Almkirta in Schliersee, Nearer My God to Thee
On a very hot morning in August, pack heavy with gear and extra water, I set off to experience my first traditional Bavarian Almkirta. I had been invited by one of our local herders. Not one to ever pass up an invitation to point my lens at something new, off I went. Thankfully it wasn’t a long hike or even a steep hike up to Krainsbergeralm, it is even listed in guides as a “Senior walk” or one that is good for all ages.
Up and up I trudged, truly enjoying the dancing waters of a fresh flowing mountain stream that lined my way. I have to admit I was surprised by the volume of traffic headed up this rocky road normally only meant for bikes and wanderers. In one car that passed me was obviously the priest and I hoped my slow pace would not cause me to miss the celebration completely. It was at that moment a car being driven by an elderly couple pulled along side me and asked if I wanted to ride along. With a big smile I exclaimed yes, that I didn’t want to miss the Almkirta and thanked them profusely.
Once I was in the car the endless chatter in the distinct local dialect began. Much of it I could follow along and add my two cents but when I could see on their faces that my pronunciation wasn’t quite right I explained that I was an American living here in Schliersee. Their surprise was quite apparent and it was as if they had discovered a unicorn wandering in the woods. Sadly our conversation was cut short as the ride had only to last about 250 meters to the gate of the Alm.
You could hear the voices and revelry of the alpine music all the way down the dusty lane which was also intermingled with the tinkling sounds of the bells the cows in the pastures were wearing. I never know how I will be received arriving alone with a giant camera at my side, but thankfully before I knew it a gentleman I had once photographed during a local Almabtrieb came right up and made me feel very welcome.
I feel at this point in the story, I should explain just what is an Almkirta. Almkirta is a church service held high in the mountains. Sort of giving a “Nearer My God to Thee” feeling to attending church. Folks arrive by any means possible, foot, bike, or car and the church sends a representative to perform the religious ceremony. After the service, there is music and a delicious feast.
It really doesn’t matter how you feel about religion, attending a church service in what is truly “God’s House” will definitely inspire your soul. At the time of the Almkirta I attended at Krainsbergeralm, a Canadian hiker had been missing in nearby mountains and I have to admit to being moved to tears to hear his name being offered up in prayer.
So take my advice. Never pass up a chance to attend a Almkirta or by any of it is many other names Kirwa, – Kirchweih, Kirchtag, Kirtag, Kirta, Kirmes, Kerb, Kirb, Kermes, Kemmes, Kier, Kirbe, Kerwe, Kärwe, Kirda, Kerms, Kermst, Kärms, Kilwi, Kilbi, Kärmst, Chilbi and many more.
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).