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Where’s me jumper? Round and round

Ooh, it’s late, this entry. Apt, really, considering how late we started doing anything of note on our Sunday in Innsbruck. Maybe my diarising (chronicling?) has jet lag.

So, Sunday. Woke up early, listened to podcasts, played Microsoft Solitaire, watched some wrestling, went back to sleep. Wrote up Saturday and had another awful shower, after which we set out to get a bus. It was already 1pm. Starving hungry we thought we’d pop into the nearby bakery/supermarket, except it was shut. Oh. Without enough spare time to go and grab something from the old town we just hung around looking at the mountains from the bus stop.

The forecast had said it would absolutely piss it down all day but actually it was dry, though clearly it had been raining down here and snowing up there. Bit cloudy ‘n all.

The Innsbruck sightseer bus is no open-top double decker thing but a single decker bus that looks exactly like all the other buses but for the fact that at each seat there are some surprisingly good headphones, through which comes a surprisingly good audio tour. Punctuated with local music, the commentary between each stop gives interesting tidbits of info about where we are and where we’re going.

First up, a park where you can see birds. Every bird they listed, we have in our back yard. C’mon Innsbruck, you can do better than that surely. Next we wind through Saggen, full of impressive villas, and at the end of one road we do 2.5 laps of a roundabout. Beyond there, some district popular with students “due to the proximity to the city centre”, apparently, and some glossed over “loads of German speakers from South Tirol came here in a pro-Nazi move back in the 30s” stuff.

Finding the stops is pretty easy

Heading away from the city we’re told that people are awful drivers round here, often getting into road rage due to headaches brought on by the wind which comes through the valley – a wind known as the föhn. Wait, what? There’s a road-rage-headache inducing wind that only affects drivers? And you’re telling us this while we’re on a tour by road?

Nothing is open. Not one shop, restaurant, bar, anything that we go past is open. This whole place has really bizarre, to me at least, opening hours. Almost all of the pubs we’ve seen don’t open until 5pm or later on most days anyway, though on Saturday evening even stuff like the local rock and metal club hadn’t been open.

Pierce Brosnan appears on a couple of large billboards advertising Spar before we head past a couple of large sporting stadiums, while the commentator tells us that sport is really important around here. Oddly, it was the English who introduced the locals to mountain climbing as a sport or pastime: they weren’t bothered until a few of us came over in the early 1900s and said “see that hill? I’m having that”.

Beyond the motorway is Schloss Ambras, a big castle and one of the oldest museums in the world, including an exhibit of EXCESSIVE HAIRINESS. Had we left the hotel at a saner time we might have given this an hour or so, but we didn’t so we didn’t. Onwards, our trust in the audio trivia drops when they boast about how everyone in Innsbruck has amazing water pressure thanks to the h2o coming down from the mountains. Yeah, try our fucking shower y’bastards.

Eventually, just as they’re talking about how Napoleon fought 4 battles around here, losing 3 before winning the 4th and thus the war... and then introduced a load of progressive policies, separated church from state, and did a few other nice things ... we reach Bergisel. It’s pronounced “bergEASEl”, not “BERRghee-sell”.

There’s loads here. Mostly we’re interested in the Christmas market, still pretty desperate for raclette. There is no raclette. There is a Jesus though, and about 8 stalls. Nothing much grabs us, and since it’s gone 2pm and neither of us have eaten yet, getting on the glühwein isn’t a good idea right now.

There’s a viewing platform though, with nice views back towards the city and the mountains opposite. That’s where we went up on Saturday.

As well as the actual panoramic views, there’s also a thing called the Tirol panorama. Our Innsbruck Card gets us in for free, but we still have to get a ticket and dump our bags in a locker for a euro deposit. The panorama itself is a 360º painting that you’re inside, depicting some kind of battle scene. We didn’t get an audio guide and there’s no English descriptions so didn’t spend long. Mostly we admired the concept more than the painting.

Next to the panorama is this baffling museum of random artefacts in no discernibly sensible order. Modern and old are mixed together, not of the same class of thing, just ... stuff. There’s stuffed animals next to skiing equipment next to typewriters next to clothing next to ... I mean, what?

There’s a dead marmot.

And a massive horse’s head on its side. And a bear.

And a picture of a three-faced Jesus.

And an old cable car. Oh, and an animated slideshow of something on the floor, which moves and is thus super-blurry just as I try to snap the “Vote JA! for Adolf Hitler” thing because eh?

Heads spinning, we leave and walk through a park full of statues, past the big empty building that looks like it would make a nice pub, and towards the ski jumping stadium.

Yeah, that. Let’s go up there! It’s a bit of a winding uphill walk to the ticket office, where we wave our Innsbruck cards and a shit-ton of German comes back at us. I understand everything he says until a lightning speed very long final sentence, at which point I ask if he can say that in English and he’s a bit snotty. “Oh, I was under the impression you spoke German”. Bah.

Through the barrier and we’re in the spectator bit. It’s great! I don’t recall ever going to such a single-use sports stadium before. I mean, the dog track at Wimbledon also had speedway. Ice rinks can have skating as well as ice hockey. But what else are you going to do at a ski jump except ski jump?

