Category Archives: Austria

Austria

Exploring Ambras Castle, Innsbruck

It’s easy to forget Austria is home to some of the most beautiful castles and palaces the world has to offer. In Innsbruck I thought it would be all about the views, food and hiking. But it turns out the city contains not only a palace at its centre, but also a hidden gem nestled on its outskirts.

Ambras Castle was built all the way back in the 1560s by Archduke Ferdinand II on the base of an even older castle dating back to the 10th century. Ferdinand built this castle for his wife and they both resided here for over 30 years, so probably one of those ‘here’s a present for myself disgused as one for you’ arrangements. I love how minimalist and modest it looks

From the outside it’s not too much in your face like the nearby Neuschwanstein Castle there’s no fancy gardens like Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. That is until you get to go inside and explore the over-the-top interiors of Spanish Hall and the collections of weapons, books, works of art the pair collected from their travels.

The guy who scanned our tickets reminded us we had an hour left before they’d close and I was very confident that would be more than enough. That was before I learned you’d spend half of your visit to take in the Spanish Hall where some amazing balls and banquets were all the rage. It walls are plastered with 27 portraits of Tirolean rulers…imagine being the 28th most important ruler? I feel for them!

What I often miss in castles is the armouries, you often see one of two here and there, but Ambras has three full chambers of armour including tournament armour, ceremony armour and the suit their very own Ser Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane wore. You’ll have to use your imagination as taking photos weren’t allowed or I was too excited taking it all in.

The lovely landscaped gardens and park of the complex are the perfect spot to spend an additional hour and maybe have a little picnic or nap on the grass – if the weather allows it of course.

What’s on your castle bucketlist?

Austria

Servus From Innsbruck, Austria: Walk On

Want to know what I was up to on the rest of my stay in Innsbruck?

Next day a city bus was my chariot to reach Igls to hike around the Patscherkofel area. As one hiking trail wasn’t enough for the mighty Tea, I went for two, with the idea being to hike up half-way and then take the lift to the top and walk down. I loved it as there was a varied landscape of beautiful forest paths with amazing views and trees as high as you can see, AND for my inner child there were ‘the hills are alive with the sound of music’ meadows I could dance around in. Then halfway up the mountain and 3 hours into the trek, it became clear that the summer season hadn’t started and that the chairlift was actually closed that day (it opens in June). Online 2 – Digiless 0.

Back in Innsbruck it was time to chow down on Käse Spätzle, the German version of Mac and Cheese but really nothing like Mac and Cheese. And to make up for not reaching the top of the mountain I had Tyrolean Bread Dumplings and the onion one was probably the best thing I ate all holiday. This was all at Stiftkeller, a place I normally would skip as it’s right in the city centre, looks tacky and really touristy. As I was going digiless I had to trust recommendations from others and ended up here after my Air BnB host recommended  Stiftkeller is one of the best places to explore those Austrian specialities and I was more than pleasantly surprised – plus it’s right by the old town so a good spot to start venturing from.

The baroque Old Town with its little alleys and cute houses is an attraction itself and no matter what you are there will always be a group of people around the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), the roof itself was built for Emperor Maximilian where he and his wife had front row views for festivals, tournaments, and other exciting events. It is pretty much the most bling thing in Austria. The building is now a museum, where you can learn more about the life of the Emperor and see the city as he saw it. The other thing that caught my eye was a bizarre games shop which had Lenin playing cards on offer in its window.

On the last full day it was time to say Tschüß to the Air BnB and hallo to the Nala Hotel, a boutique spot to spend the last night. The room at Nala was amazing and probably one of my favourite boutique hotel rooms I’ve stayed at but it turned out to be the worst in matter of getting to sleep. I picked a ‘climb up room’ on the top floor with an elevated bed, and as it was boiling hot that day you can imagine the heat rose up, the mini-fan that was provided didn’t help and I had to open the balcony and room doors to breathe some air. So that was a bummer … and the breakfast buffet was a bit expensive compared to similar places. But if you strip it down to the essentials: shower (great pressure, though not everyone might like the idea the shower in this room is divided from the sleeping area by only a glass wall) and wi-fi (worked perfect for me) it gets two thumbs up from me.

After dropping my luggage again I took the mighty city bus to the high up village of Aldrans with a plan on taking a long scenic walk back down to Innsbruck. This route went through a little village and you can see farm animals and crops growing and reminded me of home in Bosnia. But my favourite thing was running into this former station house near an old railway that looked like it wasn’t used anymore. As I walked towards the place I imaged someone creative was living there, which was confirmed by some arty looking stone statues in the garden. I was hoping a little steam train would arrive and take me on an adventure (a la Polar Express), but sadly none arrived. Oh and a shout out to the random exercise and climbing frames that I randomly came across on the trail.

I could not leave the city without seeing the taking an IG worthy photo at the famous coloured houses along the river Inn, so on the way back to the hotel I fufilled that urge!

All in all a great destination for a long weekend when you want to combine city trip with a bit of nature.

Have you been or would you be interested in going to Innsbruck? Or do you have any other good hiking destinations?

Austria

Servus From Innsbruck, Austria

Inns…where? Is what I got a lot when I told people about my next destination. I was on the hunt for somewhere that would tickle my Kotor itch: compact with beautiful nature where I could log out, go digiless (more on that later) and just enjoy some walks. Spoiler alert: my step counter nearly died of surprise at how many steps it tallied up!

After I picked up my Innsbruck Card* I headed to the top of the Nordkette to witness an amazing view from the top looking down along the massive valley. Innsbruck is lucky as it’s busy all year-round, great for skiers and snowboarders from December to April, and then mountaineers/hikers the rest of the year. First you take the funicular to the Hungersberg, then hike up to the Seegrubbe and take the lift to Hafelekarspitze to top it all off! The wind was so strong at the top it actually turned people away, and for a split second I did wonder if I jumped would I get blown away – would have been a quick way to reach the city again.

Hofburg is the royal palace in the city centre with has lots of rooms and paintings, but the highlights are a Barbie pink room where Empress Elisabeth (aka Sisi, anyone remembers this?) played real life dollhouse with Stacey and Krissie circa 1860. There are also Maria Theresa’s Rooms in its original style of the 18th century, I’m sure Austrians know her story, but for the rest of Europe I got the feeling Maria Theresa got a bit overshadowed by Sisi and one of her 11 daughters – Marie Antoinette, yes that Marie Antoinette. My highlight was the Giant’s Hall, one hell of a ballroom which could put Disney to shame. It’s wall to wall decorated with huge portraits of Maria Theresa’s children and grandchildren along with colourful frescoes and there’s even table mirrors so you don’t hurt your neck so much staring at the gorgeous murals on the ceiling – so thoughtful!

A 20-minute tram drive and a 10 minute walk up a hill gets you to Schloss Ambrass, a Renaissance palace filled with shiny armour and more paintings than you can shake a stick at. Most of the canvases portray important looking Austrian people including an Eddie Redmayne- and Uma Thurman look-a-like – the best ones are the very rare ones who actually smile and the bizarre gothic monstrosities! Although from outside it looks like the more impressive of the two, compared to Hofburg it was a bit bland. The park around the castle did make up for it and you can enjoy the peaceful surroundings until late afternoon when I was literally kicked out by an old man and his cute security dog – complete with its own uniform.

*I was gifted a 24H Innsbruck Card* City passes can be a great investment for a city break or total waste of money and the Innsbruck Card is definitely a saver. To give you an idea: a 24-hour card costs you €39 and even if you take the bus once, go up the mountain, visit one museum and climb the church tower you’re going to make your money back. Not only does it only give unlimited travel on public transport, free one-time admission to all museums and visitor attractions but also 1 return trip on each (!) lift and cable car in the Innsbruck region and many many more. With the 3 attractions I visited and public transport, I saved €25,80.

I keep forgetting that you should book a table pretty much anywhere outside London, so when I hopefully walked into burger hotspot Ludwig I got laughed at when I asked for a table. Here I got reminded that how rude and unfriendly Austrian hospitality people can be – something I learned the hard way when I worked in Austria during a ski season. But they did take-away and the burger and fries were delicious, but don’t bother with the Mac and Cheese. Also, a little note that a lot of burgers in Austria contain added spices or flavours in the patty itself, just a heads up. However, the food and service were superb at the Breakfast Club (no relation to the fancy London chain) – I definitely recommend it for satisfying those early/mid-morning cravings.

Have you been or would you be interested in going to Innsbruck?