European Vacation
Innsbruck
30 Dec 03 European Vacation 01 Jan 04
In case you didn't realize it, you can click on the pictures for a bigger image.
Wednesday, 31 December 2003
Innsbruck is the only major city in the European Alps. Its name is derived from the original meaning "Bridge over the Inn" and the first recorded mention of the name 'Inspruke' dates back to 1167. It is in this ancient town that we planned to bring in the new year. You can find out more about Innsbruck by clicking here.

We got a later start than planned, but we got to wake up to snow! Hooray! Too bad we missed the free breakfast up on the top floor. At least there was a nice view of a park outside our window, and the snow didn't appear to be sticking. Jen was disappointed that there was so much cloud cover, which meant that the mountains weren't really visible. To tell the truth, I was still loving the view we had.

Once we got cleaned up and dressed, we bundled up and headed out into the nice, cool air. Actually, it was COLD, but ... SNOW! Did I mention I love snow? Jen led us towards one of her favorite places for lunch. She's been telling us about this place for some time. So we went to ... drumroll please ... Wienerwald! (see picture to right)
Jen was, in her own words, "pretty amped" about going there, and while Andrea and I didn't get quite as hyped about it as she did, it was good food. Jen got her long sought after schnitzel mit pommes, that's breaded veal (or pork) with french fries. "Absolute heaven," according to Jen. The chicken was good too, but then that's what made Wienerwald famous in the first place. According to our guide, Weinerwald has gotten much more upscale than it used to be, but you know, I'm not complaining. The food was great!

We finished lunch happier and fatter then began our personal, guided tour of the city. We started by heading back down Maria-Teresa Straße and and to one of the town's most famous landmarks: the "Goldenes Dachel" (golden roof), a pavilion from which the Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519) used to watch festivities in the town square below. If you look a little to the left and beyond the golden arches you'll see the golden roof in all its glory.
After visiting the Goldenes Dachel we headed down the narrow, twisty streets of downtown Innsbruck headed for the place where Jen's favorite eis (ice cream) shop used to be. She wasn't too happy to find out that a pizza place had replaced her beloved eis shop. In fact a lot of her old haunts seemed to have changed hands. I guess the places just couldn't live with the fact that Jen had left them and had to move on. We wandered the streets for a while enjoying the sights and sounds of a town preparing to bring in a new year.
From downtown we headed towards the river that gives this old city its name. We walked next to the river down to the "Uni" (Jen's word) and the International Studentenhaus (her old dorm), and past the mensa. It was a beautiful walk, despite all Jen and Andrea have to say about the cold weather. Brisk...that's the word I'd use, although in the pictures I look pretty miserable. I
don't seem to be very photogenic. Apparently I need some lessons from Jen's mom on how to take pictures.
Jen tells us that the river is much lower during winter, but it has a beautiful green/blue color that can't be captured with a camera. Jen did pretty well with the photo on the right, despite the VERY overcast skies. I couldn't even see the mountains with all the cloud cover.
To the left I've got a little gallery of some of the pictures we took using my camera as well as Jen's. I was having a great time enjoying my view of the mountains and Jen was having a great time correcting me by telling me that those weren't really
mountains, just foothills. Actually, I think she was getting a little upset with me, but I still loved the view. I've seen mountains before, and these reminded me of the Great Smokey
Mountains in the back in the US. Aren't these views great? Not that the pictures do them any justice. You're going to have to go yourself if you want more. Don't forget to invite me!

Along the way to the Uni, I managed to talk Jen and Andrea into a slight delay in our walk because I wanted to
play around in the snow. Actually, I convinced them it would be fun to build a mini snowman. Jen and
Andrea weren't interested in playing in the snow, however. They claimed that their gloves were too thin to be playing with snow. That's OK, more fun for me! So I made a little fellow on the ledge of the river wall. Looks like he's either surveying his vast domain or getting ready to hop off into the river.

We continued on our walk through the campus, then worked our way over to the other side of town. Jen took us over to the Hofgarten, home of many a memorable (and not so memorable) nights out...for Jen. More on that later
if we can drag the stories out of her. We also saw some of the museums and work being done to spruce them up a little. I'll bet the area near the Hofgarten is pretty breathtaking in spring and summer.
On the way back to the hotel for a break I decided I wanted some streudel, so I talked the girls into grabbing a seat in a small bakery/café. Once I confirmed with the hostess that they had streudel, I asked for a table for 3. Somehow she decided that I had asked for 3 streudels and brought them out, with vanilla sauce, not vanilla eis. We explained that we didn't want all 3, and settled for 2 of them. Jen was looking pretty green while Andrea and I ate our streudels. She told us afterwards that the smell of food almost did her in. She was really full, and definitely did NOT want any food.

