Easter in the Innsbruck region
Last updated on 27.02.2018
Easter is the time to see Innsbruck at its most beautiful. With the city basking under a radiant blue sky and surrounded by stunning snow-covered mountain peaks, you can relax in one of the lovely café gardens and enjoy your first cappuccino of the day in the spring sunshine. Whilst the nearby Kühtai ski resort offers the perfect springtime conditions for skiing, the city with its colourful traditions, delightful cuisine and cultural highlights is full of wonderful surprises.
Innsbruck’s Osterfrühling (Easter Spring)
One of the highlights of Innsbruck’s Easter Spring is the Easter market held outside the Golden Roof. It’s being held this year for the 15th time, offering visitors the opportunity to savour the fresh spring air and buy some creatively designed gifts. From 22 March to 2 April inclusive, there’s plenty to discover at more than 30 stalls in the Old Town: wooden toys to delight the youngest visitors, and handicrafts and Easter decorations to provide ideas for your Easter basket. Delicious food cooked in a giant pan and speciality sweets and pastries are the perfect way to fortify you for your shopping. A varied programme throughout Easter enables visitors to experience some traditional customs, some of which hark back to the time when the advent of the warm, fertile days was vital for people living and working in the countryside. Look out in particular for the “Aperschnalzer”, when special whips are rhythmically swung by groups of young men, and the resulting cracks of the whips – either in the air or as they strike the ground – seek to drive out winter; and the “Grasausläuter”, when noisy bells and rattles symbolically expel winter and encourage the grass to emerge. Young children can test their creative skills making Easter and spring decorations (every day), and, of course, enjoy an Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday.
Easter exhibitions: The Hare and his Eggs & Smarter than the Easter Hare
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s a hare – or bunny – that brings the Easter eggs, you’ll find some interesting answers in the Easter Exhibition, and you might be surprised to learn that it’s based on a 16th century German tradition. The exhibition runs from February to April in the Baroque cellar of Innsbruck’s Imperial Court, and you can learn lots of interesting and curious facts about Easter traditions from more than 1,000 collectors’ items. The Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art also offers you the chance to discover lots of fascinating Easter traditions. Foreign visitors will find it interesting to compare their Easter customs with Tyrol’s. What presents are given at Easter? Are there any special foods associated with Easter? Is there a traditional Easter costume? At 12 stations across the museum, selected items such as a Lent crib, a palm donkey and a rattle might answer these questions and highlight some of the differences. The exhibition is open from 8 March to 22 April.
Lent cribs, palm leaves and Easter grave decorations
The villages in the Innsbruck region also provide plenty of opportunities to experience Easter traditions at first hand. Many churches and chapels are embellished every year with Lent cribs. These artistically crafted and lovingly designed masterpieces of Tyrolean folk art show biblical Easter scenes. The centuries-old works are only exhibited during Lent in the 40 days before Easter – in Götzens, Axams, Zirl and Telfs, for example. In many places graves are adorned with Easter decorations instead: coloured, water-filled, illuminated glass balls often frame the scene, creating an almost mystical atmosphere. The custom is especially common in the villages of Axams, Igls, Patsch, Natters, Mutters, Götzens, Birgitz, Kematen and Oberperfuss.
Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) is a particularly colourful day of Easter, commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when people came out to worship him with palm branches. Palm trees don’t grow in the Alps so, for the “palm tree” or the stately, often metre-high “palm mats”, we have to make do with furry gray catkins and all sorts of alpine plants such as heather and juniper. Adorned with coloured ribbons and pretzels, they’re proudly carried into church by the children, and there’s often even a procession where the jewels can be admired – for example in Mutters, Natters or Obsteig on the Mieminger Plateau.
Eggs, bacon and special bread
It’s impossible to imagine Easter without decorated eggs. In addition to the obligatory Easter eggs, it’s mainly bread specialties that make the Easter brunch something special. On Palm Sunday, the children are often given rabbits, hens or pretzels – shaped bread made from yeast dough, baked and presented only on these occasions – by their godparents. Another very old, Easter bread recipe is the Forchaz or Fochatz (from Lat. focus = fire). This was originally a flatbread baked under ashes. Today, connoisseurs appreciate it mainly for its very special taste, created by adding a dash of anise, among other things. In Innsbruck, for example, it’s available at traditional bakeries such as Moschen’s – but it’s a good idea to order in advance as this seasonal speciality sells like hot cakes!
über.leben – Easter Festival in Innsbruck and Hall
Innsbruck launches the “season of culture” with the Easter Festival. For its 30th anniversary, the multi-faceted festival, valued far beyond the provincial borders, will be combining, in its customary varied manner, a wide range of music: old and new, world-famous and avant-garde, regional and international. The demanding programme spans the spectrum from orchestral to dance performances, and organ concerts to vocal ensembles. In various venues in Innsbruck and Hall in Tirol, the artists comment on their vision of human existence in a variety of approaches and forms of expression under the guiding principle “über.leben” (about.life). A special highlight will be the St John Passion which the Collegium Vocale Gent, under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe, a pioneer of early music, will be performing on Good Friday (30 March) at the Congress Innsbruck. www.osterfestival.at
But wouldn’t it be nicer on the ski slopes?
For eager winter sports enthusiasts, the Easter holidays offer, of course, the perfect opportunity to experience perhaps the most beautiful skiing days of the year. In the Kühtai ski report, for example, the lifts are in operation until 15 April. And as the days at Easter are much longer than in January, you can, of course, enjoy an extended day’s skiing …