About Innsbruck, Tirol, and Vorarlberg
The provinces of Tirol and Vorarlberg make up the western tip of Austria with Innsbruck, the capital of Tirol, the natural, historic, and economic center. These two provinces are so different from the rest of Austria that you might think you've crossed a border, and in a way you have. The frontier between Tirol and Salzburg to the east is defined by mountains; four passes routed over them are what make access possible. To the west of Tirol lies Vorarlberg; as its name implies, it's "before the Arlberg"—the massive Alps.In winter you'll find masses of deep, sparkling powder snow and unrivaled skiing and tobogganing. You can also venture into the famous Arlberg ski resorts, where for many, skiing is almost as important as being seen. In summer, Bregenz, the historic state capital of Vorarlberg, becomes the "Summer Capital of Austria" when the Bregenz Festival opens with a performance by the Viennese Symphonic Orchestra. Thousands flock to see operas and musicals by Giuseppe Verdi or Leonard Bernstein—to name just two—which take place on a huge floating stage with Lake Constance and the Swiss mountains as a backdrop.Like most other mountain peoples, the Tyroleans are proud and independent—so much so that for many centuries the natives of one narrow valley fastness had little communication with their "foreign" neighbors in the next valley.Until a tunnel was cut through the Arlberg range, in winter Vorarlberg was effectively cut off from the rest of the country. The province has much in common with its neighbor, Switzerland. Both peoples are descended from the same ancient Germanic tribes that flourished in the 3rd century BC.
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Things You Can't Miss
Innsbruck’s Cathedral of St. James, with its ornate Baroque interior, houses a famed 16th-century painting of the Madonna and Child.
Take your pick of Tirol resorts for that special ski vacation. St. Johann caters to novice and intermediate skiiers, but experts will find challenges, too.
Cruise with the White Fleet to an array of destinations. Use a ship as part of a bike excursion, as a place to dine and dance or even get married.
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Take to the beach on the southeastern shore of Lake Constance. On an enormous floating stage you might hear the works of Verdi, Strauss or Gershwin.
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The Christmas Market in Alstadt, Innsbruck’s old town, offers Tyrolean crafts and costumes. Take in the Goldenes Dachl museum, too.
Gabriele Croppi/Grand Tour/Corbis
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