Monday, May 14, 2001

Thursday in Innsbruck

Thursday after lunch, the conference was over, and I was off exploring Innsbruck by myself. First, I went to the tourist information center, where I purchased a ski pass, which set me back slightly over $40. For this, I would get a bus ticket to the ski area (90 minutes away), equipment rental, and a day's pass skiing on Stubai Glacier. Not a bad deal. After that, it was off to the Apotheke to get some suntan lotion, as recommended to me by a Brit at the previous night's conference dinner. (Two of the people I had dinner with that night worked for Visa and Mastercard. They pretended to be rivals, but they seemed to get along fairly well.) I opened with what was becoming my favorite phrase, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" After a suitable survey of the pharmacy's employees, they produced someone who asked whether it was for me. Then she looked at me, said, "You are not so dark," and recommended the SPF 20. She then started in on a discourse on the meaning of the term "SPF", which I tried to cut short politely.

When I got outside, it had started to rain, so I decided to occupy myself indoors for a while. My next stop was the Hofkirche (picture here). The Hofkirche was where Maximillian I commissioned his tomb. As noted earlier, he did not die in Innsbruck, so I guess that's why he isn't buried there. That's why what lies inside the Hofkirche is a cenotaph, a word with which I was not previously familiar. Unfortunately, the cenotaph was under restoration. I mean, I'm glad they're restoring it, but I'm not so thrilled with the fact that a) they were doing it during my visit -- so I couldn't see the cenotaph and b) nowhere did I find notice of this until I came upon the construction site in the middle of the Hofkirche. The Hofkirche also featured larger than life bronze statues which were fairly impressive, though the one of King Arthur appeared to be blocked by the construction. You know how some bronze statues have shiny noses because people rub them for good luck? Well, Kaiser Rudolph had a

After that, I toured the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum, which had implements of daily rural Tyrolean life going back a few centuries. Back to the 15th century, most stuff was made of soft wood, so it hadn't survived. The oldest pieces were pine chests -- lots of them. It was interesting to see how all the practical tools of daily life got decorated in such elaborate fashion. It was surprisingly big, and somehow peaceful to walk around among all the wood, reading on the occasional English captions.

From there, I went over to the Stadtturm (City Tower), which the brochure described as a "short climb up 148 steps." They were selling T-shirts saying, "I survived 148 steps." I always like climbing towers when I visit cities, and at 100 feet, this wasn't particularly tall. The view was nice, though not stunning. The main beauty of the view in Innsbruck is the Alps, and climbing the tower didn't really bring me any closer to them.

Then I went back to my hotel for a while to take a nap before heading out for an early dinner at the Ottoburg. The Ottoburg is one of the oldest buildings in Innsbruck, and the restaurant has won awards for its Tyrolean cooking. I had the Brazilian steak. (Hey, there's only so much breaded meat I can take.) That was pretty good, but the apple strudel was fantastic. I think I had located where the real talents of the Austrian chefs lie.

I was feeling a little bit lonely at dinner. I had dinner by myself of Monday (at the Stiftskeller), but that was a needed break from all of the conference interactions from people I kinda know (or kinda don't). Now, I was on my own for the next few days, and though I'm not averse to eating alone, I felt a little bit melancholy.

After that, I headed to the Ferdidandeum (on Thursdays the museums in town are open late). It contained paintings from the 15th to the 18th century, and, like the Folk Museum, had occasional English to put things into context. Also, the German captions seemed more substantial here than in the Hofburg. What it ended up being, though, was a set of mildly interesting pictures about the usual subjects (religion, landscapes & portraits of rich people) by Tyrolean artists I hadn't heard of.

That was OK, though, since my main goal was to tire myself out and go to bed early so I could get up early for skiing. The technique did not work at first (of course -- not only was I used to it being 6 hours earlier, but I had selpt past 8 and then taken a nap that day), so it was back and forth between attempts at sleep and CNN viewing. Finally, after midnight, my efforts paid off and I drifted into a sound sleep.