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Wild and never without schnaps: Innsbruck

We’re leaving our little paradise on Gerlosberg today for a contrasting program. Innsbruck! How will we feel in a city after all this time in the quiet and peaceful countryside? How will it compare to our stay in Salzburg? Only time will tell.

One problem with the countryside, apart from zero nightlife, is getting around. The transport options are limited, to say the least. We decide to take the only scheduled bus for the day down the mountain and into the little alpine town, where we will start to hitch from. The bus only leaves once.a.day. Can you imagine?!

After waiting at the bus stop for twenty minutes with a few local mothers and getting strange stares from them, we realise it’s the school bus. No grown up travellers allowed. Damn.

We do what grown ups are allowed to do and stop a car on the road. Waiting not even 5 minutes, the second car stops. It’s a white van (biggest nightmare) with an older mechanic dude driving it. I think he is well nice but unfortunately his dialect is so heavy that I don’t have the slightest clue what he is talking about. It’s a phenomenon I’ve encountered in France later on as well. As long as you nod and laugh at the right moments (when they pause) and sometimes let out an Oooh or Ah!, combined with a giggle, 90 percent of people won’t realise that you don’t understand them. Scientifically proven by me. Try it!

Panic at the petrol station

The nice alpine mechanic man drops us off at a great hitch point (the only hitch point), and there we wait for our next ride. Which doesn’t take long at all! That’s another great thing about the countryside. A lot of people are a. friendlier and b. well aware that the bus only goes on odd days at 8.30 in the morning in April, June and October.

This time, a young couple takes us to a petrol station just outside Jenbach, close to the motorway that goes all the way through West Austria via Innsbruck.

On the way there, the girl tells us how she was the one who made the decision to give us a ride, not her boyfriend who is driving. He would NEVER pick up strange people, which he happily confirms. Well, that’s just a little awkward, thanks! They head on to a party weekend at Achensee and we have a coffee at the petrol station. And then we wait. For a long time. The spot isn’t ideal. Cars are shooting out of the tunnel just before it way too fast and can’t see us in time. But we have to get to Innsbruck tonight! We’re not sure anymore if we will make it though…

Suddenly, a tiny old car comes scuttling out of the tunnel, the driver sees us and just about swerves in time, almost hitting a petrol pump. Yay! I walk to the car and drop a whole lot of thankfulness in German on him, only to get a confused stare and an explanation. Everybody, meet Tom. Tom is Dutch. His English is excellent though, so I place Aydin on the passenger seat to chat with him. Meanwhile I enjoy the landscape from the backseat, diving in and out of the conversation.

Tom works as a chef in a fancy ski hotel, also DJs and is generally super cool and mega relaxed. He’s on his way to pick up his brother from the airport in Innsbruck but makes a detour for us to drop us in town, close to where we’ll spend the night. This is a surprisingly hard goodbye as we get along well, but we’re off now to meet our Couchsurfing hosts!

Our happy place in Innsbruck

Chris and Markus have kindly agreed to host us for two nights which will a. give us badly needed human contact, b. save us a bunch of money cause Innsbruck is pricey! I’m super excited to go there – My mum has been when she was around my age and loved it.

Chris comes to meet us halfway and guides us to his flat. As it turns out we’re in luck because their new roommate hasn’t moved in yet. We get a whole room to ourselves!

It’s warm and cosy, and that’s not just because the heater is on but also because Markus and Chris are up there with the most kindhearted people we’ve ever met. They speak to each other like they have known each other for 100 years, and interact with each other in a deeply sarcastic and amazing lovingly way. They mock each other like they can’t understand how the other could possibly survive on their own. At the same time they ponder how lucky they are to have found each other. It seems like they are so at ease with their lives, their whole way of living together is smooth and runs smooth like clockwork, they are 100% appreciative of each other. They totally get each other.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a couple so precious and so perfect for each other before. Being around them feels like being allowed into their happy place for a while where live is good, conversations range from deep to ridiculous and irony is all-encompassing. From the first minute on we all get along great, and Ayd and I feel right at home there. Maybe a little too much, but more on that later.

