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

06 Sep. 2023 · Culture
Katharina Kleiter

The end of the alp summer

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

First in gold-dipped treetops, colorful mountain ridges and crisp mountain air that could hardly smell fresher & clearer. Autumn is slowly announcing itself in Kleinwalsertal and for the cows in Kleinwalsertal that means exchanging the lush alpine meadows for the local stables in the valley. On the 19th of September every year the Alp summer in Kleinwalsertal officially comes to an end, and the Alpabtrieb takes place on this day. Unless the date falls on a Sunday, then the Alpabtrieb is scheduled on the 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 Alp. In amongst the satisfaction of the end of a successful alpine summer there is always a feeling of sadness mised in that the days on the Alp are over.

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

When there was no accidents or loss of life to the people and the animals during the alpine summer, the herd is led by a cow drapped in a wreath. 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 calves carry chlepfa (bells) made of sheet metal, which are often especially large and with ornate straps.

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

Year after year, it is 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 his animal and brings it home to the stable.

Thats it thats all, until the end of the next alpine summer !

traditional 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 Alpine shepards and all the necessary helpers? At the Scheidplatz at the Breitachbrücke in Riezlern (car park P5) there are not only animals that 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 are as follows: 

  • ALPE BÄRGUNT | Arrival around 9.30 am 
  • ZWERENALPE | Arrival around 11.30 am
  • ALPE GALTÖDE | Arrival around 1 pm
Dear Alpabtrieb visitors,

the transfer of cattle and other animals from the alp is a stressful situation for helpers, farmers and animals, and all visitors are asked to be especially cautious and respectful - especially when viewing the loading of the animals before they return to their home farms.

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

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

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