Because parts of the German Autobahn have no speed limit, we made it from Rothenburg to Innsbruck in about three hours. Before driving into Austria, we had to stop at a gas station at the border and buy a Vignette (toll sticker). Once we entered Austria, the roads got more interesting. The road we drove almost all the way from the border to Innsbruck had only one lane and wound its way up and down the mountains. The water down below us was the perfect blue-green shade.
After trying to navigate our way through Innsbruck's many one way streets to reach our hotel, we got to step outside and observe. The most prominent feature of Innsbruck are the mountains that surround it. The peaks are so high that they are covered in snow all year round.
Right around the corner from our hotel was Innsbruck's downtown area. After our long drive, we headed there to scout out dinner. We settled on pizza and Döner boxes inside because it was raining.
This is the Goldenes Dachl (golden roof), Innsbruck's most famous landmark. It was finished in 1500 and is decorated with 2,738 copper tiles. Emperor Maximilian I used it to observe celebrations below.
On our first whole day in Innsbruck, my mom, brothers, cousin, and I decided to go up the mountain. We started off at Congress, at 560 m (1837 ft) above sea level. Traveling up the side of the mountain for about five minutes, we reached Hungerberg at 860 m (2821 ft). Hungerberg gave us an amazing view of Innsbruck below us.
Still, we had a long way up to go. Boarding the Seegrubenbahn (cable car) we rose 1905m (6250 ft) into the sky. As we ascended, we could see the snow slowly increasing.
Once we stepped out of the cable car, it felt like I had been teleported right back to Wisconsin in January. I got my first real glimpse of snow in Europe, because the little snow we did get in Bedburg barely covered the ground and didn't stay for long.
Because it was super cloudy we couldn't see down to Innsbruck, but that didn't make the view any less impressive.
We were very surprised to see that there were many people hiking up the steep side of the mountain. That's definitely not on my bucket list!
We then boarded our final cable car to Hafelekar, 2256 m (7,401 ft) high. This stop was the very last (and highest) point accessible by cable car in the Nordkette. As we rose, I could feel the air getting thinner.
There was something about the sun and the white snow that everything around me look brighter and happier.
After spending about fifteen minutes admiring the view, we hopped back on the cable car to begin the many-stepped process of getting back to our hotel. As we headed back down the mountain, the clouds began to thin and we took in the breathtaking view of Innsbruck below.
As we walked back to the hotel, we passed by the well-known pastel buildings with snowcapped mountains as their background. It was a sight straight off a postcard.
Before my family even arrived in Europe, I had been keeping a list of things I wanted to do in each city that we would visit. With the cable car checked off, my grandma and I set out to explore other items in Innsbruck's Altstadt. Because of some confusion with the city map, this ended up taking way longer than expected.
For some reason, I love churches. Because of time constraints, I had to choose between visiting the Hofkirche and the Cathedral of St. James. I chose the cathedral, mostly due to its close proximity. Although the outside of the church was being worked on, the interior did not disappoint. Even though there was a fee to be able to take pictures inside, I happily slide the €1 coin into the machine to be able to remember this gorgeous building forever. I snapped away for a little less than ten minutes, never getting close to the front because there was a man preaching vehemently that sort of dampened my desire to get closer.
The murals on the ceiling were stunning and ornate. They came together with the cool floor pattern and skylights to take second place on my list of cool churches, right after the Kölner Dom of course.
One of my younger brothers decided that he wanted ice cream at 9 that night, so we got our rain jackets on (of course it was raining) and walked the two minutes from our hotel to downtown. Long story short, we ended up getting lost. On the bright side, we discovered this cool gate. The night wasn't a total loss because then we turned around and found a different restaurant that sold ice cream. Clutching cones for the whole family, we sprinted back to the warmth of Hotel Maximilian.
The morning we were set to leave, we stopped into the Altstadt one final time to do some last minute shopping. We stumbled upon this dance right in the center. There were various pairs of men and women in traditional clothing dancing while holding ropes. While they danced, they weaved the ropes around and around.
Along the way, I found a street artist and bought this painting to have one last thing to remind me of Innsbruck before we got on the road to Salzburg.
Salzburg was our final stop. One of its most famous landmarks is Mirabell Palace. Partly because a few scenes from The Sound of Music, the palace is well-trafficked. Even the rain didn't dissuade many tourists.
In the distance I could see what I believe is Hohensalzburg castle, but don't quote me on that. There were many intricately designed patterns of flowers surviving through the slushy weather.
This is an area that the von Trapp family and Maria run through while singing Do Re Mi.
Stepping outside, we were met by these pretty pink petals littering the ground. This was one of the last pictures I took on our trip. The end of our crazy European vacation came to an end in Frankfurt, where we said our goodbyes. We parted with the knowledge that we would be reunited again in only three short months.