Given the general lack of snow in the Garmisch area during our visit we did a little internet research and decided to go south to the Sellrain valley in search of a place where we might be able to do some sledding and cross-country skiing. The Sellrain valley is in central Tirol, just west of Innsbruck. This is somewhere vaguely near the town of Sellrain. It is extremely Alpine in appearance but still lacking in snow.
As we drove west, higher up the valley in altitude the snow increased. At the very top is the tiny resort town of Kuehtai (or Kuhtai if I could get my character map to display an umlaut). Not only was there some snow here (not a lot, but some), but we were actually quite impressed with the lift system which leaves right from the center of town up the mountains on both sides. There would also be extensive cross-country skiing if there were just a bit more snow around. We may well return to Kuehtai on a future trip to Austria.
Instead we drove back down to Innsbruck to spend the day in town shopping and wandering around aimlessly. Innsbruck occupies a particularly scenic spot along the Inn river with high Alps to the north and south. The town center has great views of the surrounding mountains, but if you're not careful a local weather crew might catch you for a TV interview. We tried to explain that our German was really quite bad, so they just prompted us with the lines they wanted us to say anyway.
Innsbruck is a really fun town. We enjoyed our day here. Having said that, it might also be said that there's not really one single central 'attraction' that a visitor to Innsburck absolutely must see. Since tourbooks like to pick out highlights though, the golden roof (Goldenes Dachl) seems to be the prime candidate. There's a lot of history here, the house was built in 1420 and an emperor (Maximilian I) once stood on the balcony under it. That's about it, but once you see it you can check that off and move on to wandering the cobblestone streets and alleys that wind through the town.
The Swarovski crystal company is based just outside Innsbruck and they have a museum and store in the center of town. Originally we visited because David's mom is a huge fan of Swarovski and we felt a family obligation to check it out. Also - it's free. In the end though this is actually a pretty neat place with some really impressive chandeliers, ornaments and this crystalline aquarium set.
This is a schnapps store. As shopping goes, this wasn't a very productive place to be because what appeared to be an entire college from somewhere in Britain showed up just before us and were effectively taste-sampling the entire product line. Visually though, this is the coolest schnapps speciality store we saw in Germany or Austria. Not far from this place, we found a much smaller but less crowded store where we sampled some of these strange herbal concoctions. Since most schnapps are a fairly random assembly of herbs and fruit flavors, tasting rooms are a necessity if you actually want to buy something you can drink later.
Bacon! Well ok, it's actually Speck which is a similar concept. This, a Tirolean speckeria, was yet another store we were totally fascinated by. There are many variations on the main theme here and best of all you can get a mixed charcuterie platter and try them all. We picked one more or less at random and had a sandwich of it with a local cheese (also picked by chance). If you're a vegetarian -- well -- there's always the schnapps.
After all the eating and drinking we took some more pictures of Innsbruck. This is St. Jacob's church which is tucked away in the center of the old town. It sits on a fairly small plaza with no roads leading out across from the front of the church so this is about as much of it as we can get into a single camera frame.
The north bank of the Inn river (it's down in there behind the fence) is lined with colorful tall buildings. Some form of precipitation between rain and snow was falling on us after dusk so we didn't spend too much time out in the open plazas along the river. On the whole it looked like it might be a very nice place for a stroll in better climate.
We don't have a picture of the gummy bear store but it's just down to the right after you go through the archway in this picture. Gummy bears, which are rather insipid little things in the United States, seem to be an art form in Germany and Austria. There are of course free samples. There are free samples just about everywhere except the chocolate stores where you have to just buy the sour cherry and chili chocolate to find out how good it is. Another high-quality product we found in Innsbruck are the hollowed painted eggs that are used as Christmas and Easter ornaments (more commonly in eastern Europe perhaps). Some of these were downright amazing but we were afraid to buy any due to their extreme fragility.