Innsbruck, October 2015 – The tiny balcony protruding on the west side of the Theresien Kirche, in Innsbruck’s Hungerburg suburb, is one of the few external ornaments on the austere 1930s church. Its shadow, already long at nearly 4pm, gives fleeting depth to the plain off-white wall. Inside, the afternoon sun glides over the simple benches and lights up the post-war frescoes painted by Austrian artist Max Weiler in 1945.
The church stands in the middle of the settlement on the Nordkette, the mountain range above Innsbruck, which dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Today, traditional chalets coexist with post-modern houses. Painted shutters and ornate wooden loggias live side by side with angular concrete and glass shapes.
Hungerburg sits on a ripple 890m above the capital of Tyrol, with the rocky face of the Seegrubenspitze towering behind it at nearly 2,500m. The view stretches up and down the Inn valley. To the south, the motorway snakes out to the Brenner Pass towards Italy. The Zillertal Alps are just over to the right, along with the Stubai range, where I was until last night on a ski instructor pre-season training course.
Two summers ago we stopped over in Innsbruck with Dr K and Godfather P on our way to Vienna. We got the Zaha Hadid-designed funicular up to Hungerburg but we didn’t have time to go further up. Earlier this afternoon, I did.
From Hungerburg a cable car goes to the Seegrubbe mid-station at 1,905m. It’s still warm but a light breeze cools down the air. The area is heaving with afternoon wanderers: families coming for a leisurely walk; children flying kites; groups of friends finishing lunch at the restaurant.
A little further on, a few couples admire the endless views, suitably equipped walkers trek down the mountain with vigour, and a man reads on the idle chairlift facing the western sun.
From the mid-station, a second, shorter cable car goes to the top of the Hafelekar, at 2,334m. My original plan was to walk back down to Innsbruck but the cable car attendant says it takes about three hours to cover the 11km trail. If I want to walk less, he says, better to take the cable car back down to Hungerburg and walk to Innsbruck from there instead, which is only about 45 minutes.
The forest has turned burnt orange and velvety brown. Here and there are dark green blotches of evergreen conifers and golden yellow splashes of beeches. Within moments, it seems, I am back in the centre of Innsbruck.
After a lazy walk back through town I’m ready to crash out, oblivious to the imminent Halloween celebrations. It’s been a long and tiring week: up at six every day and working on personal performance and ski teaching skills all day for eight days. Tomorrow, Vienna, to spend time with friends G and J, and god-daughter C. This will also mark the return to decent food and a more balanced diet, starting with 10-year-old C treating me to hot chocolate and cake at Demel.