by Shamala Kandiah Thompson
Continuing our travels in Europe we headed east to Innsbruck after our two days in Salzburg. Paul had spent some time there about twenty years ago and highly recommended a visit to this city. At an altitude of 560m (1837 feet) Innsbruck is the capital of the federal state of Tyrol.
Searching on TripAdvisor convinced us to book a few nights with Romantik Hotel. It was close to the rail station, centrally located and had good reviews, particulary for their healthy breakfast buffet and unique rooms, including a Versace Suite and a Swarowski Crystal Suite (we did, as it happens, visit the Swarowski museum). We were going to be there over my birthday so I thought a hotel with a bit of character might be interesting.
Like several of the cities we had visited, the most obvious running routes were along the banks of the river, in this case the River Inn. We did a few runs along the river accompanied by spectacular views of the alps surrounding Innsbruck.
I decided that a good way to celebrate turning 50 was to run in the Tyrolean Alps. The day before we had riden up the Patscherkofel on the other side of the valley and taken a short hike. But today I wanted to go one better by riding up the Nordkette and, if possible, running down some or all the way! Down rather than up as we felt we needed gravity’s help.
The Nordkette are just a 20 minute ride away from the city centre on the Hungerburg Funicular and Nordkettenbahn (cable railway). Planned and designed by Zaha Hadid the funicular marries futuristic design with alpine motifs .
So we rode the funicular and cable railway, in two stages, all the way up to the 2256m (7729 feet) high Hafelekar, did a short hike to the nearest peak of Hafelekarspitze, took the cable car back down to Seegrube at 1905m (6350 feet) and then drew a deep breath for the descent to Hungerburg. The descent looked feasible – there was a service road that tracked the cable car route. Paul suspected the legs might regret. They did.
While on the peak we spent sometime soaking up the thin air and jaw dropping views of Innsbruck and the 360 degree mountain panorama. The air was so thin Paul got tempted with the idea of doing the World Masters Mountain Running Championships in the nearby Stubai.
I knew Paul would be a lot faster than me, in spite of carrying a bag, so we agreed to meet at the Hungerburg station. The start was steep and stony. Being a novice mountain runner I started nervously. However, I surprised myself by staying upright and quickly settled into a steady rhythm. And the early twists and turns gave way to long straight stretches.
I wasn’t breaking any speed records but I was gaining in comfort, confidence and competence. After about three miles my quads started to feel sore but nothing that would make me stop. After around four miles I came across Paul who had done a detour. We continued down together for a bit. A wrong turn had us going uphill at one point, convincing me down was the right choice.
Eventually the destination came into view. Not before time for the legs and lungs. All in all we covered around 8 miles and some 1200 metres of descent. While pleased to have been able to get down in one piece squatting and walking proved painful for a few days. The quads were beat. Paul, on the other hand, felt the strain in his gluts. You can tell who was doing the the constant braking.
To celebrate my birthday in a more relaxed manner we went had dinner at Alfred Miller’s Schoneck restaurant. The food was excellent as was the service. Our table had been decorated with roses and sparkles as Paul had tipped them off that it was my birthday. And the final touch was a little cake with a sparkler candle, like a stick of dynamite, and glasses of champagne on the house. All in all it was a memorable way to celebrate turning half a century!