After skiing for the afternoon we drove back towards Munich and stopped in Innsbruck, Austria to explore the city a bit and get dinner. Innsbruck is a small old town tucked in the northern Austrian Alps, it is the capital of the state of Tyrol.
It was about a 45 minute drive from Stubaier Gletscher, so we arrived right around nightfall. We parked right outside the center and walked towards the Old Town, initially unimpressed by a surprisingly large amount of trash and standard architecture. This quickly changed when we coincidentally stumbled upon a massive Christmas parade… There were mobs of children dressed up in white robes with lit candles, people shepherding sheep throughout the streets and men with long brown cloaks holding large wooden sticks with flames. It looked like a medieval scene straight out of Hogwarts or Lord of the Rings. Quite the unique entrance into a new city!
We followed the parade throughout the town, occasionally the procession of children would stop to sing Christmas carols. We had no idea what this town wide parade was, but of course it seemed like everyone else did. The entire city was in the center of town for the parade, a lot of local families, which was unlike our more touristy experience in Salzburg. Even though it was already dark, you could still see the gorgeous, old, colorful buildings that line the main streets and were illuminated by the Christmas lights.
Once we saw that the parade was coming to an end we walked around the Old Town and saw tons of Christmas markets, lights, restaurants, old churches and a small play being performed for local kids. The city felt familiar, quiet and magical.
We made it all of the way to the river, to check out what the bridge and the other side looked like. During the daytime you can see the peaks of the Alps towering over these buildings, but unfortunately in the dark they weren’t as incredibly impressive. We also walked around the Marktplatz market square with a carousel and Christmas vendors.
We had thought that Salzburg seemed old, but even from our couple of hours in Innsbruck in the dark I could feel that the origins of the city were even more ancient. There were stone plaques written in Latin of old dates and endless old stones and massive wooden doors.
In the main square, which was all jazzed up with a giant tree and a bunch of lights, we got to see the Helblinghaus, a beautiful white building from the 15th Century with elaborate Gothic and Rococo designs.
Adjacent to the Helblinghaus is another famous building, the Golden Roof building (Goldenes Dachl) which is one of the main highlights of the Old Town of Innsbruck that dates back to the Middle Ages (1500) when Maximilian I ordered the construction. The roof has over 2,500 original copper tiles, which you can see on the right side of the image.
As we were stumbling around the cobblestone streets trying to decipher all of the old signs and guess the ages of the buildings, we were overwhelmed by the echoing GONGS of the cathedral bells, which drew us closer to sneak into the Cathedral of St. James. The cathedral was built in 1180, but suffered from earthquake damage in the 16/17 Century so it was reconstructed. Check out how beautiful the front facade is!
As it was getting late, Dad and I decided to wander back towards the car in search for a spot for dinner. I would have loved to stay longer exploring the city, but we still had the couple hours to drive back to Munich. We ended up eating at a strange restaurant called Orangerie. Which worked fine for a quick dinner, but unfortunately, I would not recommend!
After doing some research on the parade upon getting home, we realized that what we had stumbled upon was the Christkindleinzug parade, a town wide tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years. Each year the children dress up as angels and shepherds and begin the solemn procession with the sheep through the city at 5 PM. What a beautiful tradition! I could tell that the families of Innsbruck are very proud and tied to their city, which makes me appreciate the culture even more. I loved the mystical feel of walking around at night, so hopefully some day I can get the chance to explore the city during the day!