Watching the Cows Come Home!

At the beginning of September, I started hearing all about these festivals in Austria, Germany and Switzerland to celebrate cows being brought back from Alpine meadows for the winter. Normally, I would think this is odd, but in the land of onion and sauerkraut festivals – OF COURSE cows coming back to the barns for the winter is cause for celebration. The festivals are known as “Almatrieb,” meaning drive from the mountain pasture. There are apparently hundreds around this area.

And because a chance to watch such a spectacle in the Swiss Alps was not something I was going to pass up, John and I made an overnight trip to experience it for ourselves. I will admit this now – it was AWESOME! A bit surreal, but so much fun and definitely worth the 3-hour drive it took to get there. (And come on, Switzerland is spectacular…driving there and back alone is worth it because of the view!)

The drive took us by the German Bodensee and through Liechtenstein (see above)

The drive took us by the German Bodensee and through Liechtenstein (pictured above)

We stayed in Chur (pronounced like Cure), a cute little town with a cobble-stone innerstadt (inner city). We stayed at a great little hotel, the Ambiente Hotel Freieck and spent the first night exploring and sitting outside at cute cafe.

So, not a bad view...

So, not a bad view…

The next morning – because driving to the town wasn’t an option – we hopped a train to the fest. We had brought our dog Caesar with us, and I was a little nervous about how he would do – he acted like an old pro! He’s adjusting quite well to his new European adventure!

Caesar loved his train ride!

Caesar loved his train ride!

It was a bit of an adventure once we got off the train as the station is down the mountain from the town so John, Caesar and I loaded into the van and took the steep ride up. I was worried that we had missed the cows because we missed our first train…but the sound of bells echoing off the mountain as we got out of the van was our indication that we were right on time!

Welcome to Seewis for the Práttigauer Alp Spektakel!

Welcome to Seewis for the Práttigauer Alp Spektakel!

Here come the cows!

Here come the cows!

The Cows are heading home!

The Cows are heading home!

The size of that bell is probably why we hear the cows coming down the mountain!

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

Here come the sheep!

Here come the sheep!

They dressed up for their return!

They dressed up for their return!

This cow was over going down the mountain and jumped up on this ledge instead!

This cow was over going down the mountain and jumped up on this ledge instead!

The cows are home!

The cows are home!

Caesar was too bust checking out the cows to take a picture!

Caesar was too bust checking out the cows to take a picture!

Heading up to the festival tents and craft fair!

Heading up to the festival tents and craft fair!

Clearly, there was a LOT of cheese for sale!

Clearly, there was a LOT of cheese for sale!

And cow memorabilia!

And cow memorabilia!

If I had a yard here, I might have bought one...these birdhouses were cute!

If I had a yard here, I might have bought one…these birdhouses were cute!

This was awesome...Risotto cooked in a cheese wheel!

This was awesome…Risotto cooked in a cheese wheel!

It was pretty good!

It was pretty good!

This was hilarious...Caesar is a sheep whisperer. The sheep just stared at him. He couldn't have cared less.

This was hilarious…Caesar is a sheep whisperer. The sheep just stared at him. He couldn’t have cared less.

Time to head back down to the shuttle bus...lots of people took pictures of Caesar taking a ride!

Time to head back down to the shuttle bus…lots of people took pictures of Caesar taking a ride!

Oh Switzerland! One last picture for the road!

Oh Switzerland! One last picture for the road!

Honestly, I should not have been as surprised as I was at how much I enjoyed this festival – as I’ve said many times, Europeans do festivals right. It was a perfect one night getaway – from the quaint town of Chur to the beautiful Swiss Alps setting.

And the best piece of news? In the spring, the town holds a festival sending the cows off to the pastures for the summer! I’m all in! 🙂

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