings and just the scale and detail of the room. We then climbed up again to see the sauna and bathroom just adjacent to the Inner Courtyard which was again another beautiful area. The detail this time was in different shades of blacks, greys and whites but this didn’t take away from the true beauty and just to top it off there was a pretty twinkling Christmas tree in the corner. Just off to the side was the family’s chapel which was pretty if a little garish. Then the final section was a further museum housing the family’s glass and jewel collection followed by the main portrait gallery. There were some beautiful views from the windows of the gallery of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains. After another wander around the very pretty gardens we ordered a taxi to take us back to Innsbruck and for some lunch.

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The taxi dropped us right outside Pavillion, a glass cube restaurant right across from the Hofburg Palace and adjacent to the bright yellow theatre building. There weren’t too many tables left outside and so we picked a huge corner table right in the sunshine to enjoy our fabulous lunch. I had the special pasta which was a beef, mushroom and peppercorn sauce tagliatelle with a glass of local Riesling – the wine here is really good and very cheap in comparison to the foreign imported ones. It was lovely to sit and relax for a bit before heading out to see some more of Innsbruck.

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Having paid the entry and taxi fairs to get to the castle this morning we opted to skip the palace, on the assumption it would be more of the same and on the basis we would be visiting at least one more palace on the trip anyway. However, we decided to cough up for the Hofchurch entry fee of only 7 euros. The church is more of a museum than a church and has 28 bronze statues guarding the empty tomb of Emperor Maximillian I. There is a statue of King Arthur and one of Kaiser Rudolph which visitors have rubbed in a very conspicuous place leaving him with a huge gold bulge surrounded by his dark bronze body. There is also a small silver side chapel but for the price, I didn’t think it was worth it. After all the admission fees we opted to check out the free Cathedral as a final stop which was very beautiful with Christmas trees and some interesting religious artwork in the side chapels. They also had an open crypt with a further smaller chapel. This was definitely worth seeing and the outside was very grand and imposing, unlike the underwhelming Hofchurch which is housed inside the museum.

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After all our sightseeing we decided a wander around town was in order and while Innsbruck’s old town is not as pretty as Salzburg it is perfectly charming in its own way. We mused over some mulled wine in the main square in front of the Golden Gate the city is famous for. The Christmas markets were on close down but there was still a few open which we were able to check out before heading to In Vinum a local wine bar. It was tiny and had many local Austrian wines to try and purchase but one thing I find difficult here is the fact you can smoke in bars and restaurants. Therefore, as we sat enjoying our Austrian red wine and local cheese board we had wafts of smoke floating around us which made the experience slightly less enjoyable than it may otherwise have been. Smoking inside is just so alien to me. The wine was nice, I think I probably prefer the whites here and the cheese lovely.

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And so it was feeling somewhat full that we had a wander around some shops, Carolyn needed to buy a New Years dress, before heading to Thai Li Ba for dinner which was inside the Rathaus Galerien shopping centre. The prosecco with lychee went down a treat and the food was pretty sublime. I had the chicken and Asian potato yellow curry which had plenty of heat and flavour with some sticky rice. With all the cheese and thai food we were feeling rather full but just had enough room for a lovely drink in the 360 bar just next to the restaurant which had some great views of the city lights. What a busy day! While not as planned, Innsbruck was definitely worth checking out but tomorrow we were up early for a trip out to Stubai Glacier, the only place with snow in the area and we couldn’t wait!

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