Monday, September 12, 2011

Innsbruck, Austria

When Christmas comes to town Innsbruck's intimate 'Altstadt' becomes a magical world of candles and 'Glühwein'. Beneath the medieval arches the stands spread out selling golden baubles, carved wooden figures and seasonal treats. This 'Christkindlmarkt' as they call it is most appealing after sunset whilst during the day the city and its surroundings offer us many delights. Crammed within the tiny area of the old town is the Hofburg Palace, once the principal alpine residence of the Habsburgs, the exquisite Hofburg Chapel and a fascinating museum of local customs and culture. We will dedicate one day to exploring the city's treasures.

Innsbruck's alpine setting is spectacular. Magnificent snow-covered peaks can be seen above the rooftops and church spires. The mighty Nordkette mountains dominate the city to the north, one of the Alps' deepest valleys heads out east and west and the ancient trade route over the Brenner Pass to the south leads to Italy. On our other days we will take the train or post bus (included in the cost of the holiday) out to the Stubai valley to the south and the Seefeld plateau to the northwest where we can walk along prepared trails amidst stunning mountain scenery and return home by horse drawn carriage.

The skiing Eldorado right at Innsbruck's doorstep comprises almost 300 kilometres of pistes and is accessible on just one ski pass for 9 ski resorts. At the Nordpark, Innsbruck's most ‘vertical' park located right above town, snowboarders love to ride the challenging Skylinepark and Superpipe. Alpine skiers and sun seekers take advantage of the new Nordketten cable car to join the winter fun coupled with fabulous panoramic vistas. During a ride with the Nordkette funicular you can experience a combination of outstanding contemporary architecture and daring ascents. The fact that in just 20 minutes you can get from the city centre all the way up to lofty mountain heights (860m above sea level) makes this ride so unique in the Alpine region.

Only the sky seems to be the limit when you hit the slopes of Kühtai, at more than 2,000m above sea level Austria's highest ski resort. You can add another 1,000m in altitude at the nearby Stubai Glacier. If you prefer relaxed, wide turn skiing you will find the family slopes of Glungezer, Mutterer Alm, Rangger Köpfl, Patscherkofel or Schlick 2000 ideally suited. In the Axamer Lizum you can feel the Olympic magic skiing on the legendary downhill or giant slalom slope on the Hoadl. Where once Olympic slalom specialists left tracks in the snow, the pistes on the Birgitzköpfl now offer many different downhill variations for ski enthusiasts.

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