To me traveling is more then just standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or Coliseum and taking a picture for Facebook. It's about learning the culture, trying new things and experiencing another way of life. That is why when traveling to Austria I chose to visit Innsbruck as opposed to the larger Austrian cities, such as Salzburg or Vienna.
I have seen mountains before in British Columbia and northern Quebec, however the sheer size and the 360 degree bombardment of the Austrian Alps surrounding the entire city actually brought tears of joy to my girlfriend's eyes. During the winter months, Innsbruck has been a skier's utopia over the last century and has even hosted the Winter Olympics twice in 1964 and 1976. As my trip took place in September, it provided a great opportunity to view how the citizens in this mountain town live their lives in the off season.
Even though there was little snow on the peaks of the mountains in September, Innsbruck had a lot to offer and, of course, my first goal was to conquer the mountain. A cable car conveniently picks up travellers in the city centre and transfers you to another, and then another cable car to finally reach the top of the Nordkette peak, which is over 2300 meters above sea level. As soon as the cable car doors open, a cool mountain breeze awakens all of your senses and before you can process how to feel, you will look down at the dot that is now Innsbruck, two kilometres below your feet.
The gondola ride to the top can be somewhat pricey, however if you are in the city for more then a day I recommend buying the 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour Innsbruck card (www.innsbruck.info/en/experience/innsbruck-card.html). The card includes a trip up and down one mountain range, along with free transit within Innsbruck and many discounts throughout the city. The card also includes one free ticket to the Swarovski Kristallwelten Museum, along with a shuttle that takes you to and from the museum into the city centre (kristallwelten.swarovski.com/Content.Node/Startseite.en.html).
If you are looking for a large hotel room with an unnecessarily oversized television and 24-hour room service, I recommend you stay in North America.
I stayed at the Art Hotel Binders, which is only a 20 minute walk or 10 minute bus ride from the city centre (www.binder.at). All of the rooms are unique, cozy and portray an authentic European lifestyle with a supermarket and coffee shop just down the street. There are limited chain hotels in Innsbruck, which drastically increases hotel prices, therefore Hotel Binders provided a wonderful experience for half the price.
Winter, spring, summer or fall Innsbruck, Austria is a wonderful city for adrenaline junkies, couples, families and anyone wanting to hide from the tourist traps throughout Europe and witness how actual Europeans really live.
Adam Splonick functions best in high altitudes and thin air environments. He says it helps clear his mind. He is based out of Ottawa, Canada and juggles working for the Department of National Defence and diligently attending his classes at Carleton University.