Monday, September 21, 2009

Alpabfahrt Urnäsch - Appenzell

On Saturday, I went with my work colleague, Michele, to the Alpabfahrt in Urnäsch, a small village in the Appenzeller region, an area fast becoming my favorite in Switzerland due to the wonderful landscapes, tradition, and cheese!

We went on Saturday for the Alpabfahrt, which literally means 'Alp descent,' and the name suits perfectly as that is exactly what happens. In the Fall, before the weather turns cold and snowy, the (milk) cows are brought down from their lush summer pastures in the Alps, where they grazed all summer long on the vitamin rich herbs and grasses between the Bergs. And their journey down the mountain is celebrated with a traditional march and festival, full of music and dancing and food.

Urnäsch Alpabzug 2009

As taken from the Appenzell Tourism site, here is what happens during the Alpabzug:

The procession of the Appenzeller Alpabzug can start as early as 2 or 3 am, when the farmers start the journey to bring their cows out of the mountain. It is said that in the early hours you can actually hear the cowbells ringing in the distance. When the Alpabzug arrives in the city, the procession is led by a boy, generally in Senne dress, leading a pack of white, hornless Appenzeller goats, herded by a girl in a brown-or blue-striped dress. The herdsman is next in line in Volltracht, or in full traditional dress. On his left shoulder he carries a richly carved bucket. He is then followed by three of the farmer's most beautiful cows that carry the heavy Senntumsschellen or ornate cow bells.

Next march four farmers in the traditional costume (with earrings in the right ear, part of the traditional costume!) followed by the rest of the unadorned cows, or Viehhabe, and the horse with the milking gear, or Alpgerätschaften, and the baby cows and perhaps a dog make the conclusion of the train.

I loved every minute of the event - waiting for the Senne to come, seeing all the cows and hearing the crowd talk about 'What a beaut' that one was or what fine coloring that one had. The atmosphere was great - lots of food and music, and not at all as touristy as I thought it would be, especially considering that this event is what I - and no doubt many others - imagine when they think of quintessential Swiss tradition. There are many more Alpabfahrts happening this fall in case you missed the one in Urnäsch. Just have a search online for events near you.

Beautiful Appenzeller Region - quickly
becoming my favorite area in Switzerland.

Other great posts about the Urnäsch Alpabfahrt:
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SwissMerica said...

Thanks for the link to Twisstedswisster. I love your photos and just posted some more of my own. I made a complete guess about describing the procession and it seems like I wasn't far off from the information you posted from the tourism site.

DRosie said...

Thanks for the shout out to Peterthals. Sorry we missed you guys out there. One of these days...

Expat Traveler said...

These are so beautiful. I've always wanted to do this but sadly never saw the decent.. It is such a beautiful area!


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