I arrived in Innsbruck under the legendary cover of darkness. Thirteen hours or so had swept me from the sultry hotlands of Andalucia, via Mallorca to Munich, followed by a greyish drive to the soundtrack of deep-throated windscreen wiper thumps.
I was, and still am, no stranger to gloom in northern Europe, even during the throes of so-called summer. I did grow up in Britain after all.
Yet Innsbruck played tricks on me. It lured me into a false sense of smugness, with my suitcase full of jumpers, a stash of thick tights and a distinct lack of suncream.
I woke to discover not only sunshine fresher than a snowflake on an outstretched hand, but a fully blown Austrian heatwave and a skyline dominated by Alpine mountains.
Mountains peeking through hotel curtains, mountains sweeping along the river, mountains rising up behind the streets. From every angle, in every place, green and granite glittered over the city of Innsbruck.
Alas for me, I spent the day indoors, dealing with hacking problems (computer, not phone) and working on my TBU travel writing workshop.
No problem, I thought. There’s always tomorrow.
Yet as tomorrow became today, it swallowed Innsbruck into the clouds, soaked it with water and spat it back out as a million vicious raindrops.
I staggered into the streets beneath my loyal but limp umbrella, snatched shelter beneath the arches and rethought my plans.
To my surprise, Swarovski sparkled.
Not just in terms of the crystal glass, which fractured, or technically refracted, white light into rainbows across the gleaming walls. The whole Swarovski experience dazzled from the word go.
The shopfront displayed glass crystal sculptures, the staircase twinkled around dripping crystal and Swarovski even threw in a champagne bar for good measure.
Swans spread their wings in studded crystal glass, bugs hovered with scarlet eyes and Hollywood starlets posed with crown jewels and glass slippers (in photographs, at least.)
Surrounded by such brilliance, it’s an effort to remember that glass crystal comes from industrial factories, transformed from materials as dull as sand, lead and limestone.
As I emerged, blinking, back onto the street, I realised that Innsbruck had pulled off a similar chemical trick.
Puddles shimmered, the copper tiles on Innsbruck’s famous Golden Roof glowed, while sun flares shot across the mountain peaks fresh with light snow.
From leaden grey skies and lashings of rain, Innsbruck had created its own city of sparkle.
Disclosure: Swarovski Innsbruck invited me to help myself to any jewellery or watches I wanted, while plying me with endless champagne. Nah…only kidding. However, I was in Innsbruck as a speaker at the TBU Conference, with the help of the Innsbruck Tourist Board and the Austrian Tourist Board. All opinions, as ever, are mine.