Beiträge

Schliersee…So Much More Than Cows

After several years of obsessively photographing the various local Almabtriebs, this year I was sent a very kind invitation to come and experience another lovely local farming event. The Schafprämierung, in english we would call it a sheep “Best in Show” which, also included goats. This event is held each year in Tegernsee at Kohlhauf-Hof.

Sadly, after many years of great weather, this year the event received a complete soaking due to the remnants of hurricane Maria. Though the weather dampened everything, animal and people alike, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the farmers and young breeders.

Despite the weather, the atmosphere was a festive one. Of course there was a small local traditional band playing and the air was fragrant with hot homemade stews, sausages and lamb steaks. Never to be forgotten at any German gathering, an entire table of delicious homemade cakes. Local vendors set up booths and sold various hand made products like  cattle bells and sheep’s wool items.  An amazing weaver from Miesbach brought her traditional Bavarian style loom carpets while women carded and spun wool. For the children a class was offered on felting wool and they really enjoyed.

Representing Schliersee was Franz Leitner (junior). His families beautiful farm, Kirchbergerhof is located in the  Fischhausen part of Schliersee. Franz was showing his magnificent Alpine Steinschaff. Through this event I learned In 2009 the Alpines Steinschaf was named “endangered livestock breed of the year” so its cultivation and care are very important to the breeds survival. It was great to be there in support of a fellow Schlierseer.

What stole my heart were the happy faces of the young breeders, Jungzuchter, who were showing their sheep for the first time. Watching the connection of these young children and their much loved and trusting sheep was precious. The joy of the parents and grandparents who could share their passion for animal husbandry was written all over their faces. These traditions of local farming if not taught and shared might one day might sadly die out. Sharing and teaching them to the younger generations helps to keep the traditions alive. Their joy just fills you with pride for this beautiful alpine land and its people.

I am sure there were technical aspects of a Schafprämierung which were very important for the health of these local breeds but for me it was the joy of community that I most took away from the day. The excitement of seeing the results of the years hard work, breeding and caring for these sweet faced creatures. The sheep were definitely the stars and their personalities shined through. Many of the sheep tried nibbling on the serious judges aprons causing them to break from their important stoic roles into warm laughter.

 

 

The judges took great care to check each animal thoroughly for particular signs of good breeding. The health and care given to every animal was judged accordingly to a strict standard.

 

Unfortunately, although I was properly attired for the weather, myself and my camera encased in gore-tex for protection I ended up getting soaked to the skin which sadly brought and end to my visit.

 

 

For more information on Schafprämierung and events:
http://www.alpinetgheep.com/news-bayern.html

To learn how you can stay at the beautiful Kirchbergerhof farm:

http://www.kirchbergerhof.info/frame-index.html

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

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).

 

 

 

“Aufbuschen” Keeping Traditions Alive

For three years now I have had the joy of spontaneously capturing photos of a particular Schliersee family as they passed by my house in Neuhaus during their Almabtrieb. On one occasion I managed to hand the daughter Magda a business card and thus began our dialog.

This year I was determined to learn more about the back story of Almabtrieb. Who does what and what does it all mean? I received a wonderful invitation from the Bucher family of Unterrißhof in Schliersee, to join them several days before their cattle drive to prepare the decorations.

“Aufbuschen” is a regional world for the process of crafting the various colorful decorations for the cows for Almabtrieb. Many headdresses for the cows are made using an armature that is handed down through the family over the years and is formed in the initials of the farmer. An important armature to which the bouquets of wild alpine rhododendron “Almrausch” are affixed is the crown shape which sit atop the head of the lead cow. The symbolism and traditions of Almabtrieb are centuries old. Though the cows will ultimately each autumn be driven down from the high pastures back to the farm, it is not fact if they will or will not be decorated. The cows are only decorated if it has been a safe and successful summer. This means simply no tragic loss of life. It is only then that a farmer will decorate their cattle.

The farm of Bauernhof Unterrißhof, enjoys one of the most spectacular views in Schliersee. That is truly something to say since there isn’t honestly a bad view of Schliersee. It is located just off the beaten path the drive in alone is pretty magical and affords you endless beautiful views around each tree lined bend.

