Walking The Old Town

Walking The Old Town

Innsbruck, Igls

Monday, 6 June 2011

Well, it seems that high altitude walking and some very nice Italian wine is not a sure way of going to or staying asleep. Indeed, both of us were a little restless last night despite the quiet room and the relatively early night. Our body clocks might have been a little confused and thought we were back in Hong Kong!

I rose a little before The Princess and prepared myself for the day before waking my sleeping beauty. She was enjoying here LLI (little lie in) and probably could have slept for a few more hours.

We made it down to the dining room for breakfast this morning and enjoyed a light feed. The breakfast meals in each of the places we have stayed thus far have been plentiful and Hotel Sonnenhof’s morning fare is no exception. There is plenty to eat and a great variety of food to choose from.

With our appetites satisfied for the foreseeable hours we organized our backpacks and camera gear and headed out of the hotel around 10.30am.

We walked into Igls town centre and met up with an English couple that were staying at the hotel. They had been to Innsbruck many times so we asked them about ticketing options for the light rail trip into Innsbruck. They were very helpful and guided us to the tourist information center (located across the road from where we met them).

The tourist information staff were very helpful and within minutes we were walking out the door with a multiple trip ticket in hand. A good start to the day!

We retraced some of the steps we took yesterday and headed off down a picturesque walkway to the light rail station. Walking past the beautifully presented gardens that the locals prepare for summer was a real treat. Stunning roses and other varieties of flowers filled the air with the most memorable smells. Imagine this – brightly colored gardens, amazing flower perfumes, window boxes filled with spring blooms, rolling fields of lush green grass, a gentle breeze and a backdrop of snow capped mountains. Close your eyes and picture this. It is absolutely stunning.

On reaching the station we read the timetable and learned that the next tram (light rail train) would not be arriving for 15 minutes. I suggested to The Princess that we walk to the next station and meet the tram on its return. The Igls station is the end of the line so we would pass the tram on our walk.

We were glad that we made this choice because were were able to experience a walk through rolling farm land that the tram track runs through – more of that sensory inputs that I described above.

We arrived at the next little station before the tram arrived on its trip to Igls so we watched it roll by knowing that it would return after 5 minutes and pick us up. In the meantime we enjoyed the views and thought more about our day of wandering Innsbruck.

We boarded the beautifully presented tram for the trip down the hill into Innsbruck and sat back and admired the scenery rolling by. The tram was quiet and the windows were huge so we were able to appreciate the changing flora that passed by our window seat.

The tram stopped at about six stations on the 15 minute trip down into the southern outskirts of Innsbruck city centre and each of the stations was unique. All beautifully kept – like something from a model train set.

On arriving at the terminus in Innsbruck we could have caught another tram into the city centre. However, we love walking and decided to set out on foot and make our way into the center of the city slowly. We are glad we did.

The first of many stunning historic buildings was just across the road from the tram terminus so it wasn’t long before we were snapping away with the cameras.

We are not really into viewing the inside of churches (probably because there are so many of them and we would never see anything else) however, today we started our walking trip with a look inside the nearest baslica – The Basilica of Wilten. We took a few photos from the outside before venturing inside and laying eyes on the most incredible sight. They call this church the “wedding cake” church and it was easy to see why. The colors of the walls, the paintings, the gold and the ancient wooden seats were almost overwhelming to the senses. Wow! This is known as a papal church (meaning that popes have visited here during the ages). The most recent visit was from Pope John Paul II in 1988. We could understand why he would visit this incredible venue. The interesting thing is that this basilica is the local church for the parish it is located in. I know the local parishioners would be proud to worship at this place!

We made our way down into the centre of Innsbruck via the most direct route and but stopped along the way to admire some of the not so ancient buildings that lined the road. After a relatively short walk (around 15 minutes) we arrived in the city centre and took some time out to buy some socks for The Princess (her feet needed a break from the thick socks she put-on this morning – her new hiking shoes needed to be worn in slowly).

