One of the destinations I was most looking forward to visiting on this trip was Stuttgart, Germany for Cannstater Volksfest. A friend of mine who used to live in Stuttgart told me about it a few years ago. It sounded like a slightly less crazy Oktoberfest, so I figured it would be a good time. However, the title of this post is clearly not ‘Fast Train to Partytown: Celebrating Cannstater Volksfest in Stuttgart’. Spoiler alert: we didn’t go. Seeing as I was excited to go, you’d think I would be sad that it didn’t work out. But, truth is, I’m actually really happy with how things ended up.
Back in July after I started seriously planning this trip, I decided to book accommodation for Stuttgart ASAP. July was already pretty late to start looking seeing as this is a really big event, and I was nervous most places would be booked. We were going to meet up with a friend of mine from uni, so getting an AirBnb flat for the three of us sounded fun. It can be really affordable if you split it between a few people. Plus, we wouldn’t have to deal with rando drunk roommates in a dorm room. The place I found had instant booking, so I clicked and put it in the back of my mind, moving onto the next thing. I didn’t follow up the confirmation with a direct message until after we were on the road. Rookie mistake.
Long story short, the guy didn’t actually understand how instant booking worked, and we couldn’t stay in the place. It was a little frustrating, but we still had time to adjust our plan. So we were left with four nights and nowhere to stay. This was our last stop before flying out of Munich to head off to Croatia, so we couldn’t go too far from that area.
The only place I could think of was Innsbruck, Austria. I had wanted to go there when I first started planning, but the five-hour train journey from Interlaken seemed excessive. Once I started looking, nowhere else really interested me. I liked the idea of having my first glimpse of Austria. On top of being a pretty city, it was only an hour or two from Munich. It seemed like a good plan, so I booked us into another flat.
And I am so glad I did.
Innsbruck was actual perfection. Picturesque mountains surrounded the entire city, creating a stunning backdrop for all of my pictures. You may think being surrounded by mountains would be claustrophobic, but it felt more like a cozy hug to me. Maybe that’s because it was a bit chilly, so we got to bundle up in comfy sweaters.
The buildings are so bright and beautiful, and there were so many cute cafés. The fact that it was cheaper than Switzerland didn’t go unnoticed. Having an entire kitchen to ourselves, we were able to cook up tons of yummy food like veggie rice bowls with sweet soy sauce without having to pay restaurant prices. Thank goodness for grocery stores.
The train ride was really easy as well despite totaling over five hours on three different trains. Austrian trains are my absolute favourite. It was really easy to hear our stops because all of the announcements were made in Austrian and English. On top of that, they even tell you the platforms of all the most popular train transfers, so you know where you need to go before you even leave your first train. The views did not disappoint either. Have I mentioned the mountains and valleys are really pretty?
Innsbruck didn’t necessarily have as many museums and whatnot as some of the other cities we visited, but wandering around the old town was plenty of entertainment for me. Our flat was slightly outside the touristy centre, right next to a little plaza surrounded by small shops and cafés, so we could avoid most of the crowds. It really felt like we were living in the city despite our being there for such a short time. It was impossible not to fall in love. I aspire to be the woman we saw lounging at the table outside one of these cafés bundled in a blanket sipping on champagne at ten in the morning. I was sold.
My personal highlight of our time in Innsbruck was at that very same café. It was our last morning, so we decided to go out and get one last cup of hot chocolate before taking the train to Munich. The next day we would be flying to Croatia, and I wasn’t sure when we would be able to have our next hot cocoa. After ordering our drinks, I was asked by the waiter if I was British. Apparently some of the words I used made him think I was from the UK.
I try very hard to not lose my American accent even though I have been in the UK for four years now because I don’t want to sound like a tool, but some of the vocabulary does stick (I’ve been told I now say ‘quite’ a lot). It turns out the guy was Scottish, and he was surprised when I replied with a resounding ‘Nah man, we are actually from America’. I don’t know about you, but being mistaken as British by a British person counts as a victory for me.
Overall, Innsbruck just felt like home. It was the kind of place I left thinking ‘I could come back and live here’. I had the same feeling about Luxembourg and Strasbourg. We may not have seen as many museums or historic sites during our stay, but getting to know Innsbruck was amazing. It has such a chill vibe, and you know that they must pull out all the stops at Christmas. I’m really glad we didn’t miss out on this gem during our Great European Rail Adventure.
So what did this all teach me? First, always check your AirBnb reservations even if it says you are confirmed. Luckily it wasn’t that much of a disaster for us. The customer service team was really helpful and even gave me a voucher to use, so I was happy. We are already planning to use it on a little mini-vacation after we get back to the UK.
Second, no matter how much planning you do, being flexible is important. Getting to Innsbruck was a bit of effort, but it was so worth it in the end. This was one of my favourite destinations so far. Just because some things don’t work out doesn’t mean you can’t still have a great time. I didn’t get to live out my Oktoberfest dream this time around, but it’ll still be there next year, and who knows, maybe I will be too.