Given we’re travelling on a budget and getting from A to B is more expensive than I thought it was going to be here in Europe, we decided to give car pooling a go. What’s car pooling I hear you say? Here’s how we got onto this car pooling concept.
We knew we were leaving Salzburg and heading for Innsbruck, so I fired up the excellent travel website www.rome2rio.com to see what transport options we had, and how much they were going to cost. As I’m beginning to continuously discover, the bus (AU$35 each) and train (AU$55 each) options were reasonably expensive, but one option looked rather cheap…rideshare. I had no idea what this was so clicked the tab and out popped the details, including the URL link to the car pooling website, www.carpooling.co.uk.
Basically, if you own a car and are planning a trip somewhere, you register your details, the details of your journey (where and when), how many people you can take and what the price is per seat. People like us who need a ride register their details, and search to see if anyone is travelling from your origin to your destination on the day you want to go. Luckily for us Christina was driving from Salzburg to Innsbruck on the day we wanted to go, so we booked our seats in her car for €12 each (AU$52 total). Not only was it cheaper than the other options, but our ride picked us up from our hotel in Salzburg, and dropped us off at our hotel in Innsbruck. No extra walking, no more connecting trains or buses, just good old fashioned door-to-door service. And we got to meet a local which is part of what this trip is all about.
Christina collected us from our hotel in Salzburg at 9.00am, and after spending a while trying to find space for all of our luggage, we were on our way. She was a really lovely person, spoke reasonably good English, and took an instant shine to Jack which is always a positive. The two hour journey took about three hours as we stopped a couple of times to use the bathroom, and took a wrong turn at one point which sent us back in the direction of Salzburg. Her Navman also ran out of juice as we were entering Innsbruck making it difficult to find our hotel, but we got there in the end. After a quick photo or two and a lengthy goodbye to our new friend, we checked into the Garni Technikerhaus, our home for the next couple of nights.
Our hotel reminded us a lot of a school camp building, but it was the cheapest we could find (€66 per night, or AU$95), included breakfast, had Wi-Fi, and was close enough to the Old Town that we could walk. We had to wait an hour or so to check in, so we dumped our gear in the luggage room and made our way into town to grab a bite to eat. It was just a hit and run trip, but we liked what we saw instantly and there was a playground for Jack to have a run around close to the hotel which is always a bonus. The weather was miserable so we spent the afternoon in our hotel room catching up on our freelancing work and updating the website.
The next day, despite it still being cold and drizzly, we ventured into town to find out what Innsbruck had to offer. As it turns out, not much! OK, that may be a little harsh, but by that I mean the Old Town is really small and you can wander the streets and see everything in a couple of hours. The beautiful Herzog-Friedrich Strasse, with it’s stunning architecture and mountainous backdrop is absolutely picture postcard perfect, but apart from that it’s all a bit disappointing when comparing the Old Towns of many other cities. Don’t get me wrong, the Old Town is an enjoyable experience, but apart from Herzog-Friedrich Strasse, there’s no real ‘wow’ factor about any of it. The architectural highlights for me were the City Tower, Helblinghaus, the Spitalskirche and the row of buildings adjacent to the river on Mariahilfstrasse.
However, where the real beauty lies in Innsbruck, and why people rave about coming here, is in the magnificent mountains surrounding the city, and the fast-flowing, milky-green river running through it. The mountains provide the most stunning of backdrops to the town, and I can only imagine what they must look like in winter all covered in snow. They are truly a sight to behold, surrounding the city to form the Inn Valley, with the Sill River running straight through the middle. No matter where in the city you go, the huge mountains tower over you like nothing I’ve ever seen before. In Australia our tallest mountain is Mt Kosciusko, which is slightly shorter than the many peaks around Innsbruck. The difference is we only have one mountain coming anywhere near as tall as these, and it’s more like a grass covered hill than a mountain, whereas in Innsbruck pointy, rocky mountains of this size are all around!
There’s plenty of buildings, monuments, churches, museums and parks to keep you occupied for a few days, but what people really come here for is skiing in the winter, and mountaineering and mountain biking in the summer. The brilliant Nordkettenbahnen is a train and cable service that runs from the old town right to Hafelekar, the highest station on the Nordkette rail and cableways, it’s peak some 2,256 metres above sea level. It takes about 35 minutes from start to finish, and offers breathtaking views over the city in one direction, and the pristine, untouched mountain ranges in the other…or so we’re told! Unfortunately the weather conspired against us so the mountains were covered in cloud during our entire stay. As such it wasn’t worth paying the €30 each (AU$85, Jack goes free) to be stuck in clouds for a few hours. Apparently the mountain is cloud-free 300 days a year, so I guess we were a bit unlucky. But if you want to see the power and beauty of nature while in Innsbruck, and the budget can stretch that far, I’d highly recommend doing the trip. You can walk around on the many walking tracks, and there’s a restaurant called Karstube where you can enjoy home-made cakes, Tyrolean delicacies and breathtaking views before descending back into the city a few hours later.
While in Innsbruck we organised a Couchsurfing stay with a young guy in Lucerne, our next stop, the day after we had originally planned to leave Innsbruck, so we decided to stay an extra night to get more work done and explore a bit more of the city. I’ll explain more about our first Couchsurfing experience in our Lucerne blog post, but needless to say we’re a little curious as to how it works and what sort of experience we’re going to have. I’m not sure our soon-to-be-friend in Lucerne quite knows what he’s got himself in for!
Click the photo gallery below to check out images of our stay in Innsbruck…