Colourful spectacle in late summerThe sound of bells announces the arrival of the herd. Spectators by the side of the path are in for a colourful treat. It’s that time of year again: as the summer draws to a close, the well-fed cattle with their festive decorations come down from the mountain pastures and back into the valley. The whole village joins in the celebrations.Visitors come from far and wide to experience the spectacle. A brass band plays. The convivial beer tents gradually fill up. Regional costume associations showcase their skills at Schuhplatteln dancing and Alphorn blowing. The aroma of Bavarian specialities wafts through the air. Every year during the Almabtrieb, the ceremonial cattle drive which in the Allgäu is also known as the Viehscheid, young and old get to experience anew a piece of Bavarian tradition.
On Lake Königssee, the Almabtrieb takes on a different guiseIn Schönau on Lake Königssee, the cattle take an unusual route back from the pastures of the Saletalm and Fischunkelalm and into the valley: over the water. The farmers gather their cattle on the shores of Lake Königssee and transport them on motorised cargo boats, known as Landaus. Only when the so-called “lake cows” are back on dry land are they decorated with floral wreaths and led into the village for their traditional welcome. They are adorned with the traditional “Fuikl”, special crowns worn for the Almabtrieb. The farmers themselves weave the crowns from spruce and fir branches – and decorate them with colourful wood shavings. It is meticulous work that requires nimble fingers. Each crown represents around 60 hours of work.
The herd return to the valley safe and soundThe Almabtrieb is a major attraction in the Bavarian calendar of customs. In the Allgäu, this tradition is known as the Viehscheid. This refers to the route taken by the cattle through the village to the gathering place, where the herd is split up and each individual animal returned to its owner. The Kranzrind (Crown Cow) has a very special role to play in the event. The chosen animal leads the herd and wears an elaborate headdress.
This festive adornment, the crown, goes back to pre-Christian times. The loud bells around the necks of the beasts are designed to protect them from hostile demons and bring them safely down into the valley. The traditional craft of the bellsmiths still exists in Bavaria today: Kilian Trenkle, for example, from Pfronten im Allgäu, produces cow bells that the animals wear around their necks during the Viehscheid. There are two kinds of bells: “Glocken”, which are cast, and “Schellen”, which are wrought from plate metal. The resulting combination of fine, high tones and deep, earthy notes lends the day its distinctive sound.
Almabtrieb in Upper Bavaria - Dates 2020 (Dates are not all fixed):07. September 2019:
- Sheep round in Mittenwald
- Schafscheid and sheep award in Mittenwald
- Mountaineering with farmers market in Krün
- Cattle Drive and Almfest in Mittenwald, Upper Bavaria
September 2019: Large mountain sheep award in Garmisch
September 2019: Rossalmabtrieb in Mittenwald
October 2019: Decorated cattle drive in Farchant, Upper Bavaria
Viehscheid in the Allgäu - Dates 2020:11. September 2020:
14. September 2020:
16. September 2020:
- Viehscheid in Nesselwang
- Viehscheid in Buching (municipality Halblech)
- Viehscheid in Gunzesried (Ofterschwang), Allgäu
21. September 2020:
- Viehscheid in Bolsterlang
Getting there by plane:Find out about flight arrival and departure times at all the state’s airports.
We recommend the Allgäu Airport in Memmingen!