Viehscheid, the annual gathering of cows and bulls being driven down from the summer pastures in the mountainside to the valley. In the respective localities, the animals are gathered together on the so-called Scheidplatz; the shepherd “part” – that is separating the cattle out of the crowd and where every farmer gets his cattle back.
This unique, traditional experience is one of my favorites and not to be missed! Every year, in the autumn days of September, during the early morning hours across the majestic Bavarian Alps, Germany, the ceremonial driving of the cattle from the Alpine pastures into the valley brings families together, locals and visitors alike. With 160+ functioning alpine homesteads in this area, it’s the largest festival of its kind! The tradition dates back to the beginning of the early 1900s and continues today to ensure sustainability of the Bavarian grazing lands and the cows’ health and well-being.
The cattle drive in Oberstdorf is still the oldest tradition in the Upper Allgäu and the one at Schöllang is as familiar as ever. This tradition is as much a part of the village as the mountains are, and accordingly, is a fantastic festival in this region to look forward to each year.
More Cowbell! The cattle are fitted with large cowbells to ward off any evil spirits they might come across on the return journey home, making quite the melody of jingle and jangle as they slowly and steadily plod their way back to their villages. The sounds grow louder, bells clanking, wet noses snuffling, and lots of happy faces as the cattle parade down the main road. Everyone is all eyes on the Leading Beauty Queens from each herd. You’ll know her by the ornate headdress she’s adorned with colorful blumen (flowers). It’s a sign of a good summer on the Alps when the cows are adorned with flowers and wreaths. This means no serious incidents or injuries occurred.
After the parade, hundreds of cattle are separated and handed over by the proud herdsmen to their appropriate owners at the designated meeting point called the ‘Scheidplatz’.
The real party begins When the Cattle Drive is over! Folk fair, music, dancing, and lots of food. It’s common for seats at the fest tables to be filled as early as 10:00 a.m. as the festival has already been underway for a couple of hours.
The annual Cow Bell is presented to the best herdsman once the parade ends. The local oompah brass band entertains everyone in the large tent area where you’ll find brats, pretzels, and of course, beer. The festive atmosphere is something you will not soon likely forget and it is truly a unique experience. Get there early for a good view, take some memorable photos, then take a seat next to your new friends and … “Party Til the Cows Come Home.”
Germany Almabtriebe and Viehscheid Dates – 2018
Austria – 2018