SIGHTS in Innsbruck:
Who would've guessed? It is dangerous, it looks great and in the end Austria is standing on the winnners' platform. That's right: ski-jumping at the Bergiselschanze. And this is how it goes - 50m up the tower, a 98m run-up and after the 120m trip through the air a successful landing. Or you could simply go 50m up the tower, enjoy the view and savour a piece of Apfelstrudel in the tower cafe overlooking the jump. The complex is another wonder from Zaha Hadid, which she crafted in 2001 and won the national architecture award for it in 2002. No wonder, the ski-jump represents the perfect combination of sport and architecture and boasts a great panoramic view worth the 455 steps to the top, which is not just for athletes to enjoy. Even the sport-adverse can take off here as there is also a lift that will take you up to the cafe. So just pretend: it's winter, you are sitting on the wooden bench, your feet are fixed to two skis and there is a sea of red-white-red flags below you.
The history of this church is full of contradictions: The emperor may have built the church, but he was never buried here and the bronze statues that were built for that very purpose are called 'Schwarzmander', of which a few are even women. But let's get back to the beginning: the emperor wanted 40 larger-than-life bronze statues for his tomb, but when he finally got them, he decided for something else. As he was on his deathbed he named Wiener Neustadt as his place of rest. The statues were too heavy for the chapel there, so they were left were they were, in the Innsbruck Hofkirche. So that the church was not left too empty, emperor Ferdinand II and Andreas Hofer with his comrades-in-arms were buried here. The emperor's tomb sans corpse is still worth a visit, with its marble reliefs and holy statues it is the biggest emperor's tomb in Europe. The bronzefigures are worth their own tour, as only the professionals know who is who.
Schloss Ambras has everything that you would expect to find in a museum: portraits, suits of armour, godly sculptures and... a shark! Archduke Ferdinand is the one to thank for the museum's extensive and somewhat bizarre collection. Next to pieces of armour, there's also lifesize artworks by Tizian, chapel treasures and the duke's own chest of goodies: little gems such as money boxes, centrepieces, stationery and a shark that hangs from the ceiling. And those who aren't yet surprised may like to know that next to the shark is a portrait of a human being covered in hair. And he was no fictional character: the scraggly contemporary was a favoured piece of research for doctors in the 16th century. Those who cry out something blasphemous when viewing the haired beast should confess their sins in the St. Nikolaus chapel, You can still celebrate a christening, partake in mass or light a candle for the hairy one in the museum for letters of indulgences and Augsburger church silver .
STAY in Innsbruck:
Innsbruck isn't exactly the design centre of the world. In Tyrol, traditions are more important than the trappings. Those who are looking for that big city flair are really at the wrong address here. But the BinderS hotel attempts to change that. The art hotel has set a new accent in old Innsbruck and makes quite a splash with its 15 different designs. The Sleep Colour room contains twelve colours, the Sleep Loft provides an urban feeling with its water bed and bright, expansive rooms, not to mention the bathroom that simply screams lifestyle. As an added extra, the Smart car fleet provides those without a car the opportunity to explore every nook and cranny of the city with the perfect city explorer on four wheels. And after an exhausting day in the mountains you can permit yourself a beer or even a schnaps in the hotel bar. No need to do this on an empty stomach however: although BinderS doesn't offer a three course meal, the snacks on offer are enough to keep you on the safe side of tipsy. Double rooms are available from ?78 per person.
So we've finally got proof: size does count! The Austria Trend Hotel ignores the usual lack of space experienced in most hotels and grants it guests a lot of elbow room to unfurl themselves. This hotel hasn't let itself be intimidated by the surrounding mountains - big business takes place here, which calls for a lot of room. There are no less than three conference and two meeting rooms, along with the 104 double rooms, two suites and a luxurious wellness area spread over 260sqm. And guests find themselves right in the middle of town. That means you are only five minutes away from the city centre, the conference centre, the Hofburg and Landestheater. Those who don't have any time for the culutral pleasures Innsbruck has to offer, should at least let themselves indulge in the culinary delights in the hotel restaurant. The menu sports both nouvelle cuisine and the tried and true Tyrolean cuisine. There's free space for work, free space for the palate and also free space for the soul. The Austria Hotel doesn't constrict anybody, but rather creates a great sense of space in the valley and turns its back to claustrophobia. Double rooms are available from ?114 per night.
The Grand Hotel Europa goes international and pairs Tyrolean parlour style with Italian design. The Europa suite was designed in the name of tradition, holds a very comfortable atmosphere and is completely made out of wood. Hundred-year old carvings and a corner bank around a traditional fireplace remind one of a rustic east Tyrolean farmer's room, but nobody has to go to work on the fields here. Room service and the shoeblack are here to relieve you of all the hard work. On the contrary to the Tyrolean style, the other rooms boast modern Italian style. Architect Botti went to town and impresses guests with warm colours, noble use of wood and marble stone. Those who drop in at the restaurant however, mustn't guess where they are at all. The Andreas Hofer and Max Weiler parlours again command the classic Tyrolean style. There's wood as far as the eye can see and an excellent 'Haube' honoured restaurant with a excellent international wine list to boot. And that is exactly what makes the Grand Hotel Europa what it is - the motto may scream international luxury, but scratch the surface and the Tyrolean traditions aren't hard to find. Don't forget the nostalgia that comes with it. Double rooms are available from ?149 per night.
