Posts Tagged ‘austria’

Market Mingling, Magic Massages and Milling Around Magellan

Sunday, September 18th, 2011
Whilst we didn’t have to rise to early this morning we were keen to take in the local Sunday markets in the city so we climbed out from under the sheets around 0700.
We took in another delightful breakfast downstairs in the Magellan Club’s dining room and enjoyed our morning interaction with the wonderful staff. The Bircher museli, fresh croissants and delightful salmon has been our “standard” fare since arriving at Sutera. Yum!
With our stomachs suitably sorted we returned to the room, collected our bags and cameras and headed over to the main lobby to book our seat on the shuttle bus to the city. We thought it was going to be a busy bus given that the markets are only on once a week however, when it pulled up, there were only two other people on the bus.
The driver of the shuttle bus is a real character and he provided us with some light entertainment during the short trip to town. When you drive the same short route everyday you would need to find a way of entertaining yourself!

A Basket Of Cuties

We disembarked at the Wisma Merdaka (the last stop in town for the shuttle) and found The Coffee Bean cafe. I needed a caffeine recharge before walking the short distance to the markets. The power went out in the hotel this morning so I didn’t get my morning coffee fix at breakfast. Fortunately I didn’t bite The Princess or snarl too much!
The temperature was creeping up toward 30 degrees and the humidity was hovering around 65% as we approached the street markets. We started to wonder why we were carrying a hot coffee!
The markets were quite busy and the crowds, confined spaces and tarpaulin covered stalls made for a steamy walk.
The markets were quite extensive and the local wares on offer were interesting. A mixture of locally grown produce, handicrafts and animals were available for purchase. Despite some serious review of the range of artifacts we actually didn’t purchase a thing! However, we did enjoy interacting with the locals, learning more about the culture and capturing some of the sights and sounds.
We departed the street market area around 1230 and made our way back to the Centerpoint mall. We had decided to treat ourselves to a full body massage and a foot massage at a place we found earlier in the week.
The short walk to the mall allowed us to experience some more of the interesting sidewalk (or lack of) designs that Malaysia seems to perfect. It would appear that the government is very happy for developers to build impressive buildings and to collect the taxes from the development works but not put any of it back into building safe sidewalks for the public. One has to be rather careful not to end up down a monsoon drain or twist an ankle while trying to cross the road.
We found the massage place that we had discovered during a previous visit to the mall and, fortunately for us, we didn’t have to wait. We started with a delightful foot massage each then “retired” to the separate curtained off areas for an hour long full body massage. Both of us agreed that the massages were excellent and we left the shop feeling very relaxed indeed.
Our stomachs were in a position to allow for some more food to be consumed so we returned to an Indian restaurant that we had found a few days earlier and settled in for another feed of roti, Muterbaak and some delightful Tandoori chicken. We washed it all down with two delightful fresh orange juices.
We had been doing a lot of lounging around this week so we decided to walk back to the resort – a short 30 minute stroll alongside the main road. We bought a couple of bottles of water before we left the mall (it was still quite warm outside) and headed off for some more footpath (or lack of) negotiating.

Market Attraction

We arrived back at the resort around 1530, changed into our swimming gear and headed for the pool for one more “dip”. We eventually found a place to lie down before enjoying a couple of hours of swimming in the pool and the small ocean cove. A perfect way to finish off the afternoon.
Happy hour here starts at 1730 so we returned to our room and changed into something slightly more respectable for “sundowners” on the patio of the Magellan Club. The happy hour drinks and food are included in our room rate – a nice touch indeed.
The sun dipped below the islands to the west of Kota Kinabalu as we enjoyed some crisp white wine and some local delights. Very decadent indeed.
As day turned into night we moved from the patio to the Club’s interior. With The Princess’ legs only just recovering from the piranha like feasting of the first night we decided that a repeat was unnecessary.
We enjoyed a night cap glass of port each while we cheeked email and played internet catch up then bid the evening shift staff goodnight.
With our departure from Kota Kinabalu scheduled for tomorrow morning we opted to return to the room early so that we could pack our bags, have a shower and turn in at a reasonable hour. We were both very relaxed after our day out and knew that it wouldn’t be long before we were united with the insides of our eyelids.
A nice warm shower finished us off and after taking up residence in the King size bed we both slipped off to sleep around 2300.
Selemut Malam!

