Austria Day 3: City Tour & New Years Celebration

This morning we are up and ready in the lobby at 9:30a. We have a city tour of Innsbruck by our amazing local tour guide, Verena. She is wonderful and upbeat as she takes us to our first stop – the Bergiselschanze ski jump hill. The Bergisel Ski Jump was built in 1930, whose stadium has a capacity of 26,000, was used during the 1964 and 1976 Olympics, and is one of the more important venues in the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup, annually hosting the third competition of the prestigious Four Hills Tournament. It was a beautiful, perfect Christmas-snow morning with slow snow falling peacefully as we walk up to the ski jump. It was closed as they were getting ready for a competition in two days but we were still able to look up and see the massive hill in all its glory!

On our way back to the bus, we pass the statue of Andreas Hofer. Andreas Hofer was a Tyrolean innkeeper and drover, who in 1809 became the leader of the Tyrolean Rebellion against the revolutionary Napoleonic invasion during the War of the Fifth Coalition. He was subsequently captured and executed. Hofer is still today venerated as a folk hero, freedom fighter and Austrian patriot.

We then enjoy a narrated bus tour by Verena, as she takes us past the Olympiahalle – Innsbruck’s multi-purpose sports facility complex. It was opened in 1963. The complex served as the Olympic Park of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, as well as the 2012 and Winter Youth Olympics.

We the drive past the beautiful Stift Wilten monastery. The monastery was first documented in the 12th century and, today, around 30 friars and 21 priests pastorally tend to its continued existence. The monastery church is also home to the Wilten Boys’ Choir.

Next, we drove past the grand triumphpforte (Triumphal Arch). This triumphal arch was built in 1765 on the occasion of the wedding of Archduke Leopold, the second son of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis Stephen of Lorraine, to the Spanish princess, Maria Luisa, on 5 August 1765. Because Leopold’s father, Francis Stephen, died unexpectedly shortly before the wedding on 18 August 1765, a memorial motif was worked into the Triumphal Arch when he died. Its south side portrays motifs of the wedding of the young couple; its north side commemorates the death of the emperor.

We then exit the bus to go inside the Innsbruck Cathedral. Innsbruck Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of St. James, is an eighteenth-century Baroque cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Innsbruck in the city of Innsbruck, Austria, dedicated to the apostle Saint James, son of Zebedee. This was stunning! Dripping with golf leaf, spectacular ceiling frescos and captivating paintings. The cathedral was heavily damaged during World War II, but was fully restored within a few years. Innsbruck Cathedral is notable for two important treasures. The painting Maria Hilf(Mary of Succor) by Lucas Cranach the Elderfrom c. 1530 is displayed above the main altar. It is considered among the most venerated Marian images in Christendom. The cathedral also contains in the north aisle the canopied tomb of Archduke Maximilian III of Austria, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, dating from 1620.

We walked then down past the Imperial Palace, famously inhabited by the mother of Marie Antoinette – Marie Theresa. Following the palace, we make our way to the city’s center, part of the Old Town, in which we all enjoy a hot mug of gluhwein. It was a warm and delicious treat as we all stand and enjoy a live band parked in front of the famous Goldenes Dachl. The Goldenes Dachl is a gothic landmark structure located in the Old Town section of Innsbruck. It is considered the city’s most famous symbol. Completed in 1500, the roof was decorated with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian I to mark his wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza.

At the end of our tour, we are allotted some free time, so five of us make our way over to Gasthof Weisses Rossl for more Austrian dishes, this time trying a beer and kässpätzle (German for “spätzle with cheese”). It was warm and filling and after a long, casual meal, we walk around the corner to Munding pastry shop for some coffee, cakes and strudel.

We each break off after dessert to continue exploring the now lively town, bustling with tourists all before New Years Eve. The city itself is charming, filled with historic buildings with beautifully-painted murals, and holiday decor sprinkled down each streets. The smells of holiday wine, pretzels and bratwursts lure you in as you enjoy a casual stroll down each street and alleyway. After a couple more photos and sight seeing, I make my way back to the hotel to freshen up before our New Years evening gala dinner.

For dinner, it’s cocktail evening wear as we enjoy champagne in the lobby of the hotel. We are then lead into the dining room for a six course meal of shrimp and potato casserole, lovage soup, red beet ravioli, passion fruit sorbet, and mille-feuille (puff pastry and custard) for dessert. It was an incredible meal! We also enjoyed a magicians doing card tricks.

After dinner, we change back into our winter gear and take the Nordkette Cable Car all the way to the top of mountain. It’s a smooth ride with an incredible view of the city and snowy mountainside. Once we reach the top, we arrive at Cloud 9, an igloo carved out of the side of the mountain that is all rigged up for New Years Eve. Small little fires are set up with little groups huddling around them. There are two DJs (one outside the igloo and one inside) playing upbeat techno/disco music. We each start with a glass of warm gluhwein and take pictures of the incredible scene around us. There is beautiful people everywhere, bundled up in darling coats, furry hats and fun boots.

We venture into the igloo and is beyond incredible inside. Colors change from red, to blue, to pink as we tunnel through three rooms – an entryway, room with a bar carved out of ice, and the last with the DJ and people dancing. This was one of the highlights of the trip by far!

At midnight, we toast champagne to the new year as massive fireworks burst overhead, lighting up the gorgeous mountains behind them. We enjoy another hour at the igloo, until taking the cable car back down the mountain, and head to bed before our last and final day in Innsbruck.

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