May 28, 2012


After our two days in Venice, we took the train into Innsbruck, Austria, a little town in a valley in the middle of the Alps. The train ride through northern Italy and into Austria was GORGEOUS. It started with mountains in the distance, and then entering into the mountain range and then right in the middle of the mountains, snow capped peaks and all.

Our first day in Innsbruck was fairly tame. We arrived at 2:30p, checked into the hotel, Weiss Kreuz (lovely and including a separate legit shower), ate lunch and did some much needed laundry. While Ross relaxed in the hotel after that, I explored the Swarovski Innsbruck store which was literally 3 doors down from the hotel.

Downtown Innsbruck
Then we wandered through the town, stopping for a few happy hour drinks along the way during which Ross was in his element with the plethora different locally brewed beer options. We ate a tasty traditional Austrian dinner: sausage for him, a veggie omelet for me. And it was off to bed early to be well rested for our big day of hiking.

Day two we woke up fairly early (being so far north, the sun rose extremely early, like complete daylight by 5:45a and set pretty late, around 9:30p or so), dressed in our "hiking gear" (ie gym clothes) and headed toward the mountains. We had directions to take a bus to the trailheads but that didn't work out so well. We could not find the damned J bus to save our lives. A little more walking than planned and a short cable car ride later and we were finally at the base of the mountain and ready to start our three hour hike into the Alps.

Start of our hike
This hike was challenging. We've hiked in the Davis Mountains (OK hills) and in the Rockies but this was by far the most challenging. I swear there was a 60-70 degree grade at times. It felt nearly vertical!

After 30 or 40 minutes, I begged Ross to switch to the gravel cyclist road for a bit, which we did but it was not nearly as direct so it wasn't long before we were back on the trail and going up, up, up.

Starting to get a little snowy...
We stopped for lunch and the view was just awesome. Really the view was great at every juncture. So a quick rest and lunch of beef jerky and European Pringles and we were back at it. After about 90 minutes of hiking/lunching/whatever, we started to encounter some pretty decently sized patches of snow.

At around two hours into the hike, the trail began, in my opinion, to become very poorly marked. And the ground was slippery from the melting snow. And I couldn't really see any other people. And we were really high. Let's just say I started to freak the hell out.

You've heard of fight or flight, well I went into "fight by flight" mode and started to sprint up the mountain. Since I was convinced I was going to fall, Ross let me in front so he could catch me when if I fell. He also asked me a time or two to slow down because I was going on pure fear and adrenaline.

When we got to a spot that was even less clear in terms of the trail, Ross went ahead about 20 yards (much to my dismay) to look for clearer marking. He saw it and came back to help me up a big step and across some snow. And then he slipped on the snow and slid 15 feet down the side of the mountain.

Holy heck. After he got back on his two feet and got me over the step and snow, I sat down and became HYSTERICAL. I started sobbing and sputtering about sliding down mountains, and having to gnaw off arms that would certainly get stuck between rocks and dying in the Alps where nobody would ever find us. I told you, freaked the hell out.

Fortunately, my smart and emergency savvy husband (thank you firefighter training) was able to calm his mildly irrational wife down and get her safely back on her feet. About 20 minutes later we came to a clearing and God bless, a road. At the end of the zig-zaggy road, was the observation deck/cable car pick-up we were aiming for.

About 45 minutes of walking up the zig-zaggy road, and through some serious snow we were at the very top of the mountain. Alive and victorious. (There was a restaurant at the top and plenty of people eating and drinking and enjoying the view. I definitely looked at them and thought "wimp, you cheated for this view. I CLIMBED this bad boy." I felt much cooler than them and was certainly more exhausted/in need of food and drink.)
Tons o' snow on the last part of our hike
I did it!
I can honestly say the hike, especially that hour of freaking out, was the scariest thing I've ever experienced. But being at the top of the mountain, after being convinced I'd never make it, was the most rewarding, victorious moment probably of my whole life.

As is no surprise, the remainder of that day was well-deserved resting, eating and sleeping.

On our third and last day in Innsbruck, we went to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds, a museum and shopping extravaganza two towns over.

385The museum part was OK. We definitely established that we are not modern art people at all. Some of the displays, like the crystal palace, were really cool. Others were downright creepy. There were even sound effects that included a screaming person!

Now the shopping, that was another story. It was the largest Swarovski shop in the world and they simply had tons. After much deliberation, we came home with a red crystal Santa's hat Christmas ornament, lovely dangley sparkley earrings for me and a couple gifts for our favorite mamas (which they have not seen yet so I will not disclose details).

Post-Swarovski, we went to the Alpine Museum, Hofburg Imperial Palace and the top of the City Tower. All very different but pretty cool.

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