We managed to make it out of the backerei without losing Jen, and rather than back to the hotel, she led us through the market area near the river. I guess she needed a little fresh air. Jen expressed a desire to take a nap so she wouldn't have to kill us later that night during the fireworks. We all headed back to the Penz and apparently we each needed a nap because we all dozed off for a bit.

I woke up first and decided to wander out into the snow for a little while. I worked my way towards the Goldenes Dachel where they were preparing for the coming night. After doing a little window shopping I headed towards the river so I could look out at the mountains again.

Eventually I worked my way back to the room to get the ladies up for dinner. That was easier said than done, however. They had their warm and cozy vs. my cold weather and food. I think food finally got them out of bed, but at that point I was ready to take whatever worked.

We left the hotel to get something for dinner and found ourselves at one of the pizza places...yep, that's right, we flew all the way to Europe to eat pizza. Jen and Andrea split a slice of magherita pizza (that's cheese for those of you who were wondering) and I got a slice of pepperoni. Actually, they got a single piece and were trying to figure out how to split it when one of the guys in hanging out in the place saved the day. He went to the counter and borrowed a slicer from the vendor...I guess he's a regular since he seemed to know them. Unfortunately he wound up trying to chat with Jen and Andrea, but we didn't know what he was saying and they were getting a little wierded out.

We scarfed our pizza and walked around a bit sort of scouting for good places to watch the festivities. When we got a little too cold, we stopped at a little cafe, my choice since no one else seemed to care which one we went to. Too bad the one I picked didn't have a heater that worked very well, and I chose a table near the door. I hadn't really considered the draft as people come in and out. The glühwein was nice and hot, which is what we really needed. It hit the spot and warmed us up as we sat and talked.

We headed back to the Hofgarten, only this time the paths were very slick from snow that had melted, then refrozen as ice. I'm the only on who hasn't fallen yet. Hooray for me! We finally got to see the Hofgarten as Jen probably saw it most of the times she had her fun there. Alas, it was not to be so for us. Thanks to the upcoming new year, the Hofgarten was all ritzed up and we weren't ready for that. We didn't have a reservation either, and they probably wouldn't have appreciated a group of interlopers.

It was getting late, so we worked our way back to the river to find our viewing spot. There's no way I could do proper justice to the fireworks, but I'll try anyway. Let me start by saying that these folks know how to put on a show! You can see the people in the pictures on the right.
Unfortunately, my a lot of the pictures didn't come out. My old camera wasn't really suited to taking pictures on a dark night with all that smoke in the air.
Anyway, we thought we were watching the firework show. There were fireworks all around us in the mountains and along the water. I got a better idea of how high the mountains went up because whoever was up there was launching some doozies. We finally realized that these were regular people launching all the
fireworks when all of a sudden the sky lit up with some of the best fireworks I've seen in a long time. They kept
going and going and going and...well, you get the picture. There were some fireworks where the streamers travelled a while, then exploded into a whole new set of bloomers. Basically there was almost 30 minutes of night shattering fireworks to bring in the new year. The fog and smoke from the earlier, amateur poppers only made the real ones better.
That's when the abundance of EMTs and fire rescue people finally made sense. All the fireworks before the big show were just the intro. Those were put set off by amateurs, both the ones in the mountains and the ones along the river.
Jen had mentioned something about 'illuminating the Inn' (the Inn river, that is) she really meant it. Definitely worth the effort of hunting for a place to stay on such short notice. We were so enthralled with the effects that we completely forgot about the cold. I guess I should speak for myself. Just after they really ended (there were a couple of fakeouts) Jen told us her toes were frozen.

We knew what that meant...back to the hotel to thaw out. We threaded our way back through all the singing, dancing and general mayhem or lots of drunk people. Jen tried to call home, but she didn't have the PIN number, so that didn't work. Between the nap and the gorgeous fireworks we were still pretty worked up and we ended up staying up until 3am just chatting amongst ourselves. I suppose jet lag may have had something to do with it also, but it was fun.

30 Dec 03 European Vacation 01 Jan 04
Send all questions or comments about this page to Aamir.