By Barbara Sanders


The alarm sounded early — no sleeping off jet lag for us! We dressed and headed down to our first Austrian breakfast: dark grainy breads, sweet jams, and soft boiled eggs. I love the accoutrements that come along with those soft boiled eggs—the special holder and the tiny spoon. (There is a place in Kitzbühel—the Garni Ludwig—at which soft boiled eggs come with their own hand knit ski hats!)

Of course, I had to wash it all down with a deliciously creamy cappuccino. I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but coffee is so good in Europe I can never get enough. Even gas station coffee in Europe is worth a stop.


The Bells of Austria

Monica was our guide in Innsbruck. Knowing we had two young boys with us, she designed a tour to be filled with castles, legends, war, and Olympic ski jumps. Our first stop was at Grassmary’s bell foundry, museum, and gift shop. If someone would have asked me if I wanted to see a bell foundry I might have taken a pass, but I have to say this stop was a highlight. I don’t know if I will ever hear a bell ringing anywhere in the world and not think differently and appreciate it more.

Turns out our guide’s family has been making bells for more than 400 years. Monica took us into the workroom and showed us how bells are made, then allowed us to try something called bell therapy—stand in the bottom of a big bell as it’s rung; the resulting healing vibrations travel up and down your body!

Monica at Grassmary Bell FoundryBoys in the BellWinter or Summer InnsbruckGrassmyr Innsbruck

Normally when you take children to a place like this, you have to ask them again and again to keep quiet. Yet here, at this bell foundry, kids are encouraged to make lots of noise and ring all the bells. It was wonderful. In the museum section, we saw how Monica’s family changed warfare by creating a smaller canon that could rotate. Then we finished in the shop, where once again Micah’s retail gene took over, but I got him down to just two small items. I too had to have a heart-shaped bell that we could hang by the door back in Aspen.


Fashion First

I forgot to mention, it was hammering snow outside and I decided to wear my new chic One Moon Cashmere cape instead of my sensible ski parka with a hood. Fashion had to come first—after all, I was in Europe. My guide kept asking if I was cold, but not wanting to admit I had made a fashion faux pas, I assured her I was fine. On the positive side, the cape is made of cashmere and crazy as this sounds, the snow never soaked through it.


Innsbruck and the Olympics

Our next stop was the Olympic ski jump. Innsbruck has hosted the Olympic Games twice. Once in 1964 and then again in 1976 when Denver got the bid and had to give it up. The ski jumping arena is a tight semi-circle; the jump itself looks as if it were a Frank Lloyd Wright design—it is sleek and sexy. We went right up to where the jumpers start. My stomach churned just looking down to the town of Innsbruck below. In direct view of the flight path, when ski jumpers are soaring through the air, is the town church and cemetery. If a ski jumper didn’t have religion before he or she took off, they would find it here for sure.

Olympic RingsInnsbruck Cemetery and Church










Knights, Castles & Museums

Since our time was tight and our goal was to get to Soelden by night, we moved onto the Kaiserjager Museum at the base area of the ski jump. It too had an interesting interior design element. The boys loved see the story on the walls of the battle of 1809 when the local farmers defeated the French army and seeing the kinds of weapons they used to fight. I appreciated the chance to warm up!

Far too quickly we were off to Schloss Ambras, our second Schloss in 24 hours. This is where Archduke Ferdininand II lived once he became the ruler of Tyrol in 1564. (What is an “Archduke” anyway? Of course I’m a fan of democracy, but we Americans missed out on having Dukes and Duchesses, and lots of His or Her Royal Highnesses.)

Back to Ferdinand… he transformed this fortress into a fabulous palace that boasts the world’s first “bathroom”. There are grand rooms with gorgeous painted ceilings, plus an amazing collection of armor. The boys learned that kids in those days also had to wear armor and be equipped to fight. My favorite was the armor that was created for the archduke’s second wedding—custom designed to make room for a protruding belly that had the habit of entering a room before he did!



The Golden Roof

Next we visited the old city or Altstadt. The Goldenes Daschl became the symbol of Innsbruck. I was dying to go to the Cafe Sacher as I’d been to the one in Vienna, but since the kids did such a great job of running around the city, we let them choose the restaurant. They choose pizza—I’d have to wait to get my strudel.

Old City Innsburck

Once finished, we headed back to the Grand Hotel Europa, whose staff had kindly agreed to store our things while we toured. We packed up the car and set out for Soelden. Thank goodness the snow had let up a bit by now as I was not ready to go head-to-head with speeding Mercedes and Audi cars on a narrow, snow-covered highway!

snowy Innsbruck