The Frozen Olympic City: Innsbruck, Austria

My very first journey of my study abroad experience, other than to my “home city” of Prague, was to none other than Innsbruck, Austria. I have skied since I could walk and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity of proximity to the Alps for granted.

I took a Student Agency bus from Prague overnight to the two time former Winter Olympics host city. I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a cheap, comfortable bus to travel in. Yes it does take a bit longer but if you are one a budget it’s nice. There was a screen on every seat for movie or television viewing and even a bus attendant that offered you free hot beverages and other items for an additional fee.

I arrived without much trouble. I even slept for most of the bus ride. I had to use the phone navigation to briefly locate my hostel, silently praying that my mom would forgive me for the data fee.

My accommodation? Hostel Marmota in Innsbruck, located next to a barren field and neighbor to a crematorium. I chose this place for convenience but also because of the reasonable reviews on HostelWorld. Unfortunately my room was not ready upon my 7:30am arrival. I was able to store my bag and hung around the lounge for a while before I decided to venture out and explore.

Honestly I didn’t know much at all about Innsbruck before I arrived there. I only knew that I had come here to ski the Alps and that the Olympics had been here twice. Now you could imagine my surprise when only a short walk away from my hostel was Ambras Castle, which I stumbled across my accident. It is a gorgeous place even in the cold winter weekend I was there. There were suits of armor, beautiful artwork and finery from the days of Austrian Emperor Franz Ferdinand.

I always feel like the dumb American coming to a place like Austria and not speaking a lick of German. I guess I look too European because people assume I speak every local language. It’s nice in the Czech Republic because I I do speak enough to get by but here it’s just terribly awkward as I silently pray that the person also speaks English. I ended up at a local pizzeria for lunch on the other side of Innsbruck. The waitress was very helpful and hospitable so I left a nice tip before I walked back to my hostel. My feet hurt after that adventure but I didn’t feel that I was ready to use the public transit system just yet. When I get lost I tend to get VERY lost.

I got back to my hostel and could move into my single room where I relaxed and began researching places for skiing the following day. There were quite a few:

  • Patscherkofel
  • Götzner Bahn Muttereralm
  • Axamer Lizum
  • Stubaier Glatscher
  • Schlick 2000
  • Kühtal
  • Rangger Köpfl

After deciding that I would go to Schlick 2000 or Stubaier Glatscher the next day I went out once again to explore the historical center of Innsbruck at night. One of my favorite things to do in Europe is wander around the city at night. Not always the smartest or safest thing to do but I feel as if the city speaks to me on it’s barren cobbled streets. Whispering secrets of the past, present, and possible future. It was really quite nice as I wondered about without much direction. I popped into a grocery store and bought some simple supplies for dinner I could make in the hostel kitchen and managed to fake my way through as a local or at least as a fake German tourist. After the beating my feet took that evening I decided to try my hand at the trams since I knew that there was a tram stop very close to my hostel and had a very comfortable ride back as it tutted along the streets and across the river back towards the hostel. Success.

After a quick breakfast and checkout I meandered over to the Ramada Inn close by to hop on the ski bus that would bring us to the main departure point. I’m not sure if I was actually allowed on this bus or not but no one seemed to notice me so it didn’t matter. From there I waited with a group of skiers and boarders for a bit before the buses all arrived and hopped on the one headed towards Stubai Glacier. Unfortunately it was closed that day due to dangerously high winds but it was headed to Schlick 2000 as well so it was really a win for me.

I rented my skis and boots and hit the slopes. The ticket was my first suprise as I got on the gondola. Its a card that you stick in your coat pocket and then a sensor at the gate reads it and lets you right through. It was very cool and super efficient. I’m a north eastern skiier and we are still on the “scan the bar code system”. The whole day was pretty amazing especially the views from up there.
It was so big that I could go down a slope and not even even see another person, allowing me to go at any speed I wanted. A huge change from the American North East skiing I’m used to where I have to weave in and out of people and ski lessons.

My center of gravity was slightly thrown off since I had decided to ski with my pack on rather than being smart and actually locating a locker. Whatever it wasn’t actually that bad plus I had a lunch on my person so I didn’t have to buy expensive mountain food. On my last run of the day I got horribly lost on a glade. For those of you who don’t ski a glade is basically skiing through the woods and this particular glade was off mountain so if I got hurt… Well that would have spelled trouble. It got uncomfortably steep and grassy at one part so from there I clicked off one of my skis and slid down on my side.

I called it a day after that and instead of waiting 30 minutes to get on the bus I walked 10 minutes to the small town below to the tram which brought me back to Innsbruck. The route was very scenic and I enjoyed every second of it since the bus would not have offered such an opportunity.

Innsbruck was gentle in my first trip alone and it is certainly a place I will never forget.


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