Today is the first day of autumn and like every year I think back about my childhood. The first day off fall was always a special Holiday in the region where I lived, when I was a child. It was the day when the cows came back to our farm, after they had spent the summer high up in the mountains.
A third of the fields and pastures that belonged to our farm, where located high up in the mountain area and every year in April, shortly after all the snow had melted, a herder walked all the cows up into the Alps. I often walked with him, to make sure we didn’t lose any cows on the way. The Alp fields are not easy to maintain, they can’t be reached with tractors or cars, the way up there is steep and long. The cows loved it, the air is cooler up there, the grass is fresh and the milk tastes better and is used to make butter and famous cheese.
The time spent up in the mountains is not always easy for the herders. They live a rather simple and lonely life and carry a great amount of responsibility, to make sure all the animals will be returned in good healthy in autumn. Often on the weekends, when I was home from boarding school, I was send up hiking to the Alp fields with a backpack full of things they needed up there.
When the summer is over, on the first day of autumn, that’s when the cattle is walked down from the mountain fields. It’s called the “Almabtrieb” (drive from the mountain pasture) what describes the return of the cattle from summer grazing in the hill country, to their barns in the valley below. If summer grazing season has passed safely, and without any deadly incidents for man or animals, then the herds are dressed up in their “Sunday best” and returned home, where they are greeted by local fair, music, dance and good food.
The lead cow is decorated with big wreath (Kranz) and leads the procession of all the other animals all wearing a wreath of Alpine flowers, ribbons, crosses and mirrors.
The cows wear huge bells around their neck, to scare off any evil monsters they might meet on their way back into the valley. Decorating the cows is the traditional way of giving thanks for a good summer season without any losses.
It’s a colorful spectacle and visitors from all over come to witness the festival. If you make vacation in Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria (Germany) or the northern regions in Italy…that’s something you want to see.
Today I was thinking about “Almabtrieb” how it has been years ago and still is celebrated the same way until today.
It’s Frisbee Wednesday at Serendipity’s blog and I almost forgot. This was a nice trip back on memory lane. 🙂