Reclining At The Magellan

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Torquoise Lakes, Vertical Landscapes – Schmocken!

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Torquoise Lakes, Vertical Landscapes – Schmocken!

Bregenzerwald, Zurich, Beatenberg, Interlaken

Friday, 10 June 2011

Our last night in the Hotel Alpenrose was marked by a solid sleep and a late’ish waking hour – around 8.15am (late by holiday standards when touring).

We didn’t hurry to get ready for the trip to Interlaken or to get down to breakfast. In fact, it was close to 9.30am by the time we exited the room and made our way downstairs to the dining room.

We were the only diners this morning (at least at the hour we arrived) and it was nice to have the dining room to ourselves. The excellent service that we had become accustom to continued this morning and we enjoyed taking our time to enjoy the sumptuous food and the newly decorated windows. Anna Marie, her mother and her aunties had been busy over the past 24 hours and the new decorations provided a lovely foreground to the mountain views outside.

We packed most of our belongings before we went down to breakfast so, on returning to the room, we finalised the last packing and headed down to the lobby to check out.

We really enjoyed our stay at Hotel Alpenrose and we valued the family hospitality and the wonderful accommodation and dining. This meant that our check out took longer than it would have in a larger chain hotel because we were not in a hurry to leave. There is something to be said for staying in the smaller hotels!

We departed the hotel around 10.45 and drove down to the local petrol station on the outskirts of town to fill the car up – petrol seemed to be a little cheaper in Austria (being on the Euro currency) than in Switzerland (Swiss Francs) so it was worth heading over the border with the tank full.

The drive to the Swiss border was the reverse of last night’s return trip from St Gallen – a now familiar drive through the beautiful mountains, past the lush paddocks and resting cows and through long tunnels. One could never tire of this drive. Today it was made even more spectacular because the cloud base had lifted and the sun was proudly warming the Austrian landscape once more.

Our friendly surfer dude GPS did a great job of getting us on and off motorways and through the border crossing and into Switzerland. Around 12.30 we were well into Switzerland and soaking up the sheer beauty of this delightful country.

We drove down the distinct border of Lichtenstein then past the beautiful shoreline of Walensee – our first view of one of Switzerland’s many stunning lakes. The almost turquoise water back dropped by towering mountains and the red pitched roofs of Swiss farm houses was amazing. A feast for our eyes. It doesn’t matter how many times one sees this sort of scenery, you can never stop appreciating the sheer beauty of it. More “wow” moments.

To make travel through Switzerland a little more driver friendly the Swiss have also perfected the art of burrowing into and through mountains. It would be a difficult and slow drive if it were not for the impressive tunnels that make mountain driving a thing of the past in this part of the world.

After passing we came out into what could be described as (relatively speaking) flat land. It didn’t last too long but the contrast of the low hills and “distant” mountains meant that our senses noticed this short pause in vertical landscape scenes.

We returned to the waterfront driving along Obersee albeit that we didn’t see too much of it because of the number of tunnels we drove through. This part of the drive took us south of Zurich and west/southwest toward Luzern.

Negotiating the transit of Luzern was made easy with the aid of our talking GPS and before long we were back into the tunnels and heading further west toward Interlaken.

Our next clear view of another stunning lake was during the slow drive past Lugerersee. Slow because of the speed limits and slow because it was hard to drive past this stunning lake at anything other than a “respectful” speed.

As we climbed up the mountain pass west of Lugern (one of the larger towns bordering the Lugerersee) we stopped at a roadside lookout and stood in awe of the sight that lay before us – a beautiful turquoise lake located between two towering mountain ranges with historic Swiss villages surrounding the lake. Just beautiful.

After snapping a few “postcard” shots of Lugerersee we continued our trip up the winding mountain pass. However, it wasn’t long before we stopped again. The Princess needed a “pit stop” and we were both ready for lunch. A wonderful opportunity presented when we passed a cliff top restaurant called Brunig-Kulm. It was perched on the edge the road overlooking the valley below. We opted to dine outside on the restaurant’s balcony. The stunning afternoon sun kept us warm although the view distracted us from eating the tasty broccoli soup and salami and cheese sandwich that we ordered. We were also distracted at times by the low flying Swiss Air Force turboprop trainers and fast jets flying over head. We didn’t realise that there was an air force base located deep in the valley below us.

