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).”

Confessions of a Self Professed Ignorant Animal Lover in Schliersee

I was inspired to write this article after a walk up Firstalm with friends last Saturday. Due to the beautiful weather, large groups of people were wandering up the to Firstalm for lunch. As locals call it, the “alpine lunch rush”. From the animals perspective the volume of noise and people increased by ten fold compared to the weekly 5 days of virtual isolation. Monday through Friday in most of the year tourism is very light so the 2 days of weekend can be rather a shock.

 

Every effort by the farmer is made to keep his animals protected. Where it is possible, a portable electric fence is installed but even that is not deterrent enough to keep people at a safe distance and not entering the animal’s “personal space”.

 

On our short hike I was shocked when I witnessed a man leave the path and approach a sleeping cow. The cow, not knowing what this human wanted, quickly stood up. Then the well meaning man called to his wife and young child to come join him for a photo. Another shocking sight was a family with a young child who were walking through a remote pasture area on Spitzingsee. I am not sure what they did to awaken the cow herd but they had not one but the entire herd racing behind them. In their defense they did keep their cool and did not scream or run. It was a scary thing to watch. There are more than enough safe paths that this cross country excursion was not necessary.

 

I too have made this same mistake when I first moved to Schliersee. My husband and my dog decided to take a walk in Valepp before we realized not every walk we did in winter is safe to take when the cows are free in the pastures. At one point I watched while my husband and dog were chased out of the pasture by 15 young bulls. My dog was so terrified he managed to defecate and run all at the same time. It is funny now but neither of them would trust me to lead a walk for a few years.

 

So let me lay out a few suggestions and opinions. We have to remember that our farms are not petting zoos. Also remember with the volume of visitors in tourist season heightens the fear and stress level of our animal residents.

 

Here are a few of my observations and lessons I have learned.

 

  1. We say we love animals but each time we approach them inappropriately, we put them in danger. They do not enjoy our affection as much as we enjoy giving them affection. We have to check our motivation. It is more about our needs than theirs.
  2. We want to protect the rights of animals to live freely during the Alm season and your “Selfie” is not worth them loosing their rights. Learn how to zoom with your camera phone to keep at a safe distance.
  3. Cows are not 600-800 kilo Teddy Bears. These are living, breathing, giant animals not stuffed animals waiting to be snuggled. They haven’t been raised to cuddle.
  4. We come to the country to experience farm life, we say we have a passion for all living things but we must respect our local farmers and protect their delicate way of living.
  5. Some advice from this Recovering Well Meaning Animal Lover, we all love the critters but in our excitement to have a close personal connection with the 4 legged residents, we endanger them.
  6. Another false belief I see expressed by the actions of visitors to our bucolic land is that when the people are on vacation so are the dogs.That dogs are safe to be off leash here because it is the country. This is very wrong for many reasons but I will give you just two. Your visiting dog may feel the need to chase or hunt one of our many free range 4 legged residents thus endangering both farm animal and dog. And another good reason to respect the leash law is that you are more aware when your dog decides to defecate. So you will know that you must pick up after your dog. I know for many dog owners, the idea that if cows can relieved themselves here then it must be ok for their canine side kick to also leave a little something behind. Just remember, your dog feces is much more dangerous than a cows waste. Dog droppings cause an illness in cows which causes miscarriages.
  7. Mama horses, Mama sheep and Mama cows, there is little difference from mama bears when there are young animals in the pastures. The protection instinct is strong in all animals and that includes our beautiful local Miesbacher Fleckvieh breed. Remember to give them their space so they never feel threatened.
  8. Now place yourself in a free range animals perspective. You are alone with your little family and community on a wild mountain top. Your senses are on full force to be aware of anything that proposes a threat to your group. Most of the week things go with the flow. It is peaceful and quiet but on those two days of the week, everything changes. Imagine this feeling of threat or danger with loud noises and laughter. Imagine the possible negative affect it can have on the milk and cheese products when the cows are unnerved and upset. The weather can be danger enough, lets not in our ignorance be added worries to our local farmer and his livestock.

 

 

So the key is RESPECT. Stay a safe distance and arrive to the Alms for your local cheese laden lunches and be thankful to our famers and their animals who make all this possible.

 

 

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).

 

 

 

Sheep Shearing Time in Schliersee

We arrived bright and early on the mountain. Its surface, still dotted about with the last of Winter’s heavy snow with golden spring blossoms carpeting all the sunny patches. The air was fragrant with alpine herbs carried about on the breeze. The only sounds that greeted us was a lone Cuckoo bird calling out the hour.

It is still early in the season for the cows to make their long climb up and no animals except a few high climbing mountain goats were visible with the naked eye. We stood intently scanning the mountain and trees, looking for the guests of honor for our visit today. We had made the trip up to Firstalm on Spitzingsee with our local farmer, Hartl Markhauser of Anderl bauerhof. We were invited to watch an itinerant sheep shearer work his magic on Hartl’s small herd.

