So what’s Austria like? Its about time for my first Innsbruck update. I’m sitting here looking up at the mountains, drinking a cup of tea. The same thing I’ve done almost every day for the last three years. Different mountain range, though, and very different perspective of life on this continent. I’ve been here in the Alps for about three weeks, and I’m gradually settling into the Austrian way of living. It’s been a little bit of a shock; after a lovely couple months off, I’m back in the lab at the Institute for Pharmacology, Medical University of Innsbruck.
I’m still getting a feel for the city, but from what I’ve seen so far its a pretty nice place to live. Not without its downsides, but I wasn’t expecting utopia after all. I’m living in the city centre, roughly here:
The city is in the middle of the Inn valley, at the confluence of the Inn and the Sill rivers. Its 45 minutes from Italy and just over an hour to Germany. And it feels like it. The city is a mess of cultures converging on a very small space. Like Boulder, its choked with students, and I’m not sure I’ve heard a conversation yet that has stayed within the confines of one language.
Catholicism is a defining feature of Austria, and it can be seen in the architecture and lifestyle that most people lead. Churches adorn the corners of every fourth street, and the low and serious knell of bells is a regular sound.
Arriving in February was a difficult move for a crazed cyclist. The cycling scene here really wasn’t happening, and unlike the front range of Colorado, where you can get away with pretending that winter doesn’t happen, here the seasons seem much more pronounced. I went into the local bike shop to be greeted with friendly and helpful faces, and the offer of a beer, but also concern as to why I was attempting to ride my bike when there exists four ski areas within a 10 minute bus ride. Either way, I ignored all advice and decided to go riding anyway, and found some excellent empty roads.
Unsurprisingly, the cycling around here is excellent, even within the confines of the valley. The best thing about Sundays in Austria is the total lack of people on the roads. Completely empty stretches of lovely tarmac that were surprisingly dry. I rode up to Achensee, a lake about 45 km from Innsbruck. I was the only cyclist that I saw in 3.5 hours of riding.
I’m really looking forward to the snow melting, the sun gaining some warmth and finding a couple of equally dumb people to join along. In the mean time, my legs are hating the fact that I’ve decided running to be a good idea. I find that exploring the outer reaches of the city is perhaps the best way to get a feel for the place. The small alleys and paths that snake out of the valley are much easier to run up than ride, and turning around on foot is also much less demoralising. I’ve found some excellent potential single-track hiding just 5 minutes from my house, and now I know my way around without venturing onto the main roads, I’m really excited to get back on the MTB. Longer days are also going to help, as the current work schedule is not leaving too many daylight hours for riding.