After lunch we headed down the mountain side road and down into the valley where the air force base was located. Flugplatz Meiringen (as it is officially known) must be one of the most scenic airfields I have every seen. The valley it is located in is stunning and on one side of the valley is a sheer cliff with a huge waterfall running down the side of it. Part of the runway has a road crossing it so when the jets are ready to take off they simply close the road (like a train crossing) and let the jets take off. Not a lot of visible security in these parts. Maybe something to do with the neutrality of the country.

We continued our drive west along the Brienzersee (one of two lakes that sit either side of Interlaken) and made good time as we neared Interlaken township.

We are staying in an area called Beatenberg (just north west of Interlaken) in a town called Schmocken. Beatenberg is a beautiful area perched on a steep mountainside that overlooks the western lake of Thuner See. The drive up to Beatenberg reminded us of the roads surrounded Lake Como albeit that there were not many crazy Italian drivers on these roads!

Our ascent into the Beatenberg area was complimented by dozens of paragliders that were soaring the ridge lines of the high mountains in these parts. This area is famous for its outdoor activities and its views. Combining paragliding with these views makes a whole lot of sense!

We arrived at Hotel Gloria around 4.30pm – a little less travel time than we envisaged. The helpful staff had us checked in to our room with a view in no time. Before The Princess entered the room I asked her to close her eyes then lead her out onto the balcony. On opening her eyes her jaw dropped and she stood in awe of the incredible sight. A bird’s eye view of Thunersee, across the turquoise colored lake and south to “the top of Europe” as it is known – the Swiss Alps. Needless to say, we didn’t leave the balcony in a hurry.

We settled into our chalet style loft room quite quickly and then donned some warm clothes before taking a short stroll through the small town of Schmocken. Despite some light showers we enjoyed the slow walk in the cool mountain air.

We walked down to the Niederhorn cable car terminus and viewed the comings and goings of the cable car before returning to the hotel. We met some of the “locals” (noisy goats) on the way back to the hotel and enjoyed listening to their very loud “baa’ing” and the sound of their small bells.

When we entered the hotel after our walk we were greeted by the friendly hotel staff. They were preparing the dining room for tonight’s dinner. We ordered a drink and sat out on the balcony (despite the cool evening air) and spent time getting to know the staff.

One of the owners of the hotel (Berhard) came out and introduced himself to us as we were enjoying a “sundowner” and the view of the Swiss Alps.

Bernhard (a Swiss national) had spent 20 years in Australia and he and his wife Jacky (an Australian from Adelaide) came back to Switzerland and bought Hotel Gloria 4 years ago. It was great to talk with Bernhard. He gave us some wonderful tips on touring the local area and a short history of Switzerland – fascinating stuff that we will share with you over the coming days.

Jacky also introduced herself to us during our time on the balcony and we look forward to catching up with Bernhard and Jacky more during our time here in Beatenberg.

We finished off another wonderful day with a delightful meal in the hotel restaurant. We shared a very tasty pumpkin soup before experiencing (that is what is was) the most magnificent American seared scallops and some chicken and avocado salad. I washed my meal down with some smooth Italian red. The Princess’ alcohol intake is reduced to zero at the moment due to the antibiotic – probably not a bad thing. Maybe I should go out in support.

We will see how the weather shapes up when we wake in the morning before we make any solid plans. One thing is for sure – we will make the most of the day despite the weather and we will have another day of incredible experiences. Fact!

Until tomorrow’s blog.

Mountain Taxi
[Map]
Luncheon View
[Map]
Side House View
[Map]
Decorated Local
[Map]
“Luv… Where’s Me Boots?”
[Map]
Seeing Lugurer See
[Map]

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Seeing The Boden At Bregenz

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Seeing The Boden At Bregenz

Bregenz, Egg

Location – Austria

We had quite a sleepless night last night because The Princess was up most of the night coughing. She contracted a bug over the past week and it came to a bit of head over the past 24 hours. Today was the day to find a doctor and sort it out before it worsened.

The weather was rather inclement when we woke up so we were not in a particular hurry to depart the hotel (other than finding a doctor) so we took our time to ready ourselves before heading down for something to eat.

We enjoyed a very nice breakfast in the hotel’s dining room – a comprehensive “spread” that provided us with a good start to the day.

