Without a doubt one of the most beautiful events in southern Germany and Austria is the "homecoming of the cattle" which is celebrated in many valleys in fall. For centuries the local farmers proudly walk their ornately decorated cattle from the mountain pastures where they had been grazing all summer down to their winter stables. The celebration is about their safe and healthy homecoming, but in spectacular style. The animals are decorated with gorgeous head-dresses made from flowers and colorful ribbons, with rustic clanging bells attached to their heavy collars.
Bright and early we woke up in our hotel not wanting to miss a single thing, we witnessed a otherwise quiet town come to life in a matter of minutes for Zillertaler - Almabtrieb. Seeing the tents open up, benches put outside, bands tuning their instruments and farmers nicely arranging their tables with local wares to sell. The scent of bacon, cheese and fresh baked bread saturates the streets. Soon the first bells are heard coming down the main street and the sidewalks start to fill with curious people like us, ready to be enchanted by this century old extravaganza. The cows proudly parade down the street and so do the dairymen and shepherds that lead them. Once in a while we saw a daring adolescents wanting to play tricks on the cows but very soon they are put back in their place by those gentle brown creatures.
Each heard is followed through town by what looks like a parade; farm-tractors pulling locally decorated floats presenting traditional trades of an age gone by, one carries samples of cheese produced by the heard, one carries a smoker containing the beautiful ham that is produced in town as well as wood cutters, hay-makers, basket weavers and Schnapps-distillers. But there is more, strolling through towns we find all kinds of locally made products and I find myself eyeing special teas, honey, smokedsausages, and the occasional Schnapps, which the local distiller says is good for an upset stomach. The proud properiter even lets us sample a sip to show the good "healthy" quality. We marveled at the whip masters showing off their cracking talents. As midday approached, the bands start playing and the town is swaying to the music of traditional Austrian folk songs, continuing until the cows are safely home in the hay and the sun set behind the stunning alpine mountain chain.
The next day we climbed a stairway to heaven…the easy way! No effort was required to reach the high peaks of the Alps via the Ahorn Gondola, which zipped us up almost 1000 feet, to the top of the Tyrolean mountain range. The views in all directions simply took our breath away. From this great height you can't help but be in awe of the sheer beauty, scale and natural wonder of the Alps when they are laid out in front of you in all directions. We followed one of the high mountain passes, taking in the quietness, disturbed only by the winds caressing the peaks, the morning-thaw gently dripping from the trees and the distant echo of a cow bells chiming in the valley below. The delicious smells of lunch lured us from the trails to one of the typical rustic mountain eateries for a hearty "Brettel-jause," a wooden board full of ham, bacon & cheese and delicious homemade bread. The morning I spent strolling these alpine peaks, I truly left the cares, stress and busy pace of "real life" behind. I still reflect on the serene moments of this day when I need a calming mental escape.
On our last day, before returning to the busy pace of the cities, we stopped by a very special local Sennerei (cheese farm) to sample some cheese nibbles from milk made by the local cows. They have been fed nothing other than the lush alpine grass and hay that grows in the Zillertal Valley, which is what gives their milk and dairy products such incredible flavor. With the first bite of cheese, my taste buds were seduced by its rich creamy flavor.I could taste the beauty of the valley in every bite…the sweet clovers, wildflowers and grasses the cows fed on in the alpine pastures over the summer, the clear mountain waters they drink and tranquil fresh beauty that surrounds them every day. They are truly lucky beasts to call such a place home and live such a life!Before leaving the Sennerei I bought some souvenirs and cheese to take home with me in an attempt to preserve all my impressions from this amazing alpine adventure.
On the drive home, I couldn't help but think this little adventure had all those special things our RTT customers are always looking for…Natural beauty, a unique fun festival, tasty food, culture, adventure and the cows… Oh, the cows! Who could resist 50 shades of moo?
So with that, I'm thrilled to unveil our newest RTT Tour – The Alpine Grand Slam!
RTT Tour Director
Jana has worked for RTTtravel for over a decade, first as a floor agent before she became a dedicated member of the tour department. Her position as Tour Director at has offered her the perfect platform to channel her passion and genuine enthusiasm for all things travel into creating some of the most popular military tour programs in Europe. "I love taking one of my travel experience, turning into a tour, taking the tour out for the first time and seeing our customers experience something wonderful and new." Get to know Jana and learn all about traveling in Europe by listening to AFN radio in the KMC @ 105.1 every Tuesday morning at 07:00.
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