Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is not only the capital city of Tyrol in western Austria, but it has hosted TWO winter Olympic games- 1964 and 1976.  It was about a 30 minute drive from our hotel in Pertisau, so we made our way there one day to get some more hiking in.  And, oh man, was it gorgeous!  The Nordkettenbahn (cable car) whisks you waaaay above the tree line to the top of the Karwendel mountain range. You can see Austria, Germany and Italy from this high perch, as well as mountains stretching so far that you can only imagine where they actually end.

This is several pictures that Brian patched together to provide a panoramic viewpoint from the very top.  Doesn't get any better than this.

We started out on a sort of treacherous hike with a trail inching along the edge of the mountain that in some parts must have been only 15 centimeters wide (it was labeled an "easy hike", but it most certainly was not).  Tessa was scared she was going to fall off the mountain even though I had a firm grip on her hand the entire was a little deceiving because the clouds were low that day and hung about 10 feet below our trail, so it looked like you'd be falling into a cloudy mountain abyss.  We lasted for about 10 minutes and then turned around after we spotted a dead mountain goat that had clearly lost its footing high above us.  

Panaroma Seegrube...labeled "easy", but not so much.

After we bailed on the last hike, we tried another route where we could intentionally pass by some snow patches for the girls to kick around in.  Because snow in July is way more fun than snow in the winter! ;)

After that short hike, we took one more cable car to the tippy top of this grand place.  Once there, we watched these para-gliders literally run and jump off the mountain 10 feet from us- equal parts terrifying and awesome! Talk about an adrenaline pump.

We could only watch and be day.

This was the incredible scene from the topmost point.  I'm telling you- I could have spent all day soaking in this place.  

Right behind us was a total sheer stomach was doing flips.  Moments like this make me so grateful that I have some of the most cautious kids around.

Brian was drooling over the mountain bike courses below ... next time :)


This was down the street from our hotel in Pertisau.  One of the things we loved about Austria is that the locals dress in the traditional lederhosen to do their hiking.  There are shops selling the outerwear all over the place.  This cute guy was just headed up on a hike and was decked out from the waist up.  On the last morning in our hotel, it was a gorgeous, sunny, clear morning and we all sat at breakfast looking out the massive windows framing the gorgeous mountains right outside.  Sad to leave Austria, but excited about our next stop at the dreamy Neuschwanstein Castle in Hohenschwangau, Germany (that's a mouthful!)...

Once again, the drive from Pertisau to Hohenschwangau was other-worldly.  But, driving up on this place was literally, out of a storybook.  There was a drizzle going on, with low clouds that wrapped around the rugged hills where Neuschwanstein stands.  And right across from it, was the golden-colored Hohenschwangau Castle on another hill.  Breathtaking gorgeousness.  I cannot even begin to do this place justice.  Definitely one of the most stunning sights I've ever seen.

Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle, and you can definitely see the similarity.  We couldn't get tickets inside, as it was sold out.  But, walking around the grounds was enough for us.  Instead of taking a horse-drawn carriage up the 20-minute hill to get to the castle, we opted to walk (don't give us too much credit- the line for the carriage ride was huge!).  

With a place this gorgeous, its always going to draw a ton of crowds.  Lots of people pushing through, both to get into the castle grounds as well as stay dry.  The palace was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive Ludwig II in the 19th century, but was opened to the paying public immediately after his death is 1886.  Since then, more than 61 million people have visited, more than 1.3 per year, and as many as 6,000 per day in the summer.  Yep, sounds about right. 

After walking the castle grounds, we headed up the hill further for a panoramic view and all of a sudden, the skies opened up and we took cover under this tree for a good 15 minutes.  After getting pretty soaked, we just decided to embrace it, and we kept going to the top.  

And, this is why we kept on going.  For this view.  I cannot believe places this beautiful exist in real life (that sentence should be the theme for this entire trip).  That castle in the distance is the Hohenschwangau.

Brian passed under a barbed wire fence and trudged through some pretty gnarly stuff in the pouring rain to get this shot.  He said it was worth it, and I have to agree.  We seriously loved Bavaria.  Our next stop was Munich for just a few hours, where we walked all around the city and tried to hit the big sights.  We got another good nights sleep and then headed out of Germany, all the way back to London. This trip is definitely at the top of our favorite places.