The daughter of one of the owners (Anna Marie) introduced herself while we were eating breakfast and we really enjoyed talking with her about her background and learning more about the local area. She is a perfect host and we appreciated the time she took to help us learn more about the region.

After breakfast we asked Anna Marie (the hotel manager) where the nearest doctor was and she directed us to the Ganthaler clinic just on the edge of town. We sorted ourselves out and headed off for an “walk in” appointment.

The waiting room was full when we arrived (around 11.30) so we didn’t get into see the doctor until close to 12.30. The staff spoke excellent English and we were processed very efficiently once we were called into see the doctor.

Plated Entry

Dr Ganthaler, an emergency medical specialist, was very thorough with his examination of The Princess. He took some blood and, before long, we learned that she had a serious bacterial infection in her body (probably in the lung cavities). Within about 15 minutes The Princess was having an intravenous injection of antibiotic and some steroid treatment. The doctor didn’t want to take any chances with the bug and was determined to get it under control quickly. The Princess spent about 30 minutes in the treatment room under the expert care of Arthur (the specialist paramedic) and then Dr Ganthaler. The treatment was completed around 1.30pm and we left the very well appointed clinic with a bag full of antibiotics and some natural remedies too. The Princess was feeling 100% better after the injection of antibiotic and steroids and we headed off to Bregenz for lunch.

The drive into Bregenz takes around 45 minutes and the road into the small city winds its way through some beautiful little towns and alongside of towering mountains. The low clouds were hugging the tall mountains and rising from the lush green valleys and this made the scenery appear very mystical.

We stopped in the small town of Egg (that’s right – Egg) for an early afternoon coffee and a locally baked delight before continue our drive into Bregenz. Shortly after leaving Egg we saw a sign for the town of Hard and we were wondering if this is where Hard boiled Eggs originated from!

Our wonderful talking GPS made light work of guiding us into the city center and to an undercover parking area that was conveniently located near the main plaza of the old town.

It was raining lightly as we exited the car park and started our walk around the historic streets of Bregenz – an Austrian city located on the Bodensee (or, in English, Lake Constance). It has some lovely historic buildings and a beautiful water front.

Despite the light rain we persisted with our photography and video efforts and managed to get some reasonable photos between the showers.

After a short stroll through the city’s outdoor malls we made our way down to the Boden See shorefront and took in the misty views of the lake across to the German side of the lake. We were able to sense the beauty of the lake and enjoyed strolling along the treelined pathway.

It was around 3.30pm when we decided to eat lunch and we chose a lovely restaurant located on the waterfront. We chose to eat inside Wortshaus Amsee even though there was very good outdoor covers – The Princess didn’t need to sit in the cool air today!

We chose a tuna fish salad and a cream of tomato soup for lunch and, even though that choice sounded rather plain, the servings were certainly not. The tuna was mixed with a delightful balsamic vinegar dressing and full of black olives. The soup was full of croutons that melted in our mouths. Mmmmm. Another gastronomic feast that was complimented by the wonderful waitresses that helped us to learn some more German – “E Zut Deer Wreck Nung” (not the German spelling but it is how is sounds to us). It should translate to: “I would like the bill please”. Any advise from the German readers would be appreciated!

Wounded Warrior

Our waterfront stroll continued after lunch. As we walked a short distance to the sight of the spectacular Bregenzer Festspiele water stage we thought our eyes were deceiving us when we saw three naked men swimming in the Bodensee. It took us a few glances to realise that they were indeed naked. Two things that were surprising about this scene – 1. It must have been very cold in the water and 2. No one seemed to be too concerned about three grown men “mooning” in the shallow water beside the busy waterfront pathway. I guess there wasn’t too much to look at because their combined anatomies must have been rather shriveled up in the cold water!!

We approached the very impressive Bregenzer Festspiele stage and readied our cameras and videos with a view to capture this wonderful sight. We learned that the stages change every two years and, during summer, are the pride of the Bregenzer Festspiele.

The festival has been running since 1946 and, as it turned out, we met an elderly gentleman that had worked on the festival as a stage hand when he was 18. This lovely Swiss man and his wife were visiting Bregenz to check out the construction of this year’s stage (a new one). He shared the story of the Bregenz Festspeile and explained the theme of this year’s production – an opera about one of the main characters responsible for the French revolution.