Armed with nothing other than a pail of molasses scented sweet mash and his particular cattle call, he brought out from the shady tree cover up near the craggy peaks, his herd of 20 sheep. What a sight for sore eyes they were, prancing about both young and old. A brilliant flash of white, (and a particularly special speckled brown and white called “Spot” of course), on the pale green and yellow flower dotted meadow. The Bavarian White Mountain Sheep or Bayerische Weißes Bergschaf are a local breed. The rams weigh about 80 to 100 kg and the ewes weigh 65 to 75 kg. The breed was developed by breeding local sheep with Bergamasca and Tyrol Mountain breeds. They are a dual-purpose sheep meaning they can be bred for both their wool as well as for eating.

In what seemed like a timeless manner, one by one the sheep bounded happily behind Hartl, right down the mountain and directly into his beautiful newly constructed Alm. On this day, Hartl had hired a young professional sheep shearer to give his herd a spa day, or at least that was my own personal interpretation of events.

The Sheep Shearer, or Schafschärer in German, trained in New Zealand, exuded confidence. He deftly began setting up his shearing station outside of Hartl’s barn. The nervously excited sheep could be heard “discussing” what was possibly going on outside. The Shearer’s equipment had a purpose for everything, from his clipper blades which he described as “Bone Sharp” to the lanolin impregnated leather moccasins he wore on his feet. Being just one of only twenty Sheep Shearers in Bavaria he has gained a lot of experience in the past 6 years he has been doing this as a part time job. Even though Hartl knew his flock was in great hands he kept a watchful eye on each and every sheep, whispering soothing words, like a proud papa.

Inside the cozy stall, the little herd huddled together completely aware as animals always are that something big was about to happen. Animals, just like people, generally don’t enjoy being interfered. Just like with children though, there are times when you must step in and do what is best for their heath and general wellbeing. It is during these grooming sessions that old, worn, or lost bells are replaced, ear tags checked and hooves trimmed. All is accomplished quickly with great efficiency.

A professional sheep shearer, who has honed his skills and has a silent confidence, can make all the difference. The sheep could just relax and submit to the process. I am not saying every animal was happy about the experience but again this is where having a professional comes in handy.  Each sheep was quickly relieved of their wooly coat and tucked safely back into the herd inside the barn. It seemed like each sheep took only minutes and then suddenly Hartl, bucket of food in hand once more was leading them back up to the peace of the blooming alpine meadow.

As a footnote, I would like to say a warm thank you to my friend and colleague Ulrike McCarthy for extending and invitation to me to join her and Hartl on this amazing experience.

 

 

To visit Anderl Bauerhof for yourself:
http://anderlbauer.schliersee.de

 

 

 

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).

 

 

 

Schliersee’s Wood Whisperer

“Turn left at the old dead tree” this was a small descriptive part of the directions for our meeting that I received from local chainsaw artist Peter Ertl. We planned to meet on a spectacular spring day on a farm, which is allowing him some external workspace. In a cloud of saw dust, under the clear blue sky, I found him. Surrounded by nature and working to the roaring song of his mechanized tools.

Peter is a free spirit who obviously cherishes his ability to work freely amongst the spectacular landscapes which surround our beautiful village of Schliersee. He is a warm and open personality who shared his creative process with me. You can see and feel his passion for art in every precise cut.

 

Surrounded by piles of preciously acquired historic timbers and 100 year old tree stumps to Peter, each scrap of wood is a possible work of art. He sees in each line of grain or chip a part of its life story. What seems like a worn, scarred, off cut, could be transformed with his skill and imagination into bookends. It is really quite amazing what this “wood whisperer” can coax out of a block of ancient wood. It is not only hard work and talent which guides Peter but also a great knowledge of wood and its individual properties. For the past 4 years he has worked tirelessly to hone his craft. Each species of tree will react differently under the teeth of his powerful saws. Controlling the power blades of a chainsaw to manage these intricate cuts is very difficult and in a second, a piece of art can become firewood. The whole process takes great strength and patience.

 

With this patience, Peter finds inspiration in an ancient Chinese philosophy. Wǔ Xíng, also known as the Five Elements. Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ). These symbols or design elements occur often in Peter’s carvings. It is this oneness with Nature that guides and inspires him. To him, when the piece of art seems to carve itself from the wood with almost no effort on his part, in a kind of  Zen state, then he feels it is a success.

 

 

If you have been to Spitzingsee you may already be familiar with some of his work. He is the artist who carved the wooden sledder installation at the entrance from the saddle up to Obere Firstalm. I really hope we will be seeing more of his unique sculptures in Schliersee soon.

