SIGHTS in Innsbruck:
Action! This international film festival in Innsbruck celebrates the smaller yet finer celluloid films and inspires its audience year after year with independent pieces from all over the world. But Austria's own film scene has gathered some more wind under its sails. It started with Haneke and reached its climax with Christopher Waltz, whose career is still on the up. So it's no wonder that film festivals in Austria are booming events: finally the alp country can celebrate Stefan Ruzowitzy's Oscar instead of mourning the loss of its former superstar Billy Wilder. In Innsbruck however, the Jury has concentrated on international films and has pulled in stories from around the world. In fact, only films from Latin America, Africa and Asia feature here. This year there are even a few films from North Korea, Brasil and Tajikistan. There are also plenty of short films, specials and panel discussion to round off the festival.
You won't just find spoken word in the Tyrolean Landestheater (regional theater), but also dance and singing. The theatre offers audio plays alongside stage plays. A few snippets from the programme: the director has prescribed a lot of shakespeare and it's immediately noticeable. Hamlet has already held a skull on stage and Romeo and Juliet exercised suicide and Othello was murdered in a very lively manner. Willie is also well-loved here, but there are also other highlights aside from Shakespeare's masterpieces. For musical lovers there's 'Les Miserables', Frida Kahlo's life depicted as a dance-piece and the Magical Flute is here as a children's theatre piece. Beyond that, there are the classics like 'Mother Courage', 'A night in Venice'. In summary - there's a lot of great theatrical works here on offer!
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.
STAY in Innsbruck:
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.
You can't really go wrong when you check into a Innsbruck hotel that features an animal in its name. Or a colour. Or even better, both of them together. The Adler (eagle) and Bär (bear) are particularly the most beloved in the Tyrolean hotel branch, but don't worry - you won't find any bears lurking around at the Schwarzen Bär, as the last grizzly in Tyrol was spotted in 2008 and everybody was on high alert. But let's get back to the animal names. Colours and animals often feature in the names of traditional Tyrolean parlours, hotels and restaurants. The Schwarzer Bär (Black Bear), with its ten rustic and supremely comfortable rooms, stays true to this concept. With amenities like LCD, W-LAN and safes, the hotel meets all the modern standards, yet the past is to be felt everywhere, for example in the kitchen, where traditional dishes are served in a cosy setting. Maybe it's the excellent wine, it could even be the unique ambience, but those who take a seat here won't be leaving their table too quickly. The upholstered benches are simply too comfortable, the food is great and the service is friendly. Shame that the old town is waiting just outside, along with the 'Goldene Dachl' and the mountains. Double rooms are available from ?95 per night.
The motto in Penz Hotel reads 'It's all here in all its beauty'. And with good reason. This designer hotel has ditched the alpine kitsch and instead offers pure, clean lines. Where the floorboards would normally creek under the weight of the ages, wireless internet and satellite TV channels shown on LCD screens pave the way to the future. There are a couple of other nice modern touches that really impress, such as the safe with an integrated power outlet for laptops and the Nespresso machine in the Junior suite. But those who never make it out of the hotel room are also missing out on something. For instance theres breakfast on the roof terrace with that amazing view of Innsbruck. Or you can enjoy the sunset from the American Bar whilst sipping on a cocktail. You can also indulge in the culinary delights on the fifth floor and take in the supreme view of the mountains. We really recommend a glass of whisky and a cigar to celebrate the evening appropriately. Double rooms are available from ?180 per night.
EAT in Innsbruck:
Always being served can become boring. Not to mention the eternal waiting! But for the control freaks amongst us, there is always the Teppan Wok. Here you know exactly what lands on your plate, because you put it on there yourself. And those who opt for the vast buffet can choose from either meat, fish or vegetables. Or all of them together. Afterwards, take it to the chef and watch as he fries it up and tops it off with a few sauces. It is so easy to get exactly what you want here and you don't have to wait around for slow service. The only question left remaining is whether everything that you put on your plate actually fit together. Those who doubt their ability to put together a winning dish should opt for the tried and tested fried chinese delicacies or simply go straight to the sushi bar. And then take a seat: the Teppan Wok offers a great ambience blends Japanese purism with the florid chinese style and modern comfort.
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.
This rustic inn is hidden right on the edge of the forest and is known for its unusual menu - the 'Eiterbeule' (pus-welt) isn't some kind of halloween joke, but a filled schnitzel. The other dishes are a bit more well-known: the Zigeunerschnitzel, Wiener Schnitzel and Naturschnitzel make up the rest of the breaded team, while Käsespätzle (cheese noodles) und Schweinsbraten (roast pig) finish off the regional specialities. For dessert there's only the beloved 'Schmarren' (sweet dishes with stripes of thin pancakes) of a few varieties. There's a real South-Tyrol specialty which you will only get in autumn - that's the 'Törggelemenü', which consists of bread and dripping, cheese noodles and cherry donuts followed by a much-needed apricot schnaps. The cottage was supposedly built in the 10th century by the Buzi brothers. Martin Sauerwein was here with his accordion at a much later date and even later still a duelling fraternity unceremoniously dubbed it 'Wallhall'. In 1959 the cottage was transformed into its current state: a beautiful destination for day-trippers with a great view of Innsbruck, a fitting portion of tradition enriched with Tyrolean hospitality.
SHOPPING in Innsbruck:
So the words Ninja Tunes and Slow Cosmic Disco don't mean anything to you? Then you should take a look around in the Soundstation Record Store, where they serve everything that comes stamped on black gold - yes, vinyl records. The store isn't that big, but the ?1 bargain box is worth the trip alone. Here you will find the right tune for the right price. Those who are willing to dish out a little more should entrust the specialists; Klaus, the electro-junkie is behind the counter on Wednesdays and Fridays, Albi is there for all your hip hop, reggae and break beat requests on Mondays and Saturdays, on Tuesdays Stefan is your man for all things afro & cosmic and Gregor is the guy in the know for drum'n'bass music. Along with the professional advice, there's a couple of CDs available and some equipment for DJs of all levels, not to forget snazzy Pioneer cases for the trip between the bedroom and the nightclub.
Gleis 4 is the right store for everyone who likes to wear their pants low and wide. The sloppy streetwear look simply won't go out of fashion, and new brands are still coming out, offereing comfort in oversize trainers that wearers never really train in, but simply wear to look cool in. One of the latest brands is the house brand, Gleis 4, with so many casual shirts, wide jackets and caps that it is setting itself up as the big daddy of the scene. Their range spreads so wide, that there are even a few cool top for chicks, too. The first Gleis 4 shop opened in Bregenz, but the Innsbruck branch can hold its head high - with it's tunneled walls, it boasts the biggest 59fifty wall in Austria and features heaps of gear imported from the US. So come here and wear it wide with pride, baby.
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.