I (maybe) <3 Innsbruck

inn
My favourite picture of Innsbruck that I ever took. The river is Inn, the mountain peaks are part of the Nordkette (northern chain) mountain ranges of the Austrian Alps and the structure seen far away is the city station of the funicular railway that ascends the mountain.

I still remember with perfect clarity what my first impressions of Innsbruck were. It was six years ago, and I was moving yet again, to a different country, to a different city. It was a long flight from my coastal Kochi to mountainous Innsbruck. I had stopovers at Doha and then Vienna. The flight from Vienna to Innsbruck was unforgettable. A tiny Austrian airlines plane manoeuvring above ranges upon ranges of Austrian Alps which were already wearing sparse snowy crowns in September, and finally setting down inside a mountain ring that hosted a small city and a smaller airport. That was a truly magnificent spectacle.

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An Innsbruck panorama from atop the Hafelekar peak of the Nordkette mountain range.

Another distinct memory is of my first snow here. For a person from a coastal city in a tropical country, snow isn’t exactly commonplace. My first encounter with it had been in London three years before. But London snows are, well, weird. It only snows for about ten days from Christmas to the new year. In most of the city area, it doesn’t settle at all, the foot traffic just crushes it into disgusting sludge. So it was quite an experience to see settled snow, literally overnight (I kid you not, it was cold when I went to sleep, and when I woke up, all was white !), its carpet stretching as far as the eye can see, and as high as you can look. The mountains around Innsbruck in snow is a sight worth seeing.

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The colourful houses of Innsbruck by the river Inn near Marktplatz. This is one of those images that most people (especially tourists) associate with Innsbruck.

I left Innsbruck after six months, lived in Italy and then in Serbia, for six months each. When I came back here in February 2014, nothing much had changed. Yes, 2014 was a strange year, weatherwise. It was already quite warm in February. There wasn’t much snow that Winter. But Innsbruck remained as I remembered her.

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The river Sill near which I live.

I have a difficult relationship with Innsbruck. I love looking at the mountains, I admit I’m not much of a hiker or a skier. But I hate that it is so land locked. My only consolations were the rivers Inn (after which Innsbruck is named, Inn-brücke means bridge upon the Inn, which became Innsbruck) and Sill (near which I live). I love watching water flow, there is something so calming about it. I love the fierce beauty of the swollen Inn when she carries the snowmelt from the mountains. I love the placid currents of the Sill as she gurgles along. And I love my flat, which is pretty great, not to mention the great location, which is in the heart of the city, but removed from all the hubbub (such as it is) . It is almost my perfect space. And I absolutely adore my backyard, especially when it snows. But I hate that Innsbruck is such a tiny town (I don’t consider it a city, not really, it is minuscule, with a population of a little over 100,000 people) and is pretty much dead after 7 p.m. It experiences a brief awakening over the weekend, but even that is nothing to write home about.

backyard
My ‘winter wonderland’ of a backyard 🙂

So like I said, I have a difficult relationship with Innsbruck.  But, now that it is almost time to leave it, I’m feeling a little sad. It may be my Stockholm syndrome talking, but she and I did have some good times together. I did meet some great people, do some interesting things, and got on a little further on my quest to come into my own. Those are things that will stay with me, if not forever, still for a long time. Innsbruck was after all, my home for almost five years. I do believe that once I have moved, I will miss this itty bitty city. Therefore, I will not say Goodbye, Innsbruck, I will simply say, Auf Wiedersehen !

 

 

What was she willing to give up for love ?

Anything…everything.

She had nearly given up everything for it.

She often said to herself that she was too young then.

But in her heart of hearts, she knew that she still will, even today.

She had always been reticent to speak about it, even think about it. Remembering the love without the grief had been quite a task. The loving, the crashing and burning, all are intertwined in her mind. Almost a decade has passed since the event, but that grief still calls a part of her heart its own.

She used to be a romantic. As years passed, it gave way to cynicism, bit by bit, until she didn’t know where her skin ended and her sarcasm began. It seems almost like a cliché, a girl with solid upbringing, dreams of unicorns and rainbows and princes, kisses toads only to know that in real life, there are no princes, just you pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, trying to stay afloat.

And then he asked, ‘Do you believe in love ?’

She answered, ‘Yes’.

‘What kind of love ?’

‘That which smolders forever’.

She lay back on the bed and stared at the meagre blue sky  visible between the roofs of the buildings around. The white clouds passed by, twisting into different shapes as they went. A horse turned into an apple and the apple into fire. Then an airplane flew by, scattering the fire, in its haste to land at the airport nearby. Other clouds took its place, floating by in an everlasting tango.

She turned her head to watch his sleeping form. His brown hair tousled and sticking up every which way brought a smile to her face. She reached out to touch the salt and pepper scruff on his chin. She quite liked the sandpaper feel of it. She ran her hand up his face,  through the dusting of freckles on his cheeks, to his crow’s feet, to his forehead wrinkles. She rested her hand on his forehead and really looked at him. He was almost never this peaceful. He was always moving, twitching really, pattering his feet along a tune in his head, doing one thing or the other. Even when sleeping, he twisted and turned so much so that it was nearly impossible for her to get any sleep until she got used to it.

She wasn’t quite sure how all this came to be. He was just an idea in her head for the longest time. Even in the cynical character that she projected for everyone, in some inner recess of her mind, she fervently wished and patiently waited for someone like him to  come along. And when he did, it threw her for a loop. Everyone talks about falling in love, but staying in love is a completely different beast. There was no rule book, no guidelines. You were left to wander without a map.

She had built these walls in her mind over the years. They were partly to protect her from hurt, and were partly born out of shyness. The tallest and strongest wall was the one she built between who she actually is and what she called her public face. That wall never came down in front of anyone, not even her closest friends. He was patient, he was so very patient. A reasonable man would have run for the hills. But he stayed, navigating through her tantrums and insecurities and general unsociability, tearing down that wall brick by brick, piece by piece.

As her mind was wandering on these musings, the object of these mental meanderings opened his eyes. They were azure as the sky, deep and steady even when languid. They softened as he looked at her, crinkling at the corners in a half smile. She leaned over and pressed her lips to his forehead. His smile widened. He pulled her to him, burying his face in her hair. She laid her head on the crook of his neck and inhaled his scent. As his arms tightened around her, she felt truly safe.