One sunny September afternoon, I arrived heart leaping for joy over the experience and the view. In the Baurenhof garage everyone was gathered and everything was perfectly organized. The floor was covered with tray after tray of bright colored hand made paper streamer and flowers. This collection obviously represented many long hours of handwork. Leaning against the garage wall were the leather headdresses with the prickly pine branches just waiting to be shaped and decorated. I asked Markus Bucher, Uncle of Magda, can you still buy the headdresses anymore and he told me they were Austrian and that saddle makers there still make them in the traditional way.

After a quick introduction and explanation we tucked right into the work. It was all so beautifully planned and organized that even this American was able just step in and help. I asked if the style of the decorations were always the same and they said no each year the each family tries to add something new and exciting. That year for the Bucher family, there was a flower with an almost rainbow color scheme in the center that they weren’t too sure about right up to when they flowers were attached to the bush. It was a pleasant surprise how nicely the color scheme worked.

As we were finishing up work, the young son of Markus arrived from his after school dance lesson of the traditional Bavarian Schuhplattler. He excitedly and deftly jumped right in to work. I was amazed at how he at such a young age, happily began bringing in the various wagonloads of giant cowbells to be cleaned and polished. He was obviously an expert. I have to admit I have been photographing this young man for the past few years and I was astounded back then at his confidence and ability to drive a 2000 pound cow through busy streets and I was no less impressed with him now.

Working side by side, preparing for this families yearly event to give thanks for a successful year was truly wonderful. I kept hearing in my head “Many hands make light work” and it was true. No only did the time fly by but I learned so much from each generation about their passion for keeping these important traditions alive.

 

 

You too can enjoy the view and stay with the Bucher family at Unterrisshof. To find out more about their availabilities:

http://www.unterriss-hof.de
http://www.unterriss-hof.de/almhuette-am-spitzingsee/index.html

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

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).

 

 

 

Autumn Traditions and Time Travel – part 2

I met Hartl once more at his breathtaking lake side farm early in the morning while the dew was still glistening on the grass and the fog was beginning to lift revealing the mountains once more. After our long jeep ride up the mountain passing several groups of hikers heading up Bodenschneid in this perfect wandering weather.

We arrived at the Alm early that Sunday morning and Anna and the other Hirteren (herders), Sennerin and farmers were calmly preparing the cows for their festive procession down the mountain, through the town and back to the farm. It is rather amazing how calm the cows remain even once they have received their large ceremonial bells and the head pieces. The calmness is attributed to the care and calmness of the Sennerin and her many helpers. If the humans remain calm, the animals follow suit…for the most part. They are animals after all and can be very unpredictable. Like humans each animal has it’s own distinct character.

Looking timelessly beautiful in her Trachten (traditional clothing), hair braided in the traditional way and decorated with Edelweiss. It was very obvious Anna was leading this show and with pride, as she should be. Very few famers in our region had a successful season this summer due to extreme weather. Once all the selected cows received their decorations, and everything was put just right, Anna began to lead them home. Of course the cows had ideas of their own and ran in different directions but through the skill of Anna and her many helpers the cows were once again quickly organized and down the mountain, through the forest they went.

Their journey took the group along ancient wandering forest paths of which I can only imagine hundreds of years of farmers traveled before. For over two hours they negotiated these mountain paths cheered on by the many hikers and cyclists they passed until they reached the edge of Schliersee and we on the homestretch to the picturesque farm in Hausham.

Once everyone had entered the farm and the cows were brought once again into their lush green pastures the business of deftly removing the decorations began. They are removed quickly and with care even if the cows seem to have difficulty giving up the pretty decorations. Part of the history of Almabtrieb as being a way to give thanks for a successful season but also it is important to hang the decorated bushes, head pieces, on the outside of the stalls to continue to bring the herd good luck.

The Baurernhof or farmhouse was situated with the mountains in the distance and was truly spectacular. Hartl and I were given the great honor to join the family and all the helpers in a magnificent meal on the sun soaked terrace surrounded by the delicious scent of warm vine tomatoes ripening. For this time traveling wanderer it was a life long dream.

If you would like to visit Rainer-Alm
http://www.bergwandern-für-senioren.de/huetten/index.php?gebiet=2&huette=213

For a wonderful farm house vacation or amazing cabin in ski season:
http://anderlbauer.schliersee.de/unser_hof/unser_hof.php

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

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).