Alpabtrieb in the Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Frank Drechsel

04 Sep. 2019 · Culture
Katharina Kleiter

The end of the summer resort

Autumn time is Alpabtrieb time. But what exactly is behind this special spectacle which has a real long tradition and that guests and locals celebrate together?

Alpabtrieb in the Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Frank Drechsel

The first in gold-dipped treetops, colorful mountain ridges and an air that could hardly smell fresher & clearer. Slowly autumn is announcing itself in the Kleinwalsertal and for the cows in the Kleinwalsertal that means exchanging the lush alpine meadows for the local stables in the valley. With the 19th of September every year the Alp summer in the Kleinwalsertal officially comes to an end, takes the Alpabtrieb place on this day. Unless the date falls on a Sunday, then the Alpabtrieb takes place already on Saturday before.

Over 700 animals from four different Alps then arrive in the valley. An impressive and moving moment, especially for the shepherds who spent the summer with the animals on the Alpe. In the satisfaction of the end of a hopefully successful alpine summer mixes then always a feeling of sadness that the days are over on the Alpe.

Wreath cows at Viehscheid in Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Frank Drechsel

If there was no unhappiness in humans and animals during the alpine summer, the herd is led by a wreath of cattle. This animal carries a large, elaborately manufactured headdress, which consists mostly of alpine roses, flowers, mountain pine or silver thistles.

Around the necks, the cows carry large, one-piece bells whose powerful ringing is supposed to ward off evil spirits. On the other hand, the cubs carry chlepfa (bells) made of sheet metal, which are often especially large and ornate, with ornate straps.

Cows at the Alpabtrieb | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Frank Drechsel

Year after year, a real goose bumps Moment: when the arrival of the herds in the valley announces itself from afar through the sound of the bells. At the Scheidplatz the cattle are handed over to the owners: the shepherd, who knows every single animal, calls the owner, who takes over his animal to bring it home to the stable.

Until the next alpine summer is coming!

 Alpabtrieb in the Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Frank Drechsel

You would like to celebrate the end of the alpine summer together with the people responsible for the alpine pastures, the Alphillas and all the necessary helpers? At the Scheidplatz at the Breitachbrücke in Riezlern (car park P5) not only 700 animals await you, but also a farmer's and grocer's market with agricultural articles, live music and fine products from the Walser Buura.

The expected arrival of the Alps at the Scheidplatz is as follows:

  • ALPE BÄRGUNT | Arrival around 9.30 am 
  • ZWERENALPE | Arrival around 11.30 am
  • ALPE GALTÖDE and SCHWARZWASSER | Arrival around 1pm
  • OBERE SPITALALPE | Already down in the valley
Dear Alpabtrieb visitors,

Forced labor is a stressful situation for helpers, farmers and animals, and all visitors are asked to be more cautious and reluctant - especially when loading the animals before returning to their usual farms.

Please note that there are traffic restrictions on the Walserstraße and Schwarzwassertalstraße.

Young shepherds on the Bärgunt | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Andre Tappe

You might also be interested in...

Two half-pint herders & their summer on the Alpe Bärgunt 

Titus Moosbrugger (11) and Magnus Huber (12) are off up the Alpe Bärgunt again. The reason? To keep watch over Kleinwalsertal’s largest herd of 280 livestock.