22 – Innsbruck

Innsbruck, Austria – Giovedi Novembre  20 – Domenica Novembre 23, 2008

Skiing….we’re going skiing….my bags are packed – my boots are strapped – my googles fogged – the cocoa brewing – down to the lodge – up the lift to the slopes we go………………….the slopes of Antartica!

Our much awaited trip has arrived and we are in Innsbruck, Austria. Our project is done – we’ve finished the presentation and now its fun, fun, fun! We left early Thursday and arrived a night around six; missing the sun which would reveal such splendor in a few hours time. Meghan’s parents again were extremely generous again; providing us with another hotel room – this one topping them all at the Hyatt in downtown central Innsbruck. This town has been a new experience for me; its much like Switzerland but far more grand and baroque – built at the prime of the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian empire. The only way to describe it is very Alpienne & seasonal. We spent the first night walking around the city, hitting up a local eatery where we feasted on wienersnitzles & Austrian sausage. Afterwards we took the suggestions of Rick Steve’s guides and hit up a nearby Irish pub where we bumped into two very classically sounding Austrians who conveniently worked at the ski rental we were planning to use. Of course we burst into the traditional inter-foreigner discussion; culture. While always interesting; this time it gained another spin – when the movie Beerfest was introduced (a movie stereotyping and satirically joking about their culture) of which we found out was an Austrian favorite, who would have guessed. Apparently the movie has more truth to it than not as we spent the night yodeling pub songs and commenting on the diversity of the great Schwarzenegger, their local heroine.

The next morning – the sun arose, of course – and this is when we really got our big surprise of the trip! While the town was quite beautiful in itself; the landscape brought the true splendor – huge, vertical, snow-capped mountains jutting immediately, only one or two miles, from the town center. These were some of the biggest and closest peaks I had ever witnessed. We scrambled around to get our stuff, got our ski from the rental a few blocks away (took about 2 hours total) and headed for the station to get the bus to Stubai Glacier……a.k.a Antartica.

So we realized we were planning to ski here, on a glacier, the whole time; but I’m not really sure that we really understood, to the full extent, GLACIER. Taking about 1 hr. 15 min. drive through some of the most scenic roads and quintessentially AUSTRIAN towns I’ve viewed, our excitement finally culminated in the arrival to the glacier foot (in reality its only about 30 km from Innsbruck but the roads barely has a 100 meter straight and the bus stops at every single lodge to pick up other eager slalom clad citizens). Getting our ski passes was a breeze – we jumped on the gondola and went north, or south…or up….and up….and up. I’ve been on a gondola before but never one that took a 70 degree incline. Apparently the glacier begins 1000 meters UP from where we were; makes sense I guess – and there is where we then hit the lodge and begin to ski. The skiing was wild; way different than anything I had experienced before. There were no real markers for the runs – it was a bit of a free for all. We picked a rough day to go however – there was a storm on the mountain giving us extreme wind and snow. The gust at the tops of the lifts where extreme – and this is why we all felt in Antarctica. With now trees – seeing only white; except for the occasional giant sheer vertical mounds of rock along with the stormy weather I could imagine the southernmost continent to be very similar. Nonetheless, with purple faces we had a great time. 

That night we returned home exhausted. Trying to avoid soreness we decided to doing an executive workout. We headed for the hotel sauna a three times repeated 20 minutes hot with 60 seconds of freezing cold shower. The cold makes your heart explode but the overall feeling is great and thoroughly relaxing. After the ”workout” we promptly went to our rooms and hit the sack.

The next day we woke early (6 AM) to catch the first bus to Stubai Glacier. Arriving rested again and full of excitement we ran to our lockers with our ski stuff – but to find hundreds of other eager skiers just standing around; why? The mountain was closed due to stormy conditions and we would have to wait for further notice of possible commencements of the lifts; bummer. After two hours of waiting the mountain announced that it would be windy all day and that there would be no possible openings. So back to Innsbruck we went. Determined to still have fun; we spent the day walking around the city which has just received a fresh cover of snow. It was really cool to see it both green and white. We hit the Christmas market, the local malls, the riverfront, and the local ice rink. Innsbruck is a gorgeous city. That evening we hit two really cool discos (one eighties and one new age techno).

The next morning we headed home back for our last night at Castiglion Fiorentino. This time being in daylight; we got to enjoy one of the most thrilling train rides (or any ride for that matter) that I have ever experienced; through the snow-capped mountains. I felt very much like I was a part of the polar express heading north to see Santa down the winding path through the valleys. I also noticed this time through the wonderful castles littering this part of the continent. Almost every reachable mountaintop with some sort of flat portion got glittered with a tower and house. Really unique; with one town containing a massive fortress castle. The town of Balzano in Northern Italy I have determined a future resting spot for its splendor. I made it home just in time for dinner and with time to study for my last exam in Europe; finance at 7:00AM so I could make my plane in Parma to head to London. The test went well; but I was panicked because the first question was the one thing I forgot to study. However the rest went well so I should be ok. With this done; I stowed my luggage and hit the road for almost a  2 ½ week tour across Europe!

Ciao Castiglion, grazie per la bel volta!



Video of Stubai Mountain from Youtube


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