Last weekend was particularly special because my grandparents flew in from the States to travel around Europe for a few weeks, and they stopped in Innsbruck along the way to pick me up so I could spend the weekend with them. It was crazy seeing them walking toward my student dorm and realizing that we were halfway around the world together. They were exhausted from their long overnight flight and dealing with their luggage being lost, so I just proudly showed them around the beautiful city a little bit. Even after being there just three weeks, it already felt like I was showing them around my home. We also took a funicular up to the top of a mountain to see beautiful Innsbruck from above. It was a little foggy, but there was still a wonderful view.
For dinner I took them to a traditional Austrian restaurant. I ordered schnitzel with raspberry jam and German potato salad, which was not quite as good as my grandma’s homemade potato salad, but still pretty good.
The next morning I got up bright and early, and my grandparents picked me up at 9 a.m. My grandma was really excited because she had found some really unique place right outside of Innsbruck that she was surprising me with. It turned out to be Swarovski Kristallwelten, or Crystal World. It really is crazy but also really cool. It’s a museum located in a hill with a giant face that has a waterfall coming out of its mouth. Inside there is room after room of extravagant sculptures, paintings, displays and walls covered in Swarovski crystals. It’s definitely unlike anything I have ever seen before. We kept oohing and ahhing and laughing with each new room we entered.
After driving through beautiful mountainsides covered in adorable chalets, we entered the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, a scenic highway that winds through the highest peak and largest string of glaciers in Austria. To say that the scenery was beautiful is a huge understatement. It was hands down the most exquisite scenery I have ever seen. I could not stop gaping at it, and every turn offered a view more stunningl than the last. We wound so far up that the mountains were covered in snow, and waterfalls trickled down all sides of the mountains. I’m pretty sure I took 400 pictures that day, but none of them really justify the real view.
The next morning we took another scenic road through southern Austria, which had a lot of countryside and was almost as beautiful as the route the day before. My grandparents surprised me by taking me to Hochosterwitz Castle, a medieval castle built sometime in 800 C.E. I was so excited because I really have a castle addiction. The castle is located on a massive hill, and on a clear day it can be seen from 19 miles away. It is large and imposing, even from far away. We took a rickety elevator that scaled the side of the mountain to reach the castle. It just so happened that that weekend only they were having a medieval event at the castle. People were dressed up in medieval garb and vendors were selling medieval-style wares. They also had medieval games and activities. It was really interesting seeing a real medieval castle, and even though it had never been used as a residence, I really enjoyed walking around all of the courtyards and passageways and experiencing the festival.
The next day we headed back to Innsbruck, but along the way we drove through more breathtaking mountainsides and farmland. To feed my castle addiction my grandparents surprised me again by saying that we would stop by any castle we saw by the road along the way. We soon came upon Burg Heinfels, so we turned in to have a look. It was privately owned so we couldn’t go inside, but we were still able to walk up to it and peek around.
It seems so surreal to me that castles are casually located all over Europe, especially Austria. To me, they used to seem like something that only really existed in fairy tales, but we almost couldn’t go 20 minutes without seeing a castle or two perched on a mountain along the road.
A little while later we came across the Mühlbacher Klause, a ruined fortress that also isn’t open to the public, but we still got to explore the outside and walk around. This day really couldn’t get any better.
After driving around much of Austria, I am totally convinced there is not one ugly view anywhere in the country. Road after road and city after city provided nothing but spectacular sights, and even the rundown buildings added a certain quaintness and character to the view. My grandparents and I agreed that after seeing such magnificent scenery, it will be hard returning to Florida’s flat, ugly landscape. I am so happy that I got to share this experience with my grandparents, because it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The weekend went by too fast, and I was really sad when it was over. It is something that we will always remember, and we made memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.