Early Autumn is without doubt one of the best and most beautiful times of the year to visit CLC Alpine Centre. When early September arrives (exact dates vary from region to region), so does the age-old tradition of spectacular cattle processions. These celebrations mark the homecoming of the cattle when the animals which have been grazing up high during the warm summer months are safely brought back down to lower ground. It is an extremely joyful occasion which celebrates the safe return of the livestock to the valleys, and it’s certainly an event to factor into your visit if you’ve recently visited a CLC World Travel Centre and are now planning to travel to our Austrian Alpine Centre in the following months.
A Much-Loved Tradition
The Almabtrieb Cattle Procession dates back as far as the Middle Ages, and it’s still as much anticipated and enjoyed across the country as it was when it began. Whilst specific areas of Austria have their own different ways of marking the occasion, the main aspects of the festival are widely shared across the regions. The animals are magnificently dressed with garlands of flowers, bells, ribbons and elaborate headdresses before being ceremonially led through the towns and villages. It truly is a sight to behold – a stunning Alpine backdrop, locals in traditional clothing and a feast of colourful decorations with music, food and dancing all playing a part.
An Important Celebration
There are more than 2,000 cattle farms nestled between the mountainous peaks of the Austrian Alps, which means a lot of livestock. Of course, the thousands of cows, sheep, goats and horses are very highly valued by the alpine communities as they have been an essential part of the country’s industry for hundreds of years. The large cowbells which the cows have hanging around their necks as they are escorted down from the mountains were traditionally thought to ward off demons and prevent anything untoward from happening to the animals in transit. The word ‘Almabtrieb’ translates literally as ‘driving down the mountain.’
A Carnival of Cows
Although the focal point of Almabtrieb are the delightful cattle processions, there is a huge amount to be enjoyed beyond these as well. Many of the regions which celebrate the homecoming of the cattle also hold farmers markets with delicious local food and drink, as well as craft stalls and much more. The cattle procession usually takes place in the morning, but the rest of the day is spent in celebration, with holidaymakers all joining in with the festivities. Live folk music is played to accompany drinking and dancing which can continue long after the sun goes down.