Ascension Day meant that in our Catholic canton the children were off school for a long weekend.  We decided to make the most of our central European location and take a short(ish) trip over the border into Austria and explore Innsbruck.  I have to admit that the only thing I knew about Innsbruck was the hosting of the Winter Olympics (which the city has done twice, the last time being in 1976) but my husband has happy memories of childhood holidays spent in Igls, just 5 kilometres out of the city at the foot of the Patscherkofel mountain.

It took us about four hours to make the journey from Steinhausen; wending our way through the small, but perfectly formed, gem of Liechtenstein, before threading our way round the Arlberg Pass, rising to a height of just over 1,800 metres, and arriving in the heart of the Tyrolean Mountains at Igls.  It’s easy to imagine the bustling, hyperactivity of Igls in the winter as it seemed that every street had places to hire skis, snowboards and sledging equipment with a cable car station for the Olympic resort just a few hundred yards from the centre of the town.  However, what with it being May, skiers had been replaced with hikers and cyclists, a far more sedate crowd.  We stayed at the Sporthotel and any hotel that greets its guests with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine gets my recommendation every time, the perfect antidote to four hours in the car with the children!

Friday was rainy and chilly.  Not the best conditions to wander round a city but actually it meant that it wasn’t as busy as it perhaps would have been otherwise.  The main attraction in Innsbruck is the Golden Roof.  Yes, the major landmark is indeed a roof.  Yes, yes I know that it is quite a spectacular roof, it is tiled in 2,657 gold-plated copper tiles after all, BUT it is still a roof…  Anyway, this fabulously tiled balcony was where Emperor Maximilian I watched tournaments and other entertainments taking place in the square below.

Just around the corner is The Cathedral of St James (now, that has a roof – triple domed no less).  This is a beautiful Baroque cathedral containing a stunning painting “Maria Hilf” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which is apparently one of the most famous Madonna and child paintings in the world meaning that Innsbruck is a surprising pilgrimage destination.  I have to say that, although I am not particularly religious, I do like a good church, perhaps the consequence of having Wells Cathedral firmly tapestried into the backdrop of my youth.  I love it when you step in through the massive doors uncertain of whether you’ll be awed by majestic simplicity or overwhelmed by Catholic opulence.  The Cathedral of St James was beautiful.  Impressive ceiling frescoes, gorgeous coral stucco work, Rococo ornaments and a blinging high alter mean that this cathedral doesn’t disappoint.

As I said, I knew nothing about Innsbruck apart from it being a venue for the Winter Olympics, consequently the trip was not going to be complete without taking in the Ski Jump at Bergisel!  Well, all I can say is that ski jumpers must be mentally challenged!  Honestly, we stood at the point on the run where the jumpers set off, with a spectacularly stomach churning view over Innsbruck, knowing that you could (if you were trained and didn’t have a death wish) then launch yourself down the slope to land, with a bit of luck and a fair amount of skill, on both feet in the sweet zone at the bottom.  Awesomely horrific if you ask me!  What’s more Bergisel jump has a wonderful view of the city’s cemetery at its base.  Even J, who is the family’s daredevil, decided that perhaps he wouldn’t like to give ski jumping a go after all, I have to say, I am relieved.

Our city break to Innsbruck wound up on the Saturday with a wonderful visit to Swarovski Kristallwelten, which is found in Wattens, about 15 minutes from Innsbruck.  T wrote about our visit which you can read by clicking here:  Sparkle & Shine.  Innsbruck is a surprising city and not all about winter sports, well worth a visit.