A while ago I wrote a post entitled “Five Places To Go Back To” . One of those places was Innsbruck in Austria, which lies on the south side of the Karwendel Alps (on the north side you’ll find last week’s travel destinations Mittenwald and Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria). Apart from being an excellent touring base in all directions north/south and east/west, Innsbruck is a charming university city and the capital of the Austrian Tyrol. Despite being home to approximately 120,000 people it still retains its small town appeal. We loved it and will definitely go back there at some point!
We stayed in Innsbruck for 8 nights and one of the first things we did was purchase an Innsbruck card, which we found was great value for money. You can get an Innsbruck card that is valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours and the costs are 33, 41 or 47 Euros respectively. Amongst the many benefits we found with the card were free rides on all forms of public transport, free entry to most museums and galleries as well as other many other attractions. If you are planning a trip, you can find out all the information on the Innsbruck card here.
One of the free entry passes was for the Alpenzoo, which sounded interesting so we headed up there via the Nordkettenbahn (more about this later). The zoo is situated up the Nordkette mountain and according to the information site (see here) is unique, as it is the only zoo in the world that devotes itself entirely to Alpine animals. The zoo terrain is quite steep and you’ll definitely need a good pair of sturdy walking shoes. Whereas Dorothy said, “Lions, tigers and bears! Oh My!” when she first arrived in the land of the Wizard Of Oz, here “oh bears” is more appropriate!
Unfortunately we did not have the best weather conditions for our visit so it was hard to take too many photos – we were darting in and out of the rain and sleet a lot of the time! The zoo is home to over 2000 animals (150 species) all of which are typical of alpine regions. In addition to the visitor entry fees, the zoo is supported by the City Of Innsbruck and the government of the federal Austrian state of the Tyrol. There is also a “Freunde des Alpenzoo” group, which provides support for the zoo as well.
As we wandered round, we encountered some fine looking lynxes!
We weren’t so lucky with the marmots as they were still hibernating at the time of our visit in April.
The disappointment of the marmots aside, we still found plenty of other wildlife to see.
The Norkettenbahn, which we took to reach the Alpenzoo, is a combination of various forms of transport that will take you from the very heart of central Innsbruck right up to the top of the mountains (Nordkette or North Chain is the name of the mountain range north of Innsbruck part of the Karwendel alpine mountain chain). We started our ride on the Hungerburgbahn, a funicular railway which links Congress Station with the upper suburb of Hungerburg. It only has 4 stops with Alpenzoo being one of them. The current funicular replaced one that had been operating from 1906 to 2005 and opened relatively recently on 1 December 2007. It was designed by the architect Zaha Hadid and is quite space-age in its appearance, which really stands out in the mountains!
From Hungerburg you switch to cable cars; the first one takes you further up the mountain to Seegrube and the final one up to the Hafelekar station at 2,269 metres above sea level (the nearby mountain summit, Hafelekarspitze, is 2,334 metres above sea level). We had a hearty Tyrolean lunch at the Hafelekar restaurant but it would be fair to say we hadn’t picked the best day for views!
However on a clear day there are wonderful panoramic views to be had of Innsbruck, the mountains and the Inn Valley and ample opportunities for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer months. The mists cleared sufficiently for a few photos on the way back down the mountain. It was actually a lovely trip – we more or less had the place to ourselves, the air was fresh and invigorating and the Austrian hospitality at the cafes and restaurants we went into was warm and welcoming (we were just about their only customers!).
As we approached Innsbruck again on the return descent, the painted houses lining the River Inn provided some welcome colour on a cold wintry April’s day! In spite of the poor weather, we really enjoyed our outing to the Alpenzoo and it’s well worth a visit if you happen to be in the Innsbruck area!
Copyright © 2015 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved