Images of Innsbruck

by Brian Jewell 21. July 2009 00:22

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then snapshots of Innsbruck, Austria are worth 10,000.

This city high up in Austria’s Alps is the second largest in the country.  And while there are many noteworthy facets, including a thriving cultural and educational scene, nothing is more impressive than Austria’s Old Town.

The area known as Old Town was constructed during the 14th and 15th centuries. Today, only a few blocks remain (much of it was destroyed in the bombing raids of World War II).  But those few blocks are an absolute treasure: narrow pedestrian streets wind their way between the facades of centuries-old buildings, trimmed and decorated with Baroque-era artwork and immaculately maintained.

The fanciful architecture, tiled streets and pastel colored walls seem like something out of a storybook. Sidewalk cafes, jewelry stores, and candy shops add to the appeal. For a tourist in Innsbruck, there is no better place to spend an afternoon or evening.

And no matter which alley you look down, the Alps linger in the distance.




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A Taste of the Alps

A Home in the Alps

by Brian Jewell 20. July 2009 02:54

It’s hard to visit the remote Alpine villages of Switzerland without wondering what it would be like to live here. Although there must be downsides to living in small, difficult-to-reach places, the natural beauty and cultural charm of these places makes them feel like heaven on earth to visitors.

This morning we visited the small town of Brienz, a village of 3,500 people in the Swiss Alps known worldwide for its history in woodcarving. But it wasn’t wood that caught my eye today – it was the magnificent houses that sit between alongside the beautiful Lake Brienz.

Historic, huge, and immaculately manicured, these houses are an attraction in themselves. Their architecture and gardens make many visitors drool, or envy or both. But perhaps their greatest asset is the view out of their picture windows: the houses face the lake, with the towering, snow-capped Swiss Alps as a backdrop. Standing looking at this view, I can’t imagine how rich life her e must be.

Apparently, the people are rich too.  Our Collette tour manager Jeff Scott told us that all of these lakeside homes are worth millions of Swiss Francs (which are very close in value to U.S. dollars.) And many times, once a family moves in, they never leave.

When a family wants to buy a house in this area, or build a new one, they take out mortgages with 100-year terms. When the original purchasers die, their children take over the mortgages, and thus the homes stay in families for a century until they are paid. The houses are built so large to accommodate the many family members that will inevitably live there together.

“You often die in the same house that you were born in,” Jeff said. “It’s not at all uncommon to find four generations living together under the same roof.”



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A Taste of the Alps

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