The Bregenz tour continued after we left very impressive waterfront although we quickly realised that we had seen the highlights of the town. With the rain increasing and the highlights of Bregenz covered we returned to the shopping centre where our car was parked. We planned to relax with a bit of retail therapy however, the shops were closing (it was approaching 6.00pm) so we returned to the car and set off for our accommodation in Au.

On the drive out of Bregenz we stopped off at a small shopping village on the outskirts of town and bought some fruit, salami and cheese and fresh rolls for tonight’s light dinner.

The trip back to Au took us around 40 minutes (it always seems quicker to drive a road again after driving it for the first time) and we arrived back at Hotel Alpenrose around 7.30pm. Anna Marie was still working the front desk when we walked into the hotel (a long day indeed for her) and was most interested in how our day went and, of course, how The Princess was feeling. Staying in a family run hotel makes you feel like you are a part of the family – particularly here in Austria where the people are so very friendly and welcoming. A wonderful country on so many levels!

We are planning an early evening tonight. The Princess is feeling 200% now and she is looking forward to a solid sleep tonight.

Tomorrow we are aiming to visit the tiny nation of Liechtenstein and the Swiss town of St Gallen so we want to have a reasonably early start. Early starts mean early finishes and this is tonight’s plan.

We look forward to reporting on tomorrow’s activities when we return from our three country tour tomorrow evening.

Smoken In Bregenz
[Map]
Waiting For Summer
[Map]
The Death Of A Revolutionary
[Map]
Bregenz Water Dragon
[Map]
Spring Goslings
[Map]
Scrambled, Fried or Boiled?
[Map]

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Nothing Mutters To Nutters

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Nothing Mutters To Nutters

Mutters, Natters

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

It was our last day in Innsbruck (Igls) today and we had only a relatively short drive ahead of us to Au (near Bregenz) so we allowed ourselves to ease into the day when we woke this morning.

Our p!an was to take in breakfast in the hotel, check out around 10:00am then spend some time in the two small villages of Mutters and Natters. With names like that how could we not pay a visit to them.

The plan went according to our design and we departed Hotel Sonnenhof around 10. The short drive to Mutters took via the impressive autobahn that by passes Innsbruck then back up some country lanes and into the sleepy village.

We didn’t have any problem finding a car park on this clear and sunny weekday morning so it wasn’t long before we were walking through the streets of Mutters in search of some photographic opportunities. We were not disappointed. One never tires of the stunning gardens and beautifully prepared window boxes that every house has. Most of the houses are in the “traditional” style of the region and some are very old. “Postcard” shots present every few steps that you take through the small towns and Mutters was no exception.

From Mutters we drove to Natters. Making statements along the way like “nothing mutters to nutters” (you had to be there!). Natters is much smaller than Mutters and it didn’t take long to take in the atmosphere of this little hamlet.

Before leaving the sleepy hollow of Natters we bought some mid morning delights at the small bakery then paid a visit to the little delicatessen across the road. The”deli” had some excellent home made produce that was too good to refuse and, after a brief chat with the helpful owners, we were walking out with a bag full of treats for a picnic lunch.

We saw a sign for the “natterer see” (the lake of Natters) while we were walking the streets of Natters and decided to drive there for our morning tea. We were glad we did.

Arriving at Natter see we learned that it was a privately owned lake surround be a caravan park – but not just any caravan park. This family owned park is now under the direction of it’s current visionary and is one of the top parks in Europe.

After a sharing our morning treat beside the lake we took a look around the park and met the manager of the eurocamp onsite cabins. He showed us some of the brand new cabins before taking us on a tour of this beautifully designed and comprehensively appointed park. The show piece of the park is a 3 million euro community building that is impressive in design, functionality and location. The views from this futuristic toilet block justify the development costs!

We completed our tour of this “impressive camp ground on steroids” by purchasing a coffee at the well appointed restaurant. Then we returned to the car and set off in the direction of Bregenzerwald.

The initial part of the trip (on the autobahn) to Bregenzerwald took us past some lovely villages and more stunning mountain views before we “went underground”. The Austrians obviously worked out that they can’t move mountains (literally) but they certainly know how to move through them. Indeed, they have perfected the art of tunneling to the extreme. We drove through tunnels that went through mountains for up to at least 8 kms. If you joined the numbers of tunnels in Austria they would extend across the country! Very impressive indeed.

