Tuesday 12 August 2014

European Adventure: Day Fifteen - Innsbruck, Austria

Our morning started off with Brian and I heaping piles of dirty laundry and piles of soaking wet laundry into our suitcases for the Laundromat. I was on my second last outfit and Brian had to take a few damp pieces that had been washed the night before and finish drying them with the blow dryer. Neither of us was impressed at the laundry situation and it made for a cranky morning.

We had breakfast at the hotel which was again a disappointment. It worked out to be about $20.00 Canadian for very little so we decided to not eat in a hotel restaurant again on this trip unless it was included in the room rate. The really nice waitress from the previous night was on again and she was just as helpful and friendly. In fact when she heard about our laundry dilemma she offered to talk to her neighbor and see if we could use his washer and dryer. I have found that people in Austria are extremely friendly - especially out here in the Alps.

We loaded the car back up with our luggage and began the drive to Innsbruck. Innsbruck is a small town about two hours away that has hosted the Winter Olympics. The whole reason it was even on the list to visit was because the Swarovski Crystal Worlds is only a few minutes away. I remember when I first got into collecting Swarovski in 2005-2006 I worked for a store that sold it. The Crystal Society magazine was in the store one day and that issue had photos of the Crystal World. I remember realizing how beautiful it looked and wanting to visit, and the three of us working there all talked about how awesome it would be to see. I recall telling the other two to take photos when they eventually got there, and one of them looked at me, laughed and said “I am sure you will see it long before us”. I laughed because while I had travelled to England, Scotland and France that year I didn't have any more big European trips planned out. Little did I know then that nine years later I would indeed be here and that their prediction would be true!

When we planned this trip I had forgotten all about Crystal Worlds and it wasn't until I saw something on Pinterest that I realized it was in Austria. When I found out it was only two hours away I was thrilled and worked it into our schedule. I even renewed my membership so that I could visit the VIP lounge, get free admission and drinks, and a gift!

We got to Innsbruck fairly quickly through a somewhat scenic drive and thankfully the Laundromat was still there! (Everything online was in German and a bunch of the locations seemed to have closed, so I wasn’t sure it would still be there!) We unloaded our suitcases and waited for machines to free up as it was busy. Dad only needed to do one big load as all of his clothes are dark. Between Brian and I we ended up doing five loads because we had an assortment of darks, whites, colors and my dresses. Needless to say we spent more time there then we planned. It took about three full hours for everything to get washed and dried, and we spent the time reading on our tablets. Dad being Dad, talked to a bunch of people - some locals originally from CA that work at the fish market, a couple backpacking before starting college and an older woman who lives in the area. There were limited washers and dryers and it was raining, so the place got pretty packed. 

Dad doing laundry - not a sight we normally see!

I saved Dad from another parking ticket when I noticed a parking officer ticketing cars where he was parked. Luckily he ran out and had just enough time to pay for parking. Some of the lots in Austria make it hard to tell if they are paid lots or free. Maybe there are some signs but everything is in German so it is hard to tell.

Once the laundry was all done we drove to the center of Innsbruck which was a much larger town then I realized. We went in circles for a bit trying to figure out the best place to pull over and park. Finally I keyed an attraction into the GPS and we parked at a nearby garage. I had a list of things to see in Innsbruck and thought it would be easy to see them all. But between the large size of the town and the three hour delay doing laundry, many things got cut. 

We started at the historic center which was a long pedestrian area full of shops and restaurants. We had lunch at a cafe which wasn't great - well my meal wasn't great, Dads and Brian's was. Then we walked up along the street past all the old adorable buildings. They looked like something out of a movie - like an old medieval street. There were a lot of stores selling traditional Austrian dress which was interesting to see. The outfits are so cute! I am not going to lie, if they weren’t so expensive I would have totally been tempted to buy one!

On this street we saw the Goldenes Dachl - which is a building with a gorgeous golden roof. There were two royal palaces that we could have visited, but they involved driving and finding them, plus it was past 4:00pm and we still had Swarovski. I would love to return to Innsbruck someday because there really was a lot to see and do. 

We got to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds fairy quickly and had no problem getting tickets. Mine was free, so only Dad and Brian had to pay for theirs. Because I was a member, we got to go through a special entrance right away rather then having to wait. There was a large tour group going through at the same time so it was packed. Unfortunately this group had a lot of children in it, bored children who spent the time running around jumping on things and pushing past people at every turn. That made it even more chaotic. 

The Crystal Worlds is not like your usual company tour. It’s actually not even a tour - you don't visit the factory or see/learn how Crystal is made, or how the company was formed. Instead its like an art exhibit with Crystal being the theme. The first room had the largest piece of crystal ever on display (its in Guinness book of records) as well as some other Crystal pieces and a Crystal wall which was stunning The next room was the idea of man and machine with foam models and moving shirts and pants flying around the room all adorned with crystal. That I admit was odd...

There was a crystal dome, various rooms with crystallized art works on display and various exhibits of things adorned with crystal. There wasn't a real point to it all - at least not one any of us got - but I enjoyed the experience. Dad hated it, and Brian just found it strange. After finishing we went into the VIP lounge where I got my free crystal paperweight and we all got drinks. I had their special champagne drink which was served in the Swarovski Crystal Champagne glasses that I have always wanted. These glasses are gorgeous and amazing and super expensive! They are glasses I can only dream of someday owning, so to get a chance to sip champagne out of them was heavenly. That alone made the trip worth it! Actually it was awesome timing as they are closing Crystal Worlds from October - April in order to expand it so I am glad we visited when we did.  

Doesn't he look thrilled?

I want...

Dad went to the car, Brian wandered around a bit and I shopped. I will admit I probably bought myself a little more then I should have - but I was in Swarovski heaven. I bought a pair of earrings that match a necklace Brian's sister gave me for my wedding, and a necklace and earring set. As I said, more then I should have but I promised myself it would be the only big thing I buy myself on this trip. 

After leaving the Innsbruck area we headed back to Maria Alm. The rain was on and off, and it was a lot colder then I expected. We stopped at a small town that was having a festival of sorts and wandered around. It was really cute, but mainly aimed at kids with face painting, pony rides and amusement attractions. We continued the drive back and stopped again at a small bar near the hotel. I was starving not having eaten much lunch, and it was well past dinner. The place was full and the owner was really nice. His English wasn't the best but we were able to communicate - he talked about his visit to Canada and all the things he enjoyed. I had a soup, Brian had chili and Dad had strudel.... Dad seems to be enjoying Strudel as this was his 3/5 piece of Strudel on the Austria leg of our journey. 

Brian slept in the car a lot... LOL

Once back at the resort we unloaded our finally clean clothes before going to bed. We had plans to meet at 6am so it was another night of limited sleep. 

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