Welcome to the land of schnitzel and schnapps, home to glorious alps, cute little villages and a whole of fun ... this is Austria!
Austria shares borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Emperor Maximilian ruled between 1490 and 1519 and had a fondness for Innsbruck, which increased the region's status. It became an administrative capital, as well as artistic and cultural centre a most desirable combination. It was powerful under a long line of dukes and counts such as Friedl the Penniless and his son Sigmund the Wealthy. After Archduke Sigmund Franz's death in 1665, the duchy of Tirol was ruled from Vienna.
In 1703 the Bavarians tried to capture the Tirol, having contested control of parts of the north of the province over many centuries. In alliance with the French they reached the Brenner Pass but were beaten back.
Another Franco-Bavarian alliance during the Napoleonic Wars saw Tirol incorporated into Bavaria. In 1809, Vienna returned Tirol to Bavaia.
In the heart of the Alps, Innsbruck is in the valley of the Inn River, beautifully sitting between the northern chain of the Alps and the Tuxer mountains to the south. It attracts people for its history and old buildings but is also a playground for people wanting to have fun. Its four universities give the city a youthful air.
Despite its difficult alpine terrain, the 1374m Brenner Pass allowed the region to develop as a north-south trade route and it has experienced influxes of tribes and travellers since the Iron Age.
The 800-year-old town hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, which enhanced its reputation as a paradise for cold weather sports, but it's also a haven for hiking, fishing, golf, mountain biking and paragliding in the warm months. It has attractions apart from sport: the Golden Roof, Court Church, Imperial Court Palace and Ambras Castle and 15 holiday villages all set high above the valley.
Winter sees masses of deep powder snow for unrivalled skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and winter carnivals. Just in case nature slips up, they are well equipped with snow-making machines. In summer, everything is transformed into something from a fairytale book.
For a good overview of the city, you should climb the 14th century Stadtturm on Herzog Freidrick Strasse. At street level there are fascinating examples of 15th and 16th century Baroque façades and the Helblinghaus, with its busy rococo ornamentation, was created in the 18th century.
The Golden Roof has 2657 gilded copper tiles which shimmer over a 1500 Gothic oriel window. Emperor Maximilian watched street performers from the balcony which has a series of relief scenes, including the emperor himself with both wives. The first floor's balustrade bears eight coats of arms and the building has a small museum devoted to Maximilian.
Behind there you will see the Dom St Jakob with amazing examples of over-the-top Baroque interiors. Most of its art and stuccowork were done by German brothers and the Madonna over the high altar is by Lukas Cranach the Elder.
On the imposing Maria Theresien Strasse is the tall, slender Annasäule which was erected in 1706 to mark the retreat of a 1703 Bavarian attack. The Virgin Mary stands at the top and St Anne is at its base.
Next to it, also with a fine Baroque façade, is the 1728 Altes Landhaus, now the seat of the provincial government. Two hundred metres south is the 1765 Triumphal Arch, commemorating the marriage of Leopold II.
Tirolean cuisine specialities are barley soup, souffle with noodles and ham, ravioli filled with spinach and cheese, goulash, and of course, schnapps is always close at hand.
The 189 room family-run Hotel Grauer Bar is in the heart of Innsbruck, two minutes from the historical town centre. It has three restaurants, bar, sauna, solarium, steam bath, fitness room and parking.
The Tirol in western Austria.
Sennenhof Hotel rooms start at around $110 a double a night.
Grauer Bar Hotel rooms start at around $200 a double a night.
The Innsbruck Card gives one free admission to all main sights in and around the city and is available from the main tourist office or your accommodation.
Qantas flies daily to Frankfurt with connections to Innsbruck. Return economy fares start at $3641 from Perth; $3762 from Darwin; $3764 from Melbourne and Brisbane; $3769 from Adelaide and $3774 from Sydney, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of recording but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Grauer Bar Hotel
Universtatsstrasse 5-7 6021 Innsbruck
Ph: 0011 90 212 511 1500
Ph: 627 210
Austrian National Tourist Office
36 Carrington Street, Sydney 2000
Ph: (02) 9299 3621 Fax: (02) 9299 3808www.austria-tourism.at
Qantas: 13 13 13