It was nearing 3.30pm by the time we pulled over into the small village of Burs for some lunch. Despite the light rain we savored the delights of the food we bought back in Natters and enjoyed the quiet setting we had selected in this small riverside hamlet.

Before departing Burs we programed the GPS for the trip to Au (pronounced Ow) and set of in accordance with “surfer dude’s” instructions. As we set off we were both a little concerned with the directions the GPS was giving us but, he hasn’t let us down to date, so we went with it despite our reservations.

We turned off the main highway and headed up into the mountains. At times the road became quite narrow and the terrain quite rugged. However, at times, we travelled through lovely mountain villages, and this restored our faith in the GPS. We learned later that we were being taken “the short way” to Au but we were concerned!

The GPS took us to the programmed location we had put into the unit but it certainly wasn’t the hotel – it was a wood mill. Our concern increased somewhat at this point. We drove onto the next small town, restarted the GPS and tried again – same result. We even drove up into a nearby residential development to see if we were close but had no luck.

Plan B was to ask for some guidance from a local so pulled into a car park and went into a nearby sportswear shop. We walked out about 20 minutes later with some new shorts for The Princess and the instructions to the hotel! It turned out that the GPS was correct but the address was not – our fault not technology’s problem.

The drive to the Hotel Alpenrose took less than 3 minutes so we were checking in shortly before 6 pm and taking up residence in our very nice room shortly after.

The Hotel Alpenrose is a family hotel that is run by 3 sisters – the Moosebrugger sisters. It was built in 1972 and it is beautifully appointed and obviously well run..

After a short break on the balcony to enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding mountain ranges we went down to the restaurant bar and met up with the family members. Despite our lack of German we were able to learn more about the hotel and the history of the family. A lovely family that were very patient with us as we asked questions about how the hotel came to be.

We ordered some hot chocolates and a lovely Austrian white wine and took up residence in the hotel lobby. We were hoping to connect to the internet however the hotel’s wireless was less than kind to us and despite the assistance of one of the owner’s sons, we were not able to connect to the web.

Obviously we were being told something – relax and enjoy. We listened to the “advice” and took time out to enjoy the ambiance, the wine and the opportunity to listen to the family banter that was taking place in the room joining the lobby. At times they were in fits of laughter that emanated from the room had us laughing. A wonderful way to pass the evening.

The day of driving, photography and navigating tight mountain roads meant that we were ready for an early night so we returned to the room around 9 pm and readied for bed.

Tomorrow we will take a drive to the town of Bregenz – a old town located on the shores of Boden See – a lake that shares its shoreline with Germany, Austria and Switzerland. No doubt it will be another wonderful day out.

Little Prayer House
[Map]
Cliff Hanger
[Map]
No More Talking
[Map]
Pinky Smile
[Map]
Flowering Windows
[Map]
Reflecting On Roey
[Map]

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Walking The Old Town

Monday, June 6th, 2011

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.

Rose Of Churches
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Square On Angle
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Bronze Fronting Spitters
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Paddocks Growing Steeples
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Portrait On A Wall
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Sunday Music, Mountain Meandering and New Friends

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Sunday Music, Mountain Meandering and New Friends

Igls

Sunday, 5 June 2011

It was time for a short “lie in” this morning. 7 days on the go and relatively early starts and a time zone change – we deserved it. How long? 30 minutes. Hey – were not here for sleeping!

The extra time in bed meant that we didn’t avail ourselves of the “in hotel” breakfast – probably not a bad thing given the amount of food we have been consuming over the past week.

I “shaved off” this morning (meaning that I removed the facial hair that was accumulating) so The Princess got her less than hirsute man back. Being in Austria meant that the Italian look had to go despite The Princess’ protests.

Without a time frame to meet (re breakfast) we took our time to get ready for today’s outing – a look around Igls and a trip up to the top of the local mountain – Patscherkofel (via cable car of course).

We left the hotel around 9.45am and walked the short distance to the centre of the small hamlet. The weather was perfect – blue skies, puffy clouds, and a cool breeze blowing down the mountain.

