Visiting a local park is something we like to do in every city we visit. So far we’ve seen Vondelpark in Amsterdam, the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, and now we can add the Hofgarten in Innsbruck to our list.
The Hofgarten (Court Gardens) is a lovely public park covering about 25 acres on the outskirts of Innsbruck’s Old Town. Back in the 16th century, the Hofgarten was considered one of the most elaborate formal gardens north of the Alps. It has been “revitalized” quite a few times since then; Maria Theresa, the empress we learned about at the Hofburg Imperial Palace, even had her hand in reshaping it during her reign. A few plants supposedly remain that she planted herself, although, if they are marked, we did not see them. The Hofgarten is now an English garden with large, old trees, a small pond, a greenhouse, and pretty, winding walking trails.
We dropped in to take a walk before dinner one evening. Being that it was February, we knew we wouldn’t be sticking around too long after the sun set, but we had just long enough of a stroll to burn off the calories we’d be getting back as soon as we sat down for our meal.
Even though it was very much still winter in Innsbruck, the grass in the park remained green and quite a few early spring blooms were already showing off their colors. We saw the most unusual tree that was growing not only upright, but also along the ground like a gigantic, twisting serpent. I tried to get a picture, but I couldn’t even fit it all in the frame. There was a “No Touching” sign in front, so I assume it’s something pretty special.
Besides a few dog-walkers scattered throughout the park, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. In warmer months, I’d guess the Hofgarten to be a much busier place, given its location right next to the river and all the major sights of Innsbruck. The lack of people was something I couldn’t help but notice while we were visiting, and not just at the park, but everywhere else we went as well. Given the city’s popularity among winter sports enthusiasts, I figured there would be a lot more tourists in February, but we were pleasantly surprised at how uncrowded the restaurants, sights, and even the streets were!
We covered quite a bit of ground in the Hofgarten in the hour we had before sundown – I’m sure we would have made much quicker time, too, if I weren’t stopping to photograph something new every two dozen steps.
We found a pond with ducks that seemed rather miffed at us for not bringing them anything to eat. (Next time I’ll remember that if I want better pictures, I ought to bring bread, otherwise all I’ll get is tail-feathers.) They also didn’t like it when I tried to pick them up. Odd bunch, those ducks.
My favorite thing we stumbled across on our walk was the giant chess boards on either side of the pavilion in the park. There were pretty intense games being played on both of them, and people standing by watching looked just as fixated on the game as the players themselves. I don’t even play chess and this was still fun to stop and watch.
Maybe I spoke too soon about my favorite thing – it was definitely the mountains. They were easy to pick out in the park, always peeking over the tops of the tall pine trees. I’ve never lived anywhere with scenery like this, so any time we’d get a glimpse of the snow-covered peaks, my heart would skip a beat. The mountains, even though they aren’t the same range or even on the same continent, made me feel a bit closer to my sister who is living in Colorado. This must be the same sort of landscape she sees every day. What an amazing view to wake up to!
The Hofgarten is located across the street from the Hofburg Imperial Palace and right next to the Tyrolean State Theater. The main entrance to the park is on Rennweg. This is the closest entrance to the children’s play area and the only place in the park where people and animals are permitted on the grass. (I never saw anyone around enforcing this rule, but there are signs up throughout the park.) Entrance is free and the gates are open from sunrise to sunset!
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