After the short retail distraction we sat down for the first coffee of the day and watched the foot traffic pass us by. Despite the couple next to us blowing cigarette smoke in our faces we enjoyed the opportunity to stop and regroup before continuing in the direction of the old town. Note: It would appear that Europeans (predominate) in this part of the world have not followed other parts of the world and banned smoking from indoor and outdoor eating venues. Even China have recently introduced a non-smoking ban. The other sad thing to note is the proliferation of women that smoke here. It is almost like stepping back into the past. What is sort of sad is that people seem to be very active here and they obviously treasure the natural resources and beauty of this place but they clearly don’t value the benefits of not smoking!

Ok, with that out of my system I will continue with our daily activity!

We approached the Old Town of Innsbruck around 12.30pm and we were immediately aware of why they called this the Old Town. The style of buildings changed and the sense of this being inside a very old city was obvious. We enjoyed meandering through the narrow streets and taking in the beauty of one old building after another. Despite the buildings being full of modern shops you still get a sense of time while walking the streets.

After an hour or so of enjoying the Old Town from the “inside” we left the old city walls and took a walk around the outside of the Imperial Palace and along the fast running river that runs along the edge of the city.

Before finding a place to eat some late lunch/early dinner, we paid a visit to the city’s ancient cathedral – St James (or Jakobi). As mentioned earlier in this blog, we are not really “church” people however, St James’ Cathedral was another “wow” moment that we wont forget in a hurry. On entering this incredible structure the sound from the huge pipe organs set the scene – it seemed like a practice session. The stunning sounds filled the cathedral and sent a chill up our spines.

We stood in awe of the intricacy of the art work, the statues and the stunning originality of this historical church. Again – a highlight for a tour of Innsbruck.

Returning to “daylight” and the 21st century we made our way back into the Old Town’s main centre and found a place to sit down for “lunch”. We chose an Italian restaurant that had large umbrellas and a great menu and ordered some delightful bruschetta and spaghetti dishes.

It started to rain just as we sat down for lunch so we moved to a more covered table. It was a wise choice because the rain became quite heavy for a few minutes and we would have got wet at the first table we chose.

We were nearing the end of our lunch when the English couple we met earlier in the day sat down at a table beside us – small world indeed. We spent the next 30 minutes chatting with them about all sorts of things before we all went on with our plans for the afternoon. For us, this meant walking in the direction of the Igls tram terminus.

Needless to say, we didn’t make our way back quickly. Indeed, it seemed that we zig zagged back in the general direction of the tram station because we were enjoying the late afternoon stroll and had no particular place to be.

We paid a visit to the inside of some shopping venues along the way but came away empty handed each time. We met some nice people in some of the stores and enjoyed talking to them about their travels and our own trip through Italy and Austria.

We eventually arrived back at the tram station only to learn that the last tram to Igls had left around 30 minutes before we got there. Mmmmm.

We were not too concerned because we knew that the bus to Igls ran reasonably regularly (so we thought) so we made our way in the direction of the road that led to Igls (quite a distance away as it turned out).

The walk took us past some interesting ex-winter olympic venues and around some backstreets we would not have seen otherwise.

As were neared the first bus stop for the “J” bus (the route to Igls) the J bus was just pulling up. However the bus stop was too far away for us to flag the driver down so we were not able to catch it. No problem (so we thought) until we reached the bus stop and learned that the next bus didn’t leave for another hour! Not good.

Plan B was put into action (Plan B was “catch a cab”) when I spotted a small cafe near the bus stop. We walked over and asked the helpful staff if they could order a cab for us. Our wish was granted and about 5 minutes later we were sitting in the back of a brand new Mercedes taxi (you have to love the taxis in this part of the world) and heading for Igls.

The comfortable ride gave our legs and backs a chance to take a break – one happy Princess!

We arrived back in Igls around 7.30pm and we have not long finished some delightful rolls with cheese and salami (purchased at a local supermarket in the city centre before we left downtown – smart move).

We are both ready to “hit the hay” and get a good night of sleep – our last night in Innsbruck. We depart for Bregenz tomorrow but before we do we aim to take in some of the little villages that are located a few miles from Igls. Bregenz is only 2 hours from Innsbruck so there is no need to depart the Innsbruck area early.

We will let you know how the Bregenz trip goes in tomorrow’s blog!

Sleep time.

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