I think I’d massively enjoy watching ski jumping one time, even though I know fuck all about it as a sport/skill. Just seems like it would be tons of fun to watch people hurtling through the air ‘n that. Anyway, down the bottom there’s not much to do except for a small shop run by a bored looking woman having a smoke. Thankfully there’s a rickety old funicular railway that’ll take us up the top, utterly terrifying Helen in the process.

Up there is a car park with some quite nice views back down. We’re still under the actual jump, mind.

The first lift is for ski jumpers only. How do you actually learn how to ski jump, I wonder? I don’t recall the Eddie the Eagle film really going into that much depth about how someone makes their start in the sport. It seems to have a pretty high fucking barrier to entry, no? Anyway. There’s another lift around the back that goes to the restaurant. I really fancy lunch at the top of a ski jump.

Helen does not fancy lunch at the top of a ski jump. This is, I freely admit, quite a lot scarier and wobblier than our mountain antics the previous day. All the restaurant’s tables are at windows, which are floor to ceiling and at the very edge of the building. It’s fair enough. I’m not exactly loving it, but I would totally have stayed but not to her detriment. Though, hang on, since we’re here, would you wait for me while I go up to the observation deck...?

Blimey. Quite high up here innit? Helen, you might wanna skip the next photo. SCROLL QUICKLY (it’s a tall one).

Back down in the lift and in the rickety funicular. She’s having no fucking fun at all here. On terra firma it’s definitely time for some food and drink, though first we marvel at a black squirrel running around the trees nearby. Black squirrels? With crazy huge pointy ears? Later we look them up and discover they’re actually red squirrels who look black in winter.

Anyway, we have enough squirrels at home; the bus runs every 40 minutes and we’re between them, giving us a nice 70 minute window to pop into Restaurant 1809 since the market still doesn’t tempt us.

Our smiley waiter gives us menus, serves us some wine and a pint, and takes our food order which is delivered by a lad who seems to be 12 years old. I’ve gone for burger and chips, Helen has pasta. There is definitely enough mustard with my burger.

Since there’s enough time, and the portions were small, and it was our first calories of the day, we feel wholly justified in having dessert. I go for the Bergiseltorte, a speciality local cake in the shape of a ski jump (sort of) and which includes bacon. YES.

With 3 or so bus circuits left for the day we reckon there’s enough time to visit one last Christmas market, except looking it up on the internet it’s apparently shut on Sundays. For fucks sake, Innsbruck.

While waiting for the bus we spot a sign indicating dapper men will be walking children nearby.

Jaunty.

So with nothing else worth getting off for we decide to complete the circuit. The audio was fun, after all. Back on the bus we go past a church which has the “largest virtually undamaged renaissance organ in Austria”, and a bell foundry. With longer gaps between interesting stops, the amount of local music increases and starts to do our heads in. We learn that 20% of Innsbruck’s residents are students, and that the big Jesus statue on the bridge was scandalous because it was naked.

In fact we learn about lots of scandals. Seemingly there are many stories about how something happened which made all of Innsbruck angry, because they don’t like change, but then a few years later they decide it’s awesome and whoever did the something is now a world-renowned something-er.

We get off the bus back at Congress, where it started. Dark now, I want some glühwein. But I’m not allowed any just yet. Eschewing the main market by the Golden Roof we go and check out the one on the more modern high street. Crowds are well down, and Helen insists we go shopping first. In the dead centre of the whole street is a large shop selling thousands of Christmas decorations. Not like tinsel and stuff, but rotating mobiles and wooden animals to hang off trees and musical sleighs and all kinds of amazing kitsch madness. It’s a bona fide business with a catalogue and a website and everything. It’s ALL mental. Behold, Käthe Wohlfahrt.

Once we’re done there it’s finally glühwein time. Because Helen wants a red one this time while I’m sticking with white, I somehow contrive to order half in German and half in Italian. Go me! The rain gets worse as we wander back up to the Golden Roof. I’m trying to convince Helen we should get raclette, but she’s not remotely hungry.

Returning the mug, we go sit in Elferhaus. Tribaun was shut when we went past it and Elferhaus claims to have 30 types of beer.. and it does. But it’s not a craft beer place, really. It has 30 types of average and/or widely available beer, boasting about Guinness and Corona and Foster’s and stuff. It’s smoky, but I feel OK with it. We have a couple of pints there, which does nothing to make Helen hungry, so decide to call it a night with a last beer at PFIFF in our hotel. I hope to be able to get a bar snack at least - but it’s shut. So is the restaurant. Seriously Innsbruck what the hell is going on with your opening hours? Get it sorted. Bah!

Still, the hotel room has a minibar so a small tube of Pringles and a KitKat will have to do for dinner. Also minibar Heineken, and Prosecco that’s a bit like vinegar. Nasty, but that’s how our holiday is destined to finish. That and the monstrous smell of smoke coming off all our clothes. Perhaps Elferhaus hadn’t been that good an idea after all.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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