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Colourful decorated cows during the ‘Almabtrieb’ on a meadow.
Post from 02/08/2013

Experience the return from the Alpine pastures

In the Alpine region late summer is traditionally the time where the dairy cattle are brought down from the Alpine pastures, which are in the higher mountain regions, back to the valley. In many places this so called ‘Almabtrieb’ is accompanied by ceremonial festivities and for the occasion the cows are colourfully adorned. Why don’t you be there live at the next ‘Almabtrieb’ with a holiday home in Germany, Austria and Switzerland!

The most ‘Almabtriebe’ take place between mid September and mid October. Just before the first snow falls more than 100,000 cows have to make their way to their winter quarters situated at their domestic farms in the valley. During the summer the animals are located with their shepherds up around the lush green Alpine meadows. If everything goes to plan and no animal is lost then just before the end of the descent the cows are adorned with a traditional headdress made of fir green, colourful Alpine flowers and other decoration elements. Bells are put around their necks which are to offer protection from demons and nasty ghosts. The ringing of the bells can be heard from afar with the village community preparing for the arrival of the animals.

But ‘Almabtrieb’ is not only a special day for farmers and the other locals which are often accompanied by folk festivals and markets. Also many vacationers regularly enjoy the colourful spectacle that offers fun for both kids and adults. Below we would like to introduce you to some regions with particularly attractive ‘Almabtriebs’.

Austria: Lots of cows implies many Almabtriebe


Ceremonially decorated Tyrol cow on the way to the valley

In the Austrian Alps great emphasis is placed on the preservation of customs. For this reason in a number of states such as Salzburger Land, Tyrol, Styria, Carinthia and Upper Austria one can marvel countless ‘Almabtriebe’. In some areas not only cows but also sheep and goats are driven up to the Alpine pastures.

There will be a lot of happening on the 14th of September in Bad Kleinkirchheim: From 11 a.m. in the morning colourful decorated cows embark on their way down to the valley. After their arrival there is an entertainment program on the fairground with a lot of music, animation for the kids and a farmers market.

One can also find festive backdrops for ‘Almabtriebe’ in Salzburger Land and Tyrol like for example in Altenmarkt on the 14th and in Wagrain on the 21st of September. In Reith in Alpbachtal there is already a festival that starts at 10 a.m. on the 14th of September where amongst other things a band will march in before the cattle is expected in the afternoon.
 

Berchtesgadener Land: Above the Königssee


After the descent these cows still have to go on this boat to get across the lake

Between the end of September and the beginning of October the livestock in Berchtesgadener Land is also brought back to the valley. The region, where also Berchtesgarden is situated who recently was honoured with the atraveo best holiday resort prize 2013, is renowned for its particularly elaborate headdress for the cows. The so called “Fuikl” consists of a fir tree tip with four connected wreaths and requires several hours of handwork for just making one of them.

In Berchtesgadener Land the ‘Almabtrieb’ has also its very own very special charm as it also takes place over the picturesque Königssee. The Saletalm and Fischunkerlalm are situated far away from the south bank of the lake and from land can only be reached with some difficulty over the mountains. The cattle are therefore brought over with transport ships, also referred to as landau, which are traditionally decorated and awaited by a large crowd.

The final destination of most ‘Almabtriebe’ are places such as Ramsau, Schönau am Königssee and Bischofswiesen so having an accommodation here one is perfectly positioned. The exact dates for the ‘Almabtriebe’ in Berchtesgadener Land are announced at short notice in order to react to possible bad weather conditions. The local tourism office can provide more detailed information. The particularly popular ‘Almabtrieb’ over Königssee generally takes place around the first or second weekend in October.

Allgäu: “Viehscheid” in Kleinwalsertal


Festive Viehscheid in Oberstdorf-Schöllang (Source: Tourismus Oberstdorf)

In Allgäu the ‘Almabtriebe’ are called “Viehscheid” or simply just “Scheid”. This term comes from the fact that when the cattle return from the collectively used pastures they are then allocated to their respective owner which means in German they are ‘separated’.

By the way the Alpine pastures are distinguished in Sennalmen and Galtalmen. Adult dairy cows whose milk is processed on site spend the summer on the Sennalmen whilst especially the young animals are put on the Galtalmen.

A traditionally large and colourful Viehscheid in Allgäu takes place on the 13th of September in Oberstdorf when the cattle return from the Galtalmen. From 9 a.m. in the morning on the so called ‘Scheidplatz’ where the animals are later separated you can enjoy music and an entertainment program that is staged whilst one waits for the young animals to arrive. A day early a further Viehscheid takes place in the Oberstorf district of Schöllang so that you have the chance to see the event twice.
 

Switzerland: Great emphasis on tradition


For now the cattle can still graze on the summery Alpine meadows...

As is known the tasty Alpkäse in Switzerland tastes particularly aromatic and spicy. According to the Alpine herdsman that is especially linked to the mountain herbs that the cattle grazes over the summer and subsequently gives the milk and cheese its very unique personal taste.

The ‘Almabtriebe’ are known mostly as “Alpabzüge” in Switzerland and of course there are a number that occur in the confederation – whether in Graubünden, in Ticino or Wallis. Next to the folk festivals that are held in many places there are also a number of special regional customs such as for example the “Aelplerchilbi” or “Chäsiteilet”.


The “Aelplerchilbi” takes place in different forms in many villages and is very much the traditional supporting program of this occurrence. In most cases it comprises of a church service, a joint lunch and dance performances. Often it is accompanied by specific customs such as the appearance of the ‘Wild ones’ and the distribution of dried fruit to the village children. The “Chäsiteilet” is in contrast the term for the cheese distribution between the farmers. Proportionally to the produced the amount of milk produced by his cows each farmer receives their entitled share of cheese in a festive setting.

 

Holiday apartments and houses that are located in towns and villages where an ‘Almabtrieb’ is organised in Germany, Austria and Switzerland you can directly find via our holiday ideas.