Innsbruck

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Innsbruck has always been a lively city. Ever since the first settlements in 1180 around the area which now constitutes the old quarter, the city has grown continuously. Innsbruck's various districts (Altstadt, Pradl, Wilten, Saggen) were gradually amalgamated and incorporated into the city as we know it today. Let's take a quick tour through individual districts.

Die Innere Stadt (the inner city)

The inner city and the old town together make up the heart of historic Innsbruck. It is well worth going on a walkabout in the narrow streets to soak up the atmosphere. There are lots of fascinating historical sights to see, such as the Hofburg and the Hofkirche, which houses the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I. There is also the women's chapter founded by Maria Theresia; the legendary Goldene Dachl; the imposing Baroque church Domkirche St. Jakob with its famous cathedral square; the Triumphpforte commissioned by Maria Theresia in honour of her son's engagement to the Spanish princess Maria Ludovica; the Annasäule; and the Leopoldsbrunnen.

Pradl and Saggen

These two districts ring the inner city from the northern, southern and eastern sides. For an interesting and relaxing walk, try the Hofgarten with its parrots and butterfly house. During autumn and spring, the exhibition centre attracts throngs of visitors from the locality and from further afield. The autumn and spring fairs also bring in thousands of visitors every year who come to see novelties from Tirol and from other parts of the world. By contrast, the Holiday Inn Casino offers games, drama and tension. Black Jack, Roulette, poker, and fruit machines keep visitors well occupied. The ultra-modern Cineplexx Kino caters for film buffs, while a coffee in Sillpark Einkaufszentrum is the perfect way to round off your day after a heavy bout of shopping.

Hötting, Höttinger Au

Th district of Hötting lies on the northern bank of the river Inn, which runs through the middle of the city. Formerly an exclusive residential area for the well-to-do, Hötting is today a quiet and unobtrusive suburbia and home to the Alpenzoo. The creators of this zoo had a distinctive mission in mind: to find endangered species living in the wild, rear them in the zoo, and then set them free again into the Alps. The zoo has already scored several successes with this practise. You can get a rack-rail from the Alpenzoo to the Hungerburg,the base station for the cable railway that takes you to the lakes and valleys lying high above Innsbruck. There is even a restaurant at the top which offers a superb vantage point from which to observe the magnificent spectacle of night slowly enveloping Innsbruck. A visit to the botanischer Garten(botanical garden) or an evening in the observatory rounds off the day nicely.

Wilten

Wilten is situated at the southern extremity of the city centre. The main road over the Brenner pass goes through Wilten and offers an imposing view for motorists approaching Innsbruck from the south. Two outstanding edifices in Wilten are the Stift Wilten and the Wiltener Basilika, a splendid example of Baroque architecture dating back to 1120. The cloister of the Stift Wilten church houses a valuable collection of art and a noteworthy church museum. For bell enthusiasts, a visit to the bell manufacturers Glockengießerei Grassmayr is a must. This family-run business has been making bells for generations.

Olympisches Dorf

The Olympic village lies to the south of the city. It is a recent residential development that sprang up remarkably quickly. The Olympic village itself became known because of the winter games held in Innsbruck, and as a result this 'settlement' was built. The village contains the
Olympia Eishalle, which was originally used for sporting events only but now plays host to concerts and other non-sporting activities as well. A new football stadium was recently built on the unused land next to the Eishalle. Just around the corner from the Eishalle, the stadium and the Tivoli Freischwimmbad lies the Tivoli sports complex. You don't have to be a member to come here, and the choice of activities ' including track and field athletics ' is almost endless.

Amras

Anybody leaving the city by its southern approaches is certain to spot the huge DEZ Einkaufszentrum, the largest shopping centre of its kind in North Tirol. If you let your eye linger a little longer in a southerly direction, you will also notice the 10th century Schloss Ambras. This castle contains a well-known collection of armoury and a quiet park dating back to the Renaissance.

Reichenau

Reichenau is an unassuming residential area. Its only distinguishing feature is that Innsbruck airport is located here. As flying is the preferred method of travel for most visitors to the city, the airport is always very busy but, thanks to its excellent design, always makes for a comfortable and easy transit for travellers on their way to their various holiday destinations in and around Innsbruck.

Sieglanger, Mentlberg

These purely residential areas lie to the south-west of Innsbruck. They are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable. While the greater part of Innsbruck is sandwiched between mountains, these two districts sprawl uninhibited by geographical inconveniences. Mentlberg has a small animal home, and a penal institution with a few old crooks serving out their time.

