10 October 2022 // Florine van Rees //Rotterdam
A while ago, a friend of mine showed me amazing pictures online of cows, completely decorated with colourful crowns and headdresses. I was very much intrigued and looked up this annual tradition, being the celebration of the summer and the starting of the new autumn season.
Every year, the farmers in different regions in Tirol, Austria, bring their group of cows back from the valley to the stables uphill, and they do this in the most festive way. All the farmers have their own signature, sometimes more religious, sometimes more floral themed. They take hours to go to their destinations and are being welcomed in every village they cross with music, cheering, food and drinks.
This time last year, I went to Tirol to explore it myself and take pictures of all that I would find from the valley to the hills. I took several trains from Rotterdam to Hopfgarten and got myself a nice little room in in a farmhouse not far from the station. The air smelled fresh, the sky was a shade of blue I've never really experienced and the hills were so green that I realised The Sound of Music setting was not overdone at all. And then the absence of city sounds that the sounds of nature almost felt loud. The Almabtrieb was in 3 days, which gave me time to explore the surroundings, and walk a bit, together with mostly retired and fit people in clothes that looked very well prepared.
I did not know what to expect of the Almabtrieb exactly, but I did hear that the cows would arrive the town of Hopfgarten around noon. I wanted to take everything out of it and went walking to the valley at 8 in the morning, hoping to discover some colorful cows. It was peaceful and quiet with clouds of smoke dancing over the hills from wood being burned nearby. It was a beautiful and long walk, but after some hours I heard cheering and cowbells afar. That was the moment the adreanaline started pumping and my sore feet ran towards the cows and their partying, dancing, singing and drinking owners. I walked with them for a bit and took pictures and then took a cab to go back to Hopfgarten so that I would be in time for a nice spot and the first cows to arrive.
The event was magical and the ambiance was so happy and peaceful, that I totally understood the loyal tourists who come there every year and put on a traditional outfit. Without even knowing if the pictures would be good, it was so worth the travel.