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Journal of a 9-day coach holiday through 9 countries.

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This page last updated: 17th December 2007.

day 7 Friday is the day of the optional excursion to Innsbruck. Christine wants a quiet day to herself and so I'm off on the trip while she is staying behind in St. Anton.

The journey to Innsbruck takes just over an hour. We are met in the coach-park by Isolde. Those not going on the guided tour get off, while the rest of us stay on board.

Isolde tells us about the city, describing how much of its history revolves around its position as a stepping stone between Germany in the north and Italy in the south. We drive past the old town and down Maria Theresien Straße. Beyond the triumphal arch at the end, we can see the ski-jump on Bergisel. Although our guide recounts stories of Maria Therese and the other Austrian royals, I am too busy taking in the sights to listen intently.

The coach takes up to the Bergisel. Here is a small park on this hill overlooking the city. We leave the coach and take a look at the statue of Andreas Hofer. Originally an innkeeper, livestock trader and wine merchant, in 1809 Hofer fought at Bergisel against 30,000 Bavarian soldiers who were fighting for Napoleon. With all the professional Military at the headquarters of the Hapsburgs in Vienna, in the Tyrol were left mainly seniors, women and children opposing the French; Hofer was the leader of what was left in the country to defend it. He went on to became governor of the Tyrol. In 1810 he and his army were defeated in the fourth battle of Bergisel. On the orders of Napoleon he was later put to death.

A museum on the hill is devoted to Hofer, but we do not get to see this. There is also a pavillon called the Kaiserjägerhaus, the house, club and the festivity hall of the former Kaiserjäger, "the old soldiers of the Austrian Emperor." Today the pavilion is occupied by the army who are preparing for a shooting competition. It is slightly disconcerting to be greeted by the sight of soldiers coming towards us carrying rifles.

Towering above us is the Olympic ski-jump. The original jump was destroyed two years ago and a new one is being built. This will have lifts and a restaurant area. We stand looking down over the town and the Basilika Wilten. Isolde tells us that the ski-jumpers, waiting to jump can look left or right. To the left is the hospital; to the right is the cemetery. Most jumpers are well-focussed and there are few accidents.

From Bergisel we drive down to the Basilika. A green-liveried tram decorated with images of Mozart passes by. The outside of the Basilika is white and yellow, an indication that it has been visited and blessed by a Pope.

The inside is stunning — painted ceilings; large open windows allowing the sun to reflect from the gilt finials on the ornate carved stonework. Innsbruck, we are told, is about 90% Catholic. Citizens must pay part of their income-tax direct to the church or religion of their choice. The old pews appear to be riddled with woodworm; presumably they have been treated.

We are driven then past the Bell Museum and the railway station back to the coach park. The next part of the guided tour is on foot. Isolde leads us through a park to a street where a number of horse-drawn landaus are plying their trade. An alleyway and courtyard lead to the Dom church, named for its domed roof. It is almost as opulent as the Basilika. The tomb of Archduke Maximilian II is an intricately carved affair looking much like a four-poster bed. On the top can be found St. George and the Dragon. The upright posts have little animals — snails, snakes, birds, insects, butterflies. At one end of the church is a magnificent huge organ.

Isolde leads us into the Old Town. This is a maze of narrow traffic-free streets full of shops and pavement cafés. The buildings are mostly brightly-coloured and tastefully decorated. Here our guided tour ends and we say goodbye to our splendid guide. I decide to leave the quaint but crowded old town and walk down Maria Theresien Straße.

In a quieter parallel-running street, the Hofgasse which leads to the Hofburg, The Imperial Palace of Innsbruck, I discover a pizza restaurant called Ristorante Leonardo Da Vinci. It is tucked away from the bustle of the city. About half a dozen people are eating there already and they look like relaxed regulars. I order an apple-juice and a pizza. The pizza is large. I only manage to eat about three-quarters of it, but my hunger is well satisfied. The waiter asks me where I am from. I tell him, "Manchester". He beams, "Ah, Manchester U—nit—ed!". I smile and make my way back via the closed Museum to the Old Town.

There is still half an hour left before we are due back at the coach. I wander into the nearby park. Some people are playing chess on a large outdoor board. I join some others, and sit on a bench by a pond. It is a pleasant and sunny afternoon but my feet ache.

Back in St.Anton at the Kertess, Christine has had a quiet day. She has spent most of it sleeping, and the rest reading her book. After the maid had been in to clean the room, Christine had to chase after her to retrieve the pillbox she'd left in bathroom. It is the one she keeps her two false teeth in overnight. The maid had thought it was rubbish and had taken it.

For lunch, Christine had eaten the Bavarian pastry, which she described as gorgeously delicious. The lounge/bar area of the hotel isn't open during the day. Neither is there anywhere for guests to sit outside. Had the hotel been located in the village, she might have been able to take a short walk. As it was, she had to spend the day in the bedroom. At least she had peace and quiet and was not disturbed at all by the building work lower down the street.

After dinner, the drivers have organised a bingo tournament between Leger and Shearings, a rival coach company whose tour-party is also staying at the Kertess. We are not interested in taking part, so go to our room. We flick through the TV channels. We find ourselves watching a circus. The introduction and commentary is in German, but circus acts being visual, that doesn't matter. We thoroughly enjoy the show.

Tomorrow is an early start on the way home.

Journal Day 8 Photographs Day 7