Igls

Igls is a nice, quiet neighbourhood populated by the well-to-do. In winter, the olympischen Berg Isel Sprungschanze becomes the focus of intense competition between the best ski jumpers in the world. Bobsleigh and toboggan slopes are to be found nearby. If you are not a professional sportsman, do not fret: you can take a bobsleigh ride designed for amateurs and experience the adrenalin rush of the real thing without worrying about competing. All in all, Iglis has earned itself quite a reputation amongst energetic and sporty holidaymakers, not least because of the hair-raising opportunities for skiing offered by the Patscherkofel.

St. Nikolaus, Mariahilf, Vill, Mühlau, Arzl

These are purely residential areas with not much in the way of sights to recommend them to tourists. The architectural styles are quite varied, ranging from old villas to highly modern apartment blocks. The only thing perhaps worth mentioning is the shooting range Arzl. Gun owners will find plenty of shooting galleries to keep themselves occupied here.

History of Innsbruck

The Inn river valley's advantageous geographical position made it a natural choice for settlements from the earliest times. During the Bronze age, Illyrians populated the valley areas that were safe from flooding. Remnants of Illyrian urns can be found in the districts of Wilten, Hötting and Mühlau. There are also remains of an Illyrian settlement on the hill at Vill. Numerous districts of present-day Innsbruck bear names that derive from such settlements: Aldrans, Lans, Igls and Vill.

Around 15 BC the Roman empire expanded violently northwards. It annexed the central alpine region leading right up to the Danube. The area around Innsbruck thus became a transit route of key strategic importance for Roman soldiers heading northwards. A community soon sprang up around the fortified outpost of Veldidena (present-day Wilten), which guarded the approach to the Brenner pass.

The Bavarians migrated to the Inn valley from the north during the second half of the 6th century AD. The area thus became part of the Bavarian hereditary Duchy. However, the German Emperor took control of this strategic area ' then still referred to simply as 'the land in the mountains' away from the Bavarian dukes and handed it over to the Bishops of Brixen instead. But above all it was the Counts of Andechs and their feudal lords who brought autonomy and political power to the alpine valleys of Tirol. Indeed, the counts became the most important territorial rulers in Tirol. As a result, Innsbruck quickly became the centre of Andechs rule.

A market place was established by the Andechs in 1180 downstream from the district of Hötting. The first recorded mention of the name 'Innsprucke' dates back to 1187. Innsbruck was granted city status in 1239. The name of the city is derived from the original meaning 'bridge over the Inn'. This bridge was a key factor in the development of trade and the movement of goods between regions both north and south of the Alps. The counts of Andechs built a fortress opposite the present-day Ottoburgin order to protect the settlement.

In 1248, Count Albert III gained control of Tirol together with Innsbruck. This heralded the unification of the counties around the Brenner pass. The year 1248 has therefore gone down as 'the year of Tirol's birth' in Tirolean historiography. Duke Friedrich IV built the impressive ducal residence of Schloss Tirol at Meran. Innsbruck became the capital of all Tirol in 1429. The 15th and 16th centuries were Innsbruck's golden years. Emperor Maximilian I fashioned the city into a booming financial, cultural and administrative centre. His crowning achievement was the construction of the das Goldene Dachl, a splendid Renaissance relief with gold-coated copper shingles. As Innsbruck's most famous landmark, the Goldene Dachl is responsible for attracting countless tourists to the city every year. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Innsbruck's architectural style was heavily influenced by the Türing and Gumpp dynasties.

In 1665, the Tirol line of the Habsburgs died out. Nevertheless, Empress Maria Theresia helped the city to retain its splendour by building the Hofburg and the Triumphpforte.

The peace treaty of Pressburg that sealed Napoleon's conquest of Austria in 1805 decreed that Austria cede the provinces of Brixen, Trient and Tirol to Bavaria. Only after the wars of liberation fought on the Berg Isel, was Innsbruck freed from Bavarian rule. Andreas Hofer, the Tirolean folk hero who led his forces to victory on the Berg Isel, proceeded to make Innsbruck the centre of his administration. However, his enemies struck back: a combined French and Bavarian force attacked and overran Innsbruck in 1809. Tirol remained under Bavarian rule until 1814, when it was handed back to Austria at the Vienna Congress.

Innsbruck was to regain significance beyond its immediate provinces in the latter part of the 19th century with the onset of the industrial revolution and the spread of mass communications and transport. In particular, the opening of the railway through the Brenner pass in 1884 made Innsbruck a key point on European transport networks linking north and south as well as east and west. During the Second World War, Innsbruck suffered massive damage from air attacks. The Winter Olympic games first took place in the city in 1964. This regular event has played a major role in Innsbruck's postwar growth and has led to the construction of some of the finest sporting facilities in the world. The Olympia Eisstadion, for example, has played host to competitions in high-speed ice skating, figure skating and ice hockey.

 

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