Austria, Tyrol, Innsbruck

The colorful homes of the Mariahilfstrasse houses on the Inn river.

Shoe-Slapping Tyrolean Fun

How many places can say it's hosted the Winter Olympics not once, but twice? (Hint: only three.) Innsbruck is one of them. This " Largest ski resort in the Alps " offers rail connections to the mountains of Seefeld, Zell am Ziller and the world-famous downhill runs at Kitzbühel. But don't run up the mountain just yet. Innsbruck's medieval Altstadt – or Old Town – with narrow, cobbled streets surrounded by the mountains majesty is a must-see Alpine destination in itself.

The Hofkirche Cathedral has the most important emperor's tomb monument in Europe, holding Emperor Maximlian I, grandfather to Ferdinand I. Especially characteristic are the larger-than-life bronzes – schwarze mander – that display members of different dynasties.

Alpenzoo is Europe's highest altitude zoo that specializes in Alpine animals (who must be used to the thinner air.) With outdoor enclosures, aviaries, the world's largest collection of Alpine fish specials and a barnyard with farm animal races, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon away from the slopes.

You can see both with your Innsbruck Card, which gives access to many of the city's attractions, including museums, palaces and castles and a little house known as the "Golden Roof." This Gothic-Baroque hybrid is an Innsbruck landmark. Built in 1500, it was decorated with over 2500 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian, who would sit in the royal box below and enjoy tournaments in the square below.

For a real insight into traditional Tyrolean culture, the Tiroler Abend is a must see. Here you'll find all the stereotypes on the menu: yodeling, shoe-slapping, traditional dances and clothes in a classic Alpine haus. The Gundolf family has been putting on dinner shows for more than 40 years. Enjoy apple strudel with a side of cowbells.

Despite being a smaller city, Innsbruck has fantastic train connections to many major cities. The main station, Hauptbahnhof is located at Südtiroler Platz and offers direct service to Salzburg in about two hours, Munich in less than three hours, Zurich in 3.5 hours, even Venice, in approximately six hours. No wonder we offer so many rail passes that combine Austria with other countries.

Innsbruck is at the crossroads of Europe, both physically and culturally. Come for the mountains. Stay for the yodeling.

Contributed by: Duncan, Chief Commercial Officer, a European who has traveled on trains in 19 countries in Europe.

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