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VIBRANT VISTAS The Austrian countryside
VIBRANT VISTAS The Austrian countryside

Snow-clad mountains, cottages right out of a fairytale and great places to shop in

As a child, I had a huge framed poster in my room, with snow-capped mountains, pretty flowers, green meadows and fairytale-like cottages.

Nineteen years later, I discovered the place in the poster does exist, and it is the beautiful country I am travelling to —Austria.

All the greenery with generous dollops of white snow is a treat to my Nature-deprived eyes. Whiffs of fresh air literally open up my pollution-clogged lungs and arteries. Austria doesn’t look real. It’s like a painting that you can walk into, like in the Harry Potter series.

Emerald-green valleys, grey mountains and winding roads lead us to Innsbruck, a city nestled in the Inn Valley. We visit Alstadt, the old town, and it’s like being transported to another world.

Cobblestone paths with quaint buildings open up to lanes and bylanes with open air cafes that have happy-looking people bantering and sipping from pretty cups.

No wonder Austria is rated as one of the happiest countries in the world. The happiness is contagious as I am suddenly left smiling to myself.

Glittering store

My grin grows wider on seeing the Swarovski showroom in front of me. With a hop, skip and jump, I barge into the store, eyes gleaming as much as the sparkling jewellery on display in one of the largest Swarovski showrooms in the world.

The minimal and contemporary, yet stunning design allows the crystal artefacts to grab all the attention. Even the doors of the restroom here are generously embedded with Swarovski studs.

Other than Nature’s bounty, Innsbruck is also a great place to shop — you have both local and big brands.

So, dive into the snow, gaze at the flora and fauna, or shop till you are broke. Apart from the beauty and the shopping, Austria has another plus point — the fact that it’s not as commercial as other tourist places.

The Maria Theresien Strasse, originally famous for the statue of Virgin Mary, is a fun hangout place with its cafes and fancy stores.

Time to shop

I gleefully hop into a store that has a stunning collection of outfits. Monopolising the trial room, I pop in and out trying out one dress after another.

An hour later, mommy dearest has to indecorously scoop me out of the store, much to the relief of my tour manager. Next stop — the Goldenes Dachl or the Golden Roof, built in the 15th Century with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles. The three-story balcony was constructed for Emperor Maximilian I, where he could sit and witness competitions in the square below.

Lately, the Golden Roof has been housing the International Alpine Convention’s Office.

Walk in the park

Time to head to the hotel. Following the guide, we walk past pubs, a church, a theatre and, finally through a park, to reach our coach.

The walk through the park lasts barely five minutes but that’s enough to refresh me. The fresh smell of the grass and the flowers linger for the next few minutes. If any perfumery manages to bottle this smell, it would have made the best fragrance that could ever be created.

The drive to our hotel, Bon Alpina in Igls, just four km outside Innsbruck, is picturesque.

Innsbruck is a prominent winter sports centre and has hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. We pass the stadium that had been the venue for Winter Olympics, and the ski jump stadium.

The hotel is as inviting as the world outside. It’s mostly in wood, and every time I walk about the wooden floor creaks dramatically, making me feel like I live in the Magic Faraway Tree (remember the book by Enid Blyton?). It is so enchanting I don’t want to leave.

But, I have to return to sizzling Chennai. But, hey, writing about it takes me back to breathtaking snow-clad Innsbruck.

PRIYADARSHINI PAITANDY

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