We met at dusk on the evening of our first meeting. Leonhard “Hartl” Markhauser of Fischhausen, a local farmer, and his father Joseph “Sepp“ Markhauser kindly collected me and then drove through the dark foggy forest to meet Anna Deutschenbaur the Sennerin, herder and cheese maker for the Rainer-Alm. Anna met us at the door of her cozy wooden cabin on that chilly night and welcomed us inside. The smoky scent of a fire burning in the ancient wood stove coupled with gentle clanging of bells from the cow stirring sleepily in the stall attached to rear of the cabin was entrancing. After a quick tour we settled down to begin learning about each other and how to make the paper decorations that are affixed to the individual head pieces (Buschen), which the lead cow wears when returning to the valley.
The 23-year-old Anna, caregiver by trade, has been able for the past 2 years to take a 4 month break in the summer to perform her role as the Sennerin for Rainer-Alm. Rainer-Alm is located 1240m above Neuhaus and Fischhausen. Her Alm Hütte or mountain cabin has no electricity, no TV and no Internet. She is kept busy with making her many varieties of delicious cheeses and butter with only a radio and her 2 young frisky cats as company. We were blessed to enjoy a platter or Brotzeit of these beautiful cheeses as well as some local smoked pork. I have to admit her dry aged mozzarella with herbs was a favorite as well as her chili spiced Alm cheese.
On our second meeting Hartl and I once again hopped into the jeep and drove up the mountain this time stopping along the way near the top. From there we rambled up a washboard side of a hilltop pasture to gather Almrausch a very important plant for the Almabtrieb tradition. The Almrausch or Alpine Rose is used in bunches to decorate many head pieces and also to cover the leather straps on the harnesses which hold the head pieces . This plant is a variety of rhododendron and it is approximately a three inch sprig of new growth which is picked and when perfect will have a rich green color. It can also have a slight reddish blush and resembles a rose bud pattern.
Proudly armed with our bags of Almrausch, the result of 2 hours of picking while gazing way down the mountain on our picturesque Leonhardi Chapel, as it was aglow with the setting sun, we returned once more to Rainer Alm. On this visit we selected the best of the Almrausch and gathered them in bunches for Anna to affix on a rope the circumference of the belly of her lead cow. While our hands were busy we chatted away about the local traditions, the state of affairs with the other farmers and their herds and of course…the shocking price of beer at Oktoberfest.
Upon leaving the ever gracious Anna and the Hartl who I now call my time traveling guide, we finalized our plans for Sunday when we would meet for a final time as Anna leads her herd of 2 milking cows and about 20 young bulls back to the valley and to their home farm in Hausham.
If you would like to visit Rainer-Alm
For a wonderful farm house vacation or amazing cabin in ski season:
American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).