Top of the World - Updated

View from Grafenast, Hochpillberg

After weeks of depressingly cold weather,  Jenie, an old school mate of mine from NYC, came to visit us... and get this, she brought the sunshine with her!!! Hallelujah!!  She was only with us for two days, but man, what glorious two days those were!

We were so thrilled to see her (and the sun!)... we had so many ideas about where we should take her.  Our first stop was to Grafenast - a lovely organic hotel/restaurant/spa that sits at 1330 m on Hochpillberg. This area was a hidden skiiers paradise!!

Credit: Follow this link

We've been here several times with out-of-town guests and enjoyed each and every visit.  The view is spectacular, the food is fresh and local, and the decor is very warm and inviting.  It's a long standing, family run business and the owner is super friendly.  

Clockwise: The Room, The Day's Platter, The Busy Bowl, and The Christmas Tree


They still had their Christmas tree up in the dining room, which made me so happy because I like to leave our Christmas tree up as long as possible, too... or as long as my husband can stand it before he asks for the 20th time to take the ornaments down so we can chop it up and chuck it into the fireplace.  

[Update: The Christmas Tree was still standing because the Catholic tradition around these parts is to celebrate Christmas for 40 days and it ends on Feb 2 with Candlemas Day.  I found a relatively informative link here.  Thanks, Niki!]

On the second day, we took the cablecar railway up Nordkette Mountain.  Designed by Zaha Hadid, her cable car Hungerburg funicular with its unique stations was an interesting juxtaposition to the more traditional Tyrolean/Austrian architecture.  Space-y!!

The Hungerburg Station

By the way, before the Hungerburg Station, there's also a stop for the Alpine Zoo... which, in addition to giving spectacular views of Innsbruck, also has 2,000 animals (150 species) native to this Alpine region.  It's a real treasure!  The girls love it there...  but wear comfortable shoes because it's basically a zoo on the side of a mountain!

First Look Down onto Innsbruck

So, Hungerburg Station was where we had to change cars and where we first got a glimpse of what lay down below us.  Living here for almost two years, I couldn't imagine how large the Inn Valley was between the two ranges of mountains that lay north and south of us.  It was incredible to see.

View from Hungerburg - 300 m

It was also interesting to see where the mountain ranges split (see the 'V' formation in the above picture?)... and it is this area where everyone from the north must pass through to get south of the Alps into Italy.  But don't worry, there's still endless mountains beyond that point as well.  I'm telling you, it feels like the Alps go on forever in every direction like towering, old guards. 

Seegrube Station - 1905 m

After Hungerburg, we took a second cablecar railway to the Seegrube Station.  The view was even more breath-taking.  And on such a glorious day, we could see the Alps all the way into Italy.  Spectacular!

Look at the view these skiiers have!

By this point, El and Lil were cold, cranky, and hungry... so we grabbed some food in a restaurant.  After we warmed up and had food in our bellies, we were going to make our way down again.  But suddenly, the girls were asleep in their stroller... and Jenie and I decided to head to the very top - to Hafelekar Station.

[Update: Apparently, Hafelekar boasts some of the steepest ski slopes in the area - Dare devils welcome!! Thanks, Niki!]

Hafelekar Station

I didn't get many pics from the top (aww, man!) because Lily woke up with some residual left over crankiness and because there was a mini snow storm cloud approaching.  See it in the distance in the next picture?

Credit: Jenie Fu

But we did get a good shot of a warning sign to stay in marked and secured areas... c'est la vie!

Credit: Jenie Fu

Honestly, regular photography (ok, MY photos) do NO justice to the expansion of space that I felt while up on Nordkette.  With each station stop, the views were just increasingly breathtaking.  It was like a paradigm shift in my inner navigation system.  I ride around in our car... along the A12 autobahn... between these mighty mountain ranges... and I feel cornered... cramped... all I can do is look up... but then I come up here and I see it as a whole... and it is huge.  And I look down and outward... and I feel infinite and immense.  What an incredible feeling!

. . .


In the wee hours of the next morning, Jenie had to leave us.... and I was sad our time was so short... but so glad that she made it all the way over to Austria to see us.  She surprised me with this little guy when we woke up this morning.  Goodbye, Jenie! Come back soon!!! xoxo

Credit: Jenie Fu

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