FolkestoneJack's Tracks

48 hours in Innsbruck

Posted in Austria, Innsbruck by folkestonejack on June 26, 2016

A two night stay in Innsbruck gave us a good opportunity to see most of the major sights in the city, using an Innsbruck card to cover admission and public transport (a bargain at 48 euros for 48 hours). The only complication was a grim forecast of heavy rain for almost the entire span of our stay!

Innsbruck under the clouds

Innsbruck under the clouds

The highlight for most visitors is a trip up the Nordkette, a mountain range described in the promotional material as the ‘jewel of the alps’. The journey up to the 2,300m-high Hafelekar involves a funicular and two cable cars. The reward for this effort should be excellent views and an experience of the alpine wilderness of the Karwendel Nature Park. Sadly, the weather worked against us on our trip.

The first leg of the journey up delivered us to the Hungerburg viewpoint at just the right time to get a good view of the city illuminated by a short lived burst of sunlight. The mists were thickening as we took the second leg up to Seegrube and by the time we reached the Hafelekar station you could see nothing at all. I had optimistically thought that we may have been able to appreciate the alpine landscape, even if we didn’t get the views, but the mist just obscured everything.

A short walk from the cable car station should take you to the peak of the mountain range, but there seemed little point in these conditions. For a brief moment the mists at least thinned out enough to give us sight of the top but then closed back in so well that we had trouble seeing the way back to the cable car station!

I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the trip if we were paying separately, but as the trip was included on our Innsbruck Cards we felt it was worth a look. We made our journey up at the start of the day, before most other attractions opened, so it fitted into our itinerary quite nicely but I can imagine that you would want to spend longer up top under the right conditions.

A signpost for the Hafelekarbahn

This way to the Hafelekarbahn

Once we made it back to the bottom of the mountain we hopped on to the Sightseer bus for a 19 minute ride across the city to Schloss Ambras, the renaissance palace of Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595).

The castle is a splendid sight and has much to offer the visitor besides the fascinating interior, from impressively staged displays of armour to a terrific collection of portraits (including unexpected portraits of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots amongst others). However, the highlight has to be the Chamber of Art and Curiosities which is the only collection of its type to be displayed in its original location and in the spirit of its initial conception (containing everything from intricate coral carvings to a painting of ‘hairy man’ Pedro Gonzalez).

It is also worth taking the time to check out the permanent exhibition about the life of Ferdinand II, who broke with convention by marrying Philippine Welser, a commoner, for love. Ferdinand’s father would only accept the marriage under condition of absolute secrecy and the effective disinheritance of their children from future royal title. It’s a fascinating tale and one that I had absolutely no idea of before my visit.

Schloss Ambras (as seen from the grotto)

Schloss Ambras (as seen from the grotto)

A tram took us from the Schloss to our next destination, Wilten, and a trio of sights – Wilten Basilica, the Tirol Panorama and the Kaiserjäger Museum (Museum of the Tyrolean Imperial Infantry).

I always have a weakness for a good 360 degree panoramic painting and the Tirol Panorama does not disappoint. The painting depicts the Tyrolean uprising of 1809, led by Andreas Hofer, which took place on the ground around the current museum. It shows us the moment of breakthrough for the Tyrolean forces with realistic foreground detail to draw us in.

However, the panorama does much more than present a moment in history – it is part tourist promotion (note the enticing snowy mountains in the backdrop, when snow would not have been visible at the time of the battle) and part propaganda (it rewrites history by putting the Tyroleans into uniform, when in fact they wore their own clothes, and by placing the Emperor’s men alongside the Tyroleans). The audio guide is invaluable in telling the story of the battle and highlighting details that you might otherwise miss.

The Kaiserjäger Museum (Museum of the Tyrolean Imperial Infantry)

The Kaiserjäger Museum (Museum of the Tyrolean Imperial Infantry)

An underground passage links the panorama to the Kaiserjäger Museum (Museum of the Tyrolean Imperial Infantry) which was an unexpected highlight of the day for me. In essence it is a regimental museum that has been modernised but still presents its collection in a way that would not be unfamiliar to its creators (for example, portraits are closely hung together as they were in the original design). It’s a great museum to wander and there are some terrific paintings, such as a handsome portrait of a young Franz Josef I in uniform.

The final room of the Kaiserjäger Museum looked beyond the conflicts that it commemorates, celebrating the birth of the European Union from the ruins of a decimated continent in 1945. An audio-visual presentation focused on the good that has come from this and the dangers to its existence, highlighting the way that the EU is often made a scapegoat for many ills not of its making and that nationalistic views are falling on all too fertile ground that could yet lead us back to bleak times. I have no idea when the presentation was pulled together but it seemed sadly prescient.

Dark skies over Innsbruck

Dark skies over Innsbruck

We could have continued on to to the Bergisel Ski Jump tower, with an impressive view of Innsbruck, but with a storm brewing we decided to call it a day, heading back into the city centre by bus. It proved to be a wise move – the heavens opened soon after we made it back inside and many hours of heavy rain followed. We will have to wait until tomorrow before resuming our 48 hour tour of Innsbruck!

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