ustria, and not Australia, is what everyone kept correcting each other at our stopover in Innsbruck, Austria. Most Austrians complain that people keep misspelling their country and call it Australia.
On a road trip, with a tourist group on my way from Bavaria to Italy, I spent a day exploring the old town of Innsbruck, Capital of the Alps. Before stepping on the streets of this living medieval city I had no clue about the existence of this town, let alone this gem of the Altstadt or its historic city centre.
A valley nestled among the magnificent Nordkette mountain range which towers over the city with captivating peaks reaching upto 2,600 metres above sea level, is a compact city of about 120,000 people.
Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol in Western Austria, presents a very distinct Tyrolean culture and history of architecture from 1490 to 1520. I spent a day walking around the Maria-Theresien Street leading to the 800-year-old city centre, Altstadt.
The street is a pedestrian zone, paved with granite and benches for those who wish to take a break from shopping or sightseeing, and stylish wooden and brass street lights casting magical shadows all around.
It was like walking around and living in an art gallery enjoying the rich imperial past of the town as I photographed.
I have never been so awestruck in any of my escapades, as I was during these few hours strolling in the old town in the heart of Alps. The charm and sophistication of Baroque and Gothic style buildings, painted beautifully in pastels, and decorated with carvings and artwork, make it totally mesmerising.
The Maria-Theresien Street leads to the square outside the famous Golden Roof. The Golden Roof is a three-storey balcony, a Gothic architecture built by Archduke Friedrich IV in the early 15th century for Emperor Maximilian. The roof is covered with over 2,600 gold plated shinning copper tiles. The emperor would enjoy tournaments in the square below sitting on this balcony. Continuing with this legacy, beginning in 2005, this place hosted an international athletics and sports event called International Golden Roof Challenge. The building is now a museum, a city landmark and a centre of attraction for visitors.
The square outside the Golden Roof Museum still holds its historical and imperial charm. The arcades are typical Innsbruck-Salzach style and the vibrantly decorated bay windows are enough to have anyone time travel, relive history and enjoy the culture.
The many open air cafés on the roadside of the square gives a wonderful opportunity to sit and enjoy the atmosphere while sipping coffee made from house-roasted beans. One of these cafés even claims to be 200 years old. Something to never miss here as an accompaniment with your coffee is a hot croissant or crispy pastries topped with home-made jams from the local produce.
Holding my cup of coffee was so relaxing here, I felt I was on one of the sets of medieval movies. I enjoyed the thought that this was the same place where medieval craftsmen and merchants once traded, and kings ruled, where aristocrats and people built the cityscape, and where once torches lit the many royal celebrations and events.
Lost in thoughts, I almost believed that the arcades were still run by medieval traders with a knight on horseback galloping down the street. What I came across next was the glittering, shimmering fairytale world of crystals at the high-end, modern Swarovski store, the 113-year-old world famous manufacturers of crystals. The store is located in Herzog Friedrich Street and is stocked with crystal-studded watches, jewellery and luxury items to choose from. I was happy receiving a free heart-shaped crystal pendant that is given to all tourists visiting the store.
For all the travellers out there, visit the Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Tyrol, if you have the time because the experience is absolutely worth it. The sparkling chambers with the crystalline garden are on my bucket list for my next trip to Austria.
Innsbruck has been home to two Winter Olympic Games and is still the location for some major sporting events. With its impressive skiing heritage, the town also serves as a base for skiing and snowboard enthusiasts. On my way back to the hotel, I got to see the Bergisel Ski Jump – the iconic structure for all those interested in sports; I was specifically interested in the excellent views it has to offer from the top.
Good things come in small packages and that stands true for this town for which one day is definitely not enough. •