Although we were not particularly hungry we thought that it would be smart to put something in our stomachs before we headed up the mountain. We settled on a lovely little place call Heidi’s. The lovely elderly lady (maybe her name was Heidi) that was working on this beautiful Sunday morning took our order and we set ourselves up on the balcony over looking the town square. The sun was rather warm (despite being at almost 3000′ above sea level) so we set up the brightly colored umbrella and gave ourselves some shade.

We enjoyed a mid morning coffee and tea along with a very tasty home made ham and cheese sandwiches and enjoyed watching members of a band prepare themselves for a march through the streets. Maybe they knew we were coming!

Time Behind Bloom

After settling the bill for “brunch” we set off for a walk around town. However, just as we began our walk, the volunteer police band fired up and started their march up the main street. We stopped and watched them march by before following them to the small local park in which they were giving a free performance. A nice way to pass some time on this very beautiful Sunday morning here in Austria.

The band provided us with an excellent background in which to take some photos and video of the stunning gardens that the home owners had planted. The people here in Austria are so house proud and they make the most of the short European summers. The window boxes were over flowing with brightly colored flowers and the garden beds sprouted the most stunning roses. Again – picture postcard stuff!

We enjoyed a walk around the beautifully laid out backstreets of Igls before making our way to the Patscherkofel cable car – located just on the outskirts of town.

When we arrived at the cable car terminal we learned that the next cable car was not leaving for another 30 minutes. How did we know this? Well, as we walked up to the entrance the husband of a couple that were waiting at the terminal asked if I was Australian. This lovely Sri Lankan man (Udara) and his German wife (Renate) were waiting for the cable car too. This chance meeting with this lovely couple resulted in a wonderful day of sharing time with two beautiful people that were going through a challenging time (they were staying in Igls for 4 weeks while Renate was undergoing treatment for cancer).

The cable car trip to the top of the mountain took us over several ex winter Olympic sites and past beautiful mountain trees. The steep gradient meant that we ascended the mountain quickly and gained sweeping views of Innsbruck and the spectacular valleys below.

We arrived at the top cable car terminus around 1.15am and, after spending some more time talking to Udara and Renate, we went of in search of photographic opportunities.

It wasn’t long before our camera cards began to fill up with images – easy to do when you are looking at stunning view after stunning view – endless mountain views stretching as far as the eye could see.

We traversed the mountain and stopped along the way to talk to couples that were enjoying the beautiful alpine views. Being a Sunday meant that the trails were busy – bike riders, hikers and sightseers shared the high altitude trails above Innsbruck.

Austrian Beauty

After taking in the endless views for over 2 hours we went in search of a light meal at one of the two high altitude restaurants. Udara and Renate had invited us to share dinner with them in their apartment (they are staying at the same hotel we were are staying at) so we wanted to keep our food intake down before heading back down the mountain.

On entering the restaurant we reunited with Udara and Renate (they were having a bite to eat before they returned back to town).

We ordered a light meal of soup and bread and shared the news of our alpine adventures.

Unfortunately we were not able to settle in for lunch because the last cable car was leaving around 4.30pm and the weather on the mountain was starting to deteriorate. We were able to finish the last of our delicious soup before making our way back to the cable car and into the waiting line for the last car back down the mountain!

Whilst the weather still looked OK at the bottom of the mountain the top of it was stating to look rather gloomy. A good call by the guys at the top! Indeed, as the afternoon/early evening wore on the wind really picked up down in the village of Igls and we were wondering how strong it would have been up higher.

On the way back to the hotel we found a nice little cafe and stopped for a coffee and tea. Warming up the insides seemed like a good idea. It worked nicely.

The short walk back to Sonnenhof took us around 5 minutes and on return we sorted ourselves out for dinner with Udara and Renate. As mentioned earlier in the blog, this lovely couple had invited us to their apartment on the second floor of the hotel.

We shared a wonderful night with them on their balcony looking back up to the mountain that we had all spent the day on. Udara made plates of fresh food and we bought the Italian wine that we purchased in Lienz. The fresh tomatoes, cheese, cucumber and kiwi complimented the delightful wine and we enjoyed learning more about each other as the night wore on.

We we retired to our room around 1100pm and it was not long before the mountain air, the day of hiking and the wine combined to put us into a very deep sleep here in Igls.

Summary – a superb day of sightseeing combined with the opportunity to make some new friends. It’s what travel is all about.

Weeds On High
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Alpine Princess
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The Hills Are Alive With The ………
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On Ascent
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