Sightseeing and schnaps-tasting

A last minute emergency couchsurfer is due to arrive later to sleep in the kitchen. In the meantime Chris takes us for a tour through Innsbruck. What a pretty place! It’s smaller than Vienna and has a more personal feel. Since it’s a student town it has has a laid-back, young vibe. It’s nestled in between the alps, divided by a river and its center is largely made up of little alleyways, interrupted by some large squares. This gives it both a medieval and grand, royal feel. Chris takes us to the oldest patisserie cafe in Innsbruck. As you walk through the doors it feels like the 19th century in all its vintage charm. We introduce Aydin to Florentiner biscuits (My favourites since my childhood and those here are almost as good as my mum’s), a revelation for him!

Although Chris hasn’t lived here for long he’s quite knowledgeable and shares historical facts and insider tips with us which by now we have mostly forgotten. What we do remember though is his tentative question at the end if we would like to see the best liquor store in town?

Hell yeah we do! We find ourselves in what I can only describe as a sweets shop but for adults and all the sweets are actually schnaps. The alcohol comes in all sizes, shapes and colours and the best thing is, you get to taste some for free! Two shots later I already feel a bit tipsy and Chris decides to buy a bottle to take home and share with Markus. “It will help with his cold”, and we nod in agreement. We all know that schnaps kills bacteria. We’ve got an education after all.

After a snack at the witchy Hokus Pokus cafe to sober up we find ourselves back in their kitchen where we will spend the majority of the next days, sipping tea with schnaps and having conversations about just anything in the world with our hosts. The third couchsurfer joins later in the evening, and after that all the schnaps had shown its impact because I don’t remember much more.

A bird’s eye view of Innsbruck

The next day we sleep in and wake up secretly wishing we wouldn’t have to leave so soon again. Markus has to go to uni (He’s actually a super talented pianist and will most likely be the next Mozart) but Chris walks with us to an Alm overlooking Innsbruck. It might be the hangover, it might be just a general level of unfitness, but as the path gets steeper we find it hard to keep up with Chris who chirpily walks ahead. The scene is so idyllic, I can almost see birds landing on his shoulders and squirrels dancing around him in the sunshine that breaks through the trees like in a Disney film. The only thing ruining it is the two sweaty backpackers panting after him.

As we arrive at the Alm, we immediately order a giant portion of dumplings and pints of drinks, and only after satisfying our immediate needs we notice the beautiful view over the city. So worth it! There are lots of locals hanging out and enjoying the sun, most of them with a glass of schnaps in front of them. Suddenly a group of elderly Tyroleans spontaneously burst into song. This is something I’m rather used to after almost three decades on Austrian soil but it still never ceases to amuse me. We’re delighted by the free entertainment provided and only get ready to leave after a long while – Chris has a meeting for his new job as a teacher and we promised to cook Aydin’s famous Thai curry tonight.

On a walk along the river we spotted the local youth hangout where these two friends shared a song – Right behind a big “No entry” sign not pictured here. Pure anarchy!

Coriander catastrophe

We part ways in town and only then we remember what a mission it is to get coriander in Austria. Only after 10 years of living in Vienna we found a trusty dealer. We have tried it in Salzburg and Carinthia to no avail. Things are looking bleak in Innsbruck too. After trying three supermarkets we decide to walk 40 minutes to the biggest supermarket in town, get there just before closing time and then walk back to Markus and Chris’ house. We’re super late, stressed and embarrassed to have kept them waiting for dinner for so long but as usual we’re met with nothing but kind words – and of course a cup of tea with schnaps. I guess it doesn’t come as a surprise that we stayed for a whole week instead of two nights…

FACTS FACTS FACTS

How to get there

By train. Or the other train. Or bus. Maybe even hitchhiking. Really easy. Krimml waterfalls would be an excellent choice for a day trip from Innsbruck, or even Kaprun high alpine dams if you’d like to go further.

Accommodation

We recommend Couchsurfing for Innsbruck. It’s a student town and there are plenty of people hosting. We got especially lucky and had the chance to stay with the greatest two guys and while we are totally non biased in saying no one could ever be as perfect, we’re sure that there are other nice hosts out there too. If that’s not your jam, check out Booking.com for some decent deals on accommodation.

Booking.com

Hike

The walk up to Umbrüggler Alm (1123m) is lovely and easily doable from Innsbruck center. First walk through town, head to the Hungerburgbahn, then cross the river and walk towards and past the alpine zoo (You might even spot some animals from the back). Voila, you’re on the trail! It’s really short and sweet as long as you’re not hungover. The food at the Alm is amazing!

Pro Tip

Culinary delights! Visit Cafe-Konditorei Munding for delcicious cakes and a Habsburg feeling, and the Tirol Geniessen liquor store to taste some colourful schnaps.

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