Bringing the cows home – the Alpabzug

Every autumn the Alps are witness to one of Switzerland’s most famous and beloved traditions. The Alpabzug, (also known as the Alpabfahrt, alpine cow parade/descent, or in French, the Désalpe), is the annual journey that brings the cows from mountain pastures back home to their stables ready for their wintering.

Switzerland is well known for its festivals so the Alpabzug is another good opportunity to celebrate. Cows are adorned with flowers and bells and markets are full of local Alpine specialties and rustic goods at the many stalls in each village. There is schnapps, Alpmusic, the smell of melting cheese and games of Jass played as the cows are walked home, beautifully decorated and large bells clinging. Onlookers cheer as they watch the iconic Swiss event as local farmers, dressed in their best traditional costumes, bring their cows home, while goats are led by children.

Here are some of the best local Alpabzugs for you to enjoy:

Ennetbürgen OK Alpabfahrt: 24 September

From 11:00 to 17:00 the village will be all things festive with a parade through the village. Restaurants are open with food and drinks, and market stalls provide local products for you to buy or just browse as the cows are led through one by one.

Entlebucher Alpabfahrt: 24 September

The village of Schüpfheim honours the seven alpine farming families who descend into the village with their cows at 11:00. The festival has twenty five market stalls with local products, a lot of cheese and Bratwurst, yodelling and alphorns.

Viehschau Herbstmarkt, Weggis: 24 September

Around 250 dairy cows will be on display with the most attractive chosen to be decorated. At 15:00 the breeders and the traditionally decorated cows make their way home. There is accompanying music, restaurants, prizes to be won, a market with agricultural products and regional and local handicrafts for sale.

Kerns near Melchsee-Frutt: 1 October

The program begins at 9:30 with agricultural machinery on exhibition at Restaurant Turm’s carpark. At 11:30 the local decorated cows, and even a sheep, are paraded through the village. There is music, yodelling, alphorns, flag-wavers and market stalls.

Sennenchilbi Weggis: 11 – 15 November

The autumn fair will be six days of festivities, dancing and entertainment combining an Abzug and procession on Sunday. The dairymen gather early on Sunday morning after a wake-up call by firecrackers. The Abzug and procession begin at 11:30 with the grand parade leaving Unterdorf passing through Muniseckel arriving at Hinterdorf. There will be obligatory traditions, customs and lots of good music.

And, of course, following is the season for Chilbis (Autumn Fairs) that will be at many villages dotted all over the mountains. But more on that in a separate post.

(Image Copyright: ventdusud)

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