Da summa is umma.
Summer is over.
Kids are starting school again. Temperatures are dropping to chilly realms. Blue skies and and grey days come and go. The tips of beech trees ring in the reign of fall colours and turn golden. And the cows leave their summer pastures on the Almen to return to the stables and pastures in the valleys and villages.
Sounds like an tourist-luring, nostalgic romanticisation of what Bavaria is like? Maybe.
But in regions like the southern Allgäu, Berchtesgaden and Chiemgau (and certainly also further into the mountains) farmers still send their cows to higher elevations in die Sommerfrische. There’s less of them nowadays and especially less Melkalmen, where cows are milked and cheese is made right on the flank of a mountain. Still, on most hikes snaking through the Bayerische Voralpenland you’ll be accompanied by the soothing, monotonous sound of cow bells ringing near and far.
But all good things come to an end and so does the Almsommer. Throughout September cowherds guide their proteges back down to the villages. And this “homecoming” is a bit of a big deal around here. Cows are done up with festive cowbells and crowns – if the summer has gone well and man and beast return home safe and sound.
Neither my friend nor I have ever been so yesterday we decided to make use of the good weather and her new car and flee the crazy Oktoberfest crowds flocking through our neighbourhood. Our destination: Haldenwang im Oberallgäu close to Kempten. City dwellers on their way to the country side.
We were a little surprised about how quickly the cows jogged down main street onto the temporary fair grounds and how few of them wore their ornate crowns. Staderer eben – us naive city dwellers had expected a lot more pomp and cows, but in retrospect it was only 70 cows from the town’s one Alm. And after they had come through town all the cows were lead to a fenced in meadow for presentation and sorting to send them back home to their respective owners. At that point we weren’t the only ones who behaved like they had never seen a live cow, gathering along the fences and snapping photos like paparazzi.
In the end it seemed like the Viehscheid was a welcome excuse for a town fair. After half an hour of staring at the cows people turned to beer and food and music, to chatting and enjoying the outing.