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Innsbruck, Capital of the Tirol

Austria

Far from stately Vienna, the provincial capital of Innsbruck has the fixings of the Habsburg Empire, with fine architecture and a delightful folk museum.

Complete Video Script

From up here, it's all downhill to Innsbruck. Filling the valley floor, it's one of the biggest cities within the Alps. Innsbruck was an important outpost of the Habsburg Empire. For five centuries, it was their capital of Tirol, with all the imperial trappings: a grand church, a stately palace, and an extravagant balcony fit for a king.

This much-admired Golden Roof was built for the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I in 1494. The roof, with over 2,000 gilded copper tiles, remains the town's centerpiece. Innsbruck's historic center is now a pedestrian zone. Looking past the crowds, it still feels like a once-grand provincial capital.

The city's folk museum is a medieval Tirolean home show. Humble as that rural farming community may have been, an artistic touch prevails. The plow seems to honor hard work. One-legged milking stools were finely carved. Cribs were decorated with religious themes to be sure God watched over the baby. Fantastical characters warded off evil and even served as human scarecrows. Merchants, carrying their wares on their backs, would hike from village to village. This one sold fine fabric.

Intricately whittled dioramas show off the region's tradition of fine woodcarving. While this could be any Tirolean village, upon closer look, it's Bethlehem, in the Alps. Bible stories like this nativity scene made most sense to locals when presented in a familiar hometown setting. Today, this manger scene gives you a glimpse of village life in Tirol a couple centuries ago.