Just a 1.5 hr train ride away from the exhausting weekend we had at Oktoberfest in Munich, rests a city at the foot of the Western Austrian Alps. That place is called Innsbruck. And even though it was cold, cloudy, and the middle of the week, Innsbruck was an incredible place on our trip. The city sits in a valley along The Inn river and is famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in ’64 and ’76. But you can find that stuff out via Wikipedia (since that’s what I just did). What you won’t find out, until you see for yourself, are the alleyways lined by beautiful architecture, great people, and an sprawling views it holds.
My friends and I arrived to the central train station on a rainy, Tuesday morning. We hopped out onto the street and performed our usual scramble to figure out which bus on the local transit map would get us to our hostel. Of course the closest stop was a few blocks away, but it gave us a chance to wander the downtown right away. We were staying on the edge of town at the Jungendherberge Hostel (or Youth Hostel of Innsbruck), and the best way to describe it is a post-communistic stone building turned into a hostel, but a cozy kind-of one. On the front door read a note stating that they were on break from 11AM until 4PM and all guests would have to come back then to check in. Quite a miserable thing to see when the thought of walking around with your heavy packs on for the next 5 hours makes you contemplate tossing the entire thing a dumpster to avoid it. Luckily, the bottom of the sign included instructions to store packs in the side door in the meantime. Time to see the city
We spent the next few hours checking out everything Innsbruck is famous for, like the Golden Roof, Innsbruck Cathedral, the Pastel houses on the river on Mariahilfstraße, and well that’s it for Landmarks that we found. That might sound like I’m insulting the place, but it couldn’t have been farther from the result. Instead of wandering around with some tourist map, we went to a local market to pick up some cheese, bread, and the cheapest bottle of wine they had and planned to do Innsbruck our way. We headed back to our hostel room, which ended up looking like two rows of bunk beds on a naval ship, and put a chair between the beds for a makeshift dinner table. We got drunk on wine, then played cards all night with our hostel-mate from Egypt named Gomar.
The following morning began with the bland breakfast spread of breads, deli meats, and cereal that every hostel lays out. But then we headed into the center of town where a tram takes you up the hillside and onto the mountain. The sun began to peak through as the entire valley floor lit up below us for an incredible view. We turned around and got onto a gondola that would take us to the top of the peak that overlooked the valley. Quickly, the gondola ascended into the clouds until we reached the socked in Nordkett Restaurant area, just below the summit of Hafelekarspitze. Even though we couldn’t see anything further than 20feet in front of us, we still hiked around and had an epic snowball fight before coming down.
Back at the river’s edge, we chowed down on some delicious kebaps (kebobs) which always taste like the greatest food when you’re eating them since it’s usually after a tremendous amount of walking or hiking. From the window of our hostel the night before, I could see a castle lit up in the distance, so we decided to go find it. We took a public transit as far out of town as we could onto the hillside opposite the mountain, and found ourselves in a park. The park led us right to the Ambras Castle, a beautiful, renaissance era castle with perfectly manicured gardens and endless pathways surrounding it. We opted to move further up the hill to catch a sprawling panorama of the city from a different angle, one that did not disappoint.
It’s hard to get a true opinion on a city without experiencing its nightlife, but like I said before, we went midweek which is always a recipe for a letdown. Crazy enough, the University of Innsbruck just started session and all the students just got back. We headed into the downtown to find a club called Blue Chip. It was packed inside and actually had loads of American music blasting. Then we remembered the drinking age is 18, which explained why every single person in the club looked like they just got their driving permits. Nevertheless, we sang throwback hip-hop and Billboard’s Top 10 all night long.
Innsbruck doesn’t have the reputation of the major cities in Europe, but it is a stop you won’t regret. It’s a short train ride from southern Germany, northern Italy, and Switzerland. We went in October which is rare compared to the amount of people who go to truly enjoy it’s winter atmosphere.