I hadn't really heard of Innsbruck before embarking on our trip. In fact, it wasn't really on our itinerary. My friends and I flew from London to Munich, only to walk around for hours in search of a hostel. To make matters worse, I caught a cold and was having a miserable time. We decided to cut our losses and catch a train somewhere and decide from there whether or not to go on. If our next port was as bad as our day in Munich, we would catch a flight to Heathrow and somehow make it back to the States a week early.
We picked Innsbruck. Friends of friends had been there and recommended it. We wanted to include Austria, but Salzburg (home of the singing Von Trapps!) was too far and too touristy. Innsbruck was a short and cheap train ride - best of all, there was one immediately.
Innsbruck had a lot to live up to, but I was enamored immediately. As soon as we left the train station, we were surrounded by the Alps, brightly colored buildings, and a beautiful river right by our hostel. The river is a sage color in August, but changes season-to-season as it runs down the mountain. It is also ICE cold and not recommended for swimming!
The city hosted the winter Olympics some years ago, and is internationally known for winter skiing. It is still pretty buy in the summer with many tourists. The center of the city is rather kitschy - lederhosen, caps with feathers sticking out of them (think Heidi) and other tacky souvenirs. We did have fantastic food at reasonable prices, and our hostel was dirt cheap but clean and safe. The waiters were more than happy to help us understand the German menu, and most spoke English or listened patiently to our fractured German.
Overall I was more than pleased with our two-day stop in Innsbruck. I can't wait until I can go back for a full week in the summer, stay at the Fritz Hostel and take advantage of the Mountain Hiking Programme every day. I'm aiming for a "Gold Medal" to replace the bronze one I lost in Paris. Many of my friends stopped in Innsbruck on their backpacking tours and agreed that it was the most beautiful place they had seen. Take a break from the Parises, Londons, and yes, even Pragues, and check out this amazing town in Austria.