Natural architecture in Innsbruck
auren swapped her home country of Australia for this small town in Austria and she couldn’t be happier. Her life has turned around 180 degrees, 16,000 kilometres and a temperature difference of nearly 30 degrees. What used to be her summer is now her winter, and instead of climbing onto a surfboard, she straps on her skis and goes wandering along the 300 kilometres of pistes at Olympia SkiWorld. This is life in Innsbruck for an Australian, a continual spectacle of new landscapes and unpredictable seasons. Plus a never-ending supply of outdoor activities.
It’s not a question of nationalities—even the Austrians are amazed at how lucky they are. Not everyone can wake up every morning among mountains and lakes in the heart of the Alps. Or get to Austria’s biggest nature park in eight minutes. Although in this case, it’s more a case of technical prowess than of luck. The Hungerburgbahn funicular railway connects the historic quarter with the Nordkette mountain range, part of the Karwendel nature reserve. It makes several stops on the way, one of which is at the Alpine Zoo, the highest in Europe at 750 metres. It’s home to more than 2,000 animals, including bears, lynx, eagles and wolves.
I want to ride my bike... in Innsbruck
It's hosted the Winter Olympic Games three times, but as bicycles are for the summer, the good weather makes this a cycling paradise. Watch out for two cycling events: the Crankworx Festival, in Austria for the first time, and the 2018 UCI Road World Championships.
The last station is Hungerburg, an elegant white building with curved lines imitating a block of ice. Like the other stations on the funicular, this is also the work of prestigious architect Zaha Hadid, who died last year. Her modern designs are inspired by glaciers and the snowy landscapes of the Tyrol, and in winter they are camouflaged amongst the surrounding white peaks. Each of the stations is adapted to fit into its own landscape, altitude and conditions, but they all share a feeling of lightness and fluidity, like snowflakes floating among the mountains.
This wasn’t the Anglo-Iraqi architect’s first work in Innsbruck. In 2002 the Bergisel ski jump was officially opened. The previous one, dating from 1926, no longer complied with international standards, meaning it couldn’t be used for Olympic competitions, as it had done in 1964 and 1976. Zaha Hadid’s architecture studio won the open competition to replace it with a minimalist yet enormously high construction, almost 50 metres higher than the Bergisel Ski Jump. Like in Hungersburg, she was inspired by nature’s forms and shapes. The ramp follows the mountainside, blending into its surroundings and ending in a tower and an observation platform where there’s a restaurant with 360º scenic views over Innsbruck and the countryside. Lauren sometimes goes up to watch the ski jumpers train and enjoy the breakfast at Bergisel SKY.
But her favourite place for gazing at Alpine views is in the Karwendel Nature Park. After taking the Hungerburgbahn funicular railway, she continues climbing 2,300 metres up to Hafelekar, either on foot or by cable car. Several hiking trails, such as the Goethe Trail greet you, climbing and descending along the Nordkette mountain range until it reaches Pfeishütte. There’s good climbing up here in the summer and great skiing in winter. You’ve got hundreds of new experiences and landscapes to discover in every season, here in the capital of the Tyrol.