SHOPPING in Innsbruck:
When the boys are off to the Börse, the girls flock together at Cheeky Monkey. All the hot snow and surf brands are here, just with more curvaceous cuts. Brands like Alprausch, Zimtstern and Billabong are guaranteed to make the girls look great, whether they're surfing, snowboarding or skating. You will even find the right shoewear in Cheeky Monkey. DC and Nike will lend you the sporty look, although expect to have a heavy wallet or credit card at hand! Late again, missed the household curfew? Before your parents get really angry, a Nixon watch will ensure that little miss is always home on time. And get there ahead of time with the Paul Frank Cruiser. The city bike with it's 'I love my bike' bell is an absolute must for all Paul Frank fans. Sound like monkey business? Nope, just cool fashion for sporty trendsetters!
If you don't travel to Innsbruck in the middle of summer, you might risk frozen toes and icy credit cards. Thank god for the Rathausgalerien (city hall gallery). Here you can carry out your favourite hobby without shivering teeth. Plus you can really let your credit card glow in the exclusive boutique stores. Let yourself defrost here and you won't be leaving quickly. If you don't get stuck in Hugo Boss, Calzedonia or Mango, then it'll probably be in either Gant, Jones or Lacoste. And if you are still freezing, then the sporting fashion at North Face will help you bear the cold. Time for a break after so much shopping? There are great gastronomical pleasures to be found here as well. Lichtblick have a great gourmet menu, fine traditional fare at Gössers or Indonesian curry noodles at Thai-Li-Ba. With so many international offerings, it's so hard to choose. To top off a successful day, stop off at La Habana for a cuban cigar, where you can also soak up the cuban tunes and enjoy a well-deserved cocktail.
It's time to hit the slopes - the most fun you will find in Tyrol in the colder months. But what if you don't have the necessary gear to make your way down the mountain? Before you head up the mountain, pay a visit to the Börse (stock market). They've got the stuff that powder dreams are made of. Völkl, Head, Salomon und Nitro all mean something to you? You will find all these great brands in the Börse. And for those that already have their slick boards will find Alpinestars, Billabong and Capp3L suits and jackets to cruise down the mountain in style. But the stocks are also high in summer, as downhill and BMX bikers will find the Börse as the perfect one-stop shop for all their two-wheeled desires. Another highlight is the mountain-bike rental service. If you don't want to bring it with you, then you can simply hire it out, that way you can make your way up the mountain for a sensible sum.
EAT in Innsbruck:
Those who experience a watery mouth as soon as they hear the words 'Amuse Bouche' und 'Petits Fours' are either French or simply like to eat good food. You wouldn't expect to see this sort of food served in Innsbruck: instead of the customary bacon dumplings, Nicolas Curtil serves light and fine Nouvelle cuisine riddled with light provencial herbs and melted brie cheese. Fans of earthy cuisine may be a bit puzzled by the rosewater mousse. You might also be surprised by the karfoil and saffran on the menu. The celery fudge with dandeloins, artichokes, herb pesto and parsnip puree may also cause you to run for the exit. But every guest here has been entralled by the offerings here, even though exotic food has its price: the dinner deluxe costs no less than ?45. By the way, Nicolas decided to change his nutrition in 2010 and changed the menu to suit: instead of scallops and duck burgers all dishes are strictly vegetarian.
Once upon a time the Seegruben gondola brought skiers to the snowy slopes of the Tyroler mountain world. Nowadays she has found rest on a terrace. So what happened? Simple really. The disposed gondola was purchased by the Schwarzer Adler and promptly turned into a Tyrolean séparée. Now guests can cruise in style on the restaurant's rooftop-terrace and hold a summit meeting in a dignified space. As creative and comfortable as it is, the eyrie costs ?50 per half-day, which can be dropped once racked up a large enough bill. This is no large feat, considering the menu on offer: exclusively fresh local produce and Tyroler specialties quickly turn into a feast and will push your belt to the limits. For those who find the gondola a bit too draughty can always find respite in one of the parlours. The wood used for the ceiling panelling in the Arquin parlour come from a cottage high up in Navistal and the pictures on the walls are painted by local artists. The Adler (eagle) parlour has been preserved in its orignal condition whilst the Jäger (hunter) parlour is fitted out with modern leather. And military soldiers from the nearby barracks used to drink in the Pfiff bar, which now plays host to Innsbrucks only vodka bar.
A caribbean dream in the middle of Tyrolean tradition: Flo Joe is definitely Innsbruck's most original restaurant. Buffalo Wings meet Santa Fe Poppers and Chicken Jambalaya. The walls are decorated in a motley way and convey a very cuban feeling in the midst of snow-topped mountains. Flo Joe's original motto was 'come in, have a look and dream of your next holiday'. Unfortunately the quality at this Innsbruck institution has noticeably suffered in the last couple of years. Complaints about the poor service are coming in more than ever, and the place has even been dubbed a tourist trap. Apparently there aren't enough service staff, and when they finally do come to your table then they either serve an unfriendly mood or luke-warm food. Where does the problem lie? Maybe it's because of the name change - Flo Joe's was once called Papa Joe's. People used to love visiting Papa, but maybe too many come to visit Flo. Maybe it's because you can never get a table without a reservation and many have to leave in frustration. But let someone else pursue the root of the cause: If you want some Text Mex in the middle of Tyrol, then you will have to go to Flo Joe's, good service or bad service!