Thursday, August 18, 2011

April 19th: Into Austria

We left Italy bright and early in the morning to head into Austria. We stopped for an early lunch at our last Italian rest stop, and I took mine outside to sit in the sun and eat.

 I had a pretty decent view from my perch on the steps, with these ruins off in the distance, and the beginnings of mountains behind.

My sandwich....and a yummy frozen coffee drink....

I'm not a coffee drinker, but with a hint of mocha, and a texture like an extra thick milkshake, it really was delicious.

There was a gradual change in scenery as we crossed over the Italian-Austrian border and the terrain became more mountainous. Lots of old castles perched high on hilltops and rolling green meadows in the valleys.

And tunnels, wow were there lots of tunnels. Driving through the mountains at home, we don't have very many of these, just lots of twisty turny roads, but Italy and Austria had them absolutely everywhere, and some of them were extremely long.

The mountainous view below was taken off the bus arriving at our early afternoon stop in Innsbruck.

We had a few hours to wander the town...

...Which was fully decked out for Easter.

Giant Easter eggs galore!

The bakeries were decked out for Easter too. These little baked bunnies are almost too cute to eat!

I'm not sure what the goings-on in this next picture is all was all in German. :) This group of young boys were walking through the town ringing these cowbells slung from their waists. They were all dressed up and neatly arranged in order of height, smallest to tallest.

The, umm, tune? wasn't the greatest, but they did draw quite a crowd in there cute little outfits...wish I'd had a better angle of these cute little guys!

And then there was the store with the free schnaps tasting...which I'm sure was very popular with at least a few members of the tour. I was more interested in all the pretty colours in these large glass containers.

And then as we were leaving, there were aliens. Why? I don't know why, but there they were, in all their silver glory.

And some tulips, blooming brightly in the sun.

We made one last stop on this afternoon, at Swarovski Crystal World.

Our tour guide had been telling us all afternoon how interesting and crazily weird this place was. Not that we believed her. We were expected a not-so-interesting museum, with shiny, sparkly bits of things to look at and a shop at the end to browse through. It started off tamely enough with the giant face spitting out a waterfall over the entrance, and then a foyer with this giant jellyfish made of crystals which moved jellyfish-like with the use of moving wires.

And then we entered the first in a series of rooms, where crystal bedazzled shirts went flying through the air on wires, disembodied legs tap danced to the music, a female mannequin walked slowly in a circle in the center of the room, and more shirts stacked one on top of the other curled up and extended like some weird sort of worm. Oh, and a male mannequin splits into a dozen pieces before reforming.

See here. Or here.

Then you have your zebras in pink high heels, your ice skating sun and moon (the skulls were only visible when the camera flash went off)....

Your crystallized monuments...

Then there was the dark room with lights playing over mirrors where I was an inch away from walking into the wall, and the giant crystal room where the crystals changed colour and flashed along to the music....

(There was one point where they were changing to the sounds of a thunderstorm...that was really cool.)

One of my favourite rooms was the crystal dome. Standing directly in the middle, the shape of the room amplified any sound you made, and any flash of light bounced around crazily. No good pictures in there, but I took this one of a video that was taken in that room, with the woman pictured singing, to display the effects on the sound. It really did sound beautiful, thanks greatly, I`m sure, to her amazing voice.

You can see the crystal panels of the dome in the background behind her.

After all that, another giant jellyfish that lights up and changes colour, and a bedazzled elephant.....well, they just don`t seem that interesting do they?

After the end of the weirdness, we were back on the bus and headed for our nighttime destination.....the tiny town of Hopfgarten, where we would be staying for two nights in a large house on the edge of town. There was another Contiki group staying there on our first night. They were on a ten day tour headed in the reverse direction around Europe that we were, so it was fun to compare notes at dinner.

There may have been another party that night, with a tight-and-bright theme. I`ll just leave that up to your imagination, mention that our group would definitely have won a dress-up competition, and say that what I was wearing was nowhere near as tight or bright as some of my tour mates. :) (And a flea market in Bologna may have been slightly lacking in all things neon pink and yellow after the tour group passed through.)

Then it was off to bed for another early morning. And my first time on a bike in, oh, maybe ten years. Or is it fifteen?

Yikes. :)


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