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.
There's a whole lot of history here: Herzog Sigmund extended the grounds, Maximilian enlarged it once again, archduke Ferdinand II brought the renaissance to the castle, empress Maria Theresia built a baroque castle out of it and the crown prince Ludwig brough in bavarian furniture, which disappeared quickly again after Napoleon's defeat. Then everything was redesigned in rococo style and Sissi was even there! A visit to the Hofburg is a must for those who want to know the whole story. It is clear that you won't make your way out of here too quickly: as it takes a lot of time to cross the giant hall alone. Sporty types might even make their way to the Audienzsaal (audience chamber), the Kapitelzimmer (chapter room), Sissi's study and emperor Franz Joseph's bedroom. Once you've made it that far, we recommend that you take a break for cake at Café Sacher. You can even rent parts of the emperor's apartments for stylish occasions. It's not cheap, however, the grand rococo ambience overseen by ceiling frescoes comes at a price of ?3000 a day.
The Alpenzoo is the highest situated Zoo in Europe. But don't worry - you won't need an oxygen mask here. Besides, you will find the snow grouse really cute. There's also a lynx, which you would rarely see anywhere else, that has made its home here. This zoo places special focus on animal species that are near extinction, like the fish-otter or the steinbock, which was once used by pharmacists as its blood and horns help against a number of illnesses. Thanks to modern medicine, you can see over 35,000 Steinbocks in the mountains, but those who aren't so lucky to spot them in the wild can simply sit in front of compound at the Alpenzoo. By the way, a walking tour through the park takes two hours. Those who are put off by the partly steep pathways will miss out: the wolves are a must see and the brown bear is worth the way up alone. There are over 2,000 animals to admire in the park, along with a terrarium, an aviary and a walk-through farmstead hosting endangered farm animals. This is a zoo with a difference that is well worth a visit.
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.
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.
The Tennisstüberl was a hit for all fans of the ball rally in the 80s. Nowadays, the parents have passed the ball on to their children. And rightly so, as the next generation have expanded the menu to include a great wine list that has blown the competition away. The other guests will tell you, the heady selection of wines from Austria, Italy, Spain and even Australia are on the ball. The manager is happy to answer all of your wine questions, as he is a trained Sommelier and really knows his stuff. That's why only the finest regional wines are on offer here: the Burkia brothers rely on the tried and tested mixed regionals and seasonals and serve down-to-earth, traditional dishes using fresh produce from local farmers. For example; there's pork medaillons, chicken filet and sour boiled rump. Pretty much everything what a gourmet would expect from a fine Austrian restaurant. But those who really want to get the ball rolling should order something from the house Knödelzyklus (dumpling cycle), as there is another dumpling classic on offer every wednesday. Whether you hit that perfect serve after a heavy tyrolean pumpling is however questionable. One tip: Stay where you are and instead of serving, strike at one of the delectable desserts on offer.
SHOPPING in Innsbruck:
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.
Those who have already worn a Dirndl know that you can't just simply slip yourself in. If you've got enough time, you should definitely drop by the Tiroler Heimatwerk for a test fitting. Firstly there's a part that comes underneath, then a part over the top, which has to be fixed at the back, buttoned-up at the front and then all bound together. It seems that back in the day, people simply had a whole lot more time on their hands. What is more, the cleavage has to fit right, otherwise you can forget it. Those who still want to give it a try should drop by at the Tiroler Heimatwerk, where the selection is so great and the cuts are so varied that you are guaranteed to find something that fits just right. The Heimatwerk stays true to tradition, without ignoring the modern. Designer tracht has recently become quite fashionable amongst celebrities; in politics, sport and the media. And justifiably so, the suits and lederhosen may look a bit out of place in everyday life, but the knitted hats and jackets look quite smart at almost any party, without being too inconspicuous. The handmade glasses, tee-mixes and wooden bowls on offer also contribute to today's sense of fashionable living.
A new book smells good, it feels good and it accompanies you throughout your entire holiday. If you read through it too quickly, you should drop by the Wagner!sche bookstore. It has been around for over 300 years and is now a part of the Thalia bookstore chain. As a rule, Thalia bookstores offers bookworms throughout the country pretty much everything available in the printed world; crime thrillers, non-fiction, historical novels, classics and the latest hits as well as the well-received audio books. Thalia also boasts an extensive stationery section, with office and school supplies in great numbers. Devoted bookworms can burn through their new purchases in the store's café or sit in on one of the many readings that take place. You, see books aren't just sold in Wagner!sche, but they are also talked about, in the form of a literary quartet where the latest books and authors are skilfully opened and inspected.
STAY in Innsbruck:
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.
Alp Art Hotel
The central station in Innsbruck is around ten kilometres away from the sun plateau in Götzens. The sun is shining in this area almost unconditionally; hence you don't even want to go inside the hotel. But the interior is as bright and welcoming with lots of warm wood and a cosy and elegant ambience. Contemporary art hanging at the right spots prevent the place from becoming too rustic. The perfect mixture are the superior double bedrooms equipped with design baths, glassed balconies and whirlpool. In this way you can marvel at the mountain setting for hours while sitting in the hot water. In the kitchen they cook traditionally but think modern and only use high quality ingredients that are locally grown. Especially recommendable to satisfy your thirst: the in-house bar and art lounge Binis.
The basic hotel is very modest: the website touts things that the hotel simply cannot offer. The modesty is however not necessary, as the central location is worth the trip alone. Of course there are other hotels that share the same central location, but the Basic Hotel sets itself apart with its modern design and unbeatable price. Whereas other hotels boast with their minimalism, which in turns leads to horrendous prices, the Basic Hotel remains very matter of fact. It is self-assured and doesn't ask much for the rest. And it still has a lot to offer - wireless internet, flatscreen TVs, comfortable beds coupled with warm, rich colours. This neat little package is sure to answer the wishes of every business client and backpacker that wants to treat themselves to a night of comfort. However you will not find a star restaurant at the Basic. The continental breakfast from Stefan's bakery does however covers all bases, there's pasta for lunch and even prosecco with proscuitto in the evening. The Basic Hotel apologises for the abscence of super-plush beds, mini-bars and expansive baths. But does anybody really need all that? The Basic Hotel has more charm in its little palm than the larger hotels with their jewellery-laden hands. And the price is quite acceptable: from ?80 per night.