To learn more about Peter Ertl of Brain Ticket Products, please click on his links below.

 

https://www.facebook.com/brainticket.products/

http://www.kettngsaagt.de

 

 

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).

 

 

 

Springs Return in Schliersee means its Ski and Snowboard Service Time

As the winter ski season comes to a close and the valley floor is dotted with early spring blossoms, it is time to start thinking of properly packing away your skis for next season.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of our local ski service experts, Anderl Thurner. I think Anderl might possibly have the best office in Schliersee directly on the slopes at Untere Firstalm on Spitzingsee. He definitely has the best view from his work bench. His bright blue eyes and warm Bavarian personality is very welcoming. He is very passionate about skis and skiing and happily answers all your many questions.

On any weekend in ski season, you can hike up to Untere Firstalm carrying your skis from the Kurvenlift parking lot or while skiing in from Kurvenlift or Stümpfling ski lifts. It is always a great idea to dry off your skis after each use and use a little wax on your edges to avoid rust, but before and after your long Spitzingsee ski season it is best to call in the professionals.

A great idea so you don’t miss a minute of the snow fun, is to plan a break at Untere Firstalm.  Drop off your skis with Anderl and while he works his magic, order yourself a delicious pan of fresh made Kaiserschmarrn and a warm drink. It is efficiency at its best!

Anderl not only works on skis but also snowboards. He is also a great contact if you are looking for gently used ski gear. His prices as well as his skills are amazing. You can have a full service while you wait at the meager price of 12€ for skis and 15€ for snowboards. Ski maintenance isn’t only for skis that you are using but also it is important to have your brand new skis serviced before using.

Proper maintenance of your ski equipment is key to the longevity of your skis. Well cared for skis will not only last longer but will enhance your enjoyment on the slopes. So always remember to remove your skis from any storage bag you use after use, dry them down and give them a lick of wax to protect those edges and then give Anderl a call.

 

 

To contact Anderl Thurner directly

 

Ski & Snowboard Service
Skiservice Untere Firstalm am Spitzingsee
0170/3455703
turner.andreas@web.de

 

His shop service area is located at Untere Firstalm
08026/7676
info@firstalm.de
http://www.unterefirstalm.de

 

 

 

 

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).

 

 

 

Alpen Plus Season Ski Pass and So Much More

Last year, after about 25 years off skis, I met one of our local inspiring octogenarians who were celebrating her 80th birthday and the fact that she now skis for free in Schliersee. Meeting this energetic soul motivated me to once again get back on skis.

This year I decided to commit even more to skiing and purchased the Alpine Plus Season Ski Pass and I thought I would share some of the many things I have learned about having this pass.

Firstly, starting early in your seasonal ski plans will save you 50€. The Alpen Plus Season pass goes on sale 1 October for the discounted price of 350€. When possible, purchase your pass between 1 October and 15 November in order to take advantage of this savings. If you forget to purchase your pass early, have no fear you can still purchase your pass but it will cost you 50€ more. You have to think a day pass for an adult is 35€ so if you ski 10 times in one season your pass has paid for itself. Though with the Alpen Pass you also get loads of other discounts making your purchase so much more valuable than the 350€ price tag.

If you are a sledding enthusiast and not a skier, the incredible 6.5 kilometer sled run on Wallberg is also included in the Alpen Pass. No one ever does just one run on Wallberg and a 10 run card will cost you 92€ alone. For our family this is a great motivator for buying the pass.

http://www.wallbergbahn.de

Our beautiful spa and recreation center of Monte Mare also gives a 20% discount to all holders of the Alpen Pass Season or the Alpen Glacier card. I will post a link at the bottom for you to see which pass is best for you. This is good for the four hour passes as well as the day passes for sauna facilities and vitality spa.

http://www.monte-mare.de/de/schliersee.html

Alpen Pass holders receive a 20% discount on two way lift tickets at Spitzingsee, Sudelfeld, Wallberg and Brauneck-Wegscheid, throughout the winter season as well. They also get 50% off ski passes at Kössen (Tyrol), Wendelstein, Kampenwand (Ashau), Hochfellen (Bergen) Hocheck (Oberaudorf) when you show your pass.

Another great benefit is a 15% discount on purchases both in store and online at one of our local amazing outdoor stores, Smartino. Their beautiful new location is right next to the Neuhaus train station for serious convenience.

www.funktionelles.de

Not only is the pass good for our local slopes on Spitzingsee but also several other ski resorts of Sudelfeld and Brauneck-Wegscheid.

 

For me, having the pass has really motivated me to get out on the slopes more often. I am no longer discouraged by the 35€ day pass price and I can just come up to the slopes for an hour or so whenever I wish and without pressure.

 

 

Other great offers, if you don’t want to commit to a season pass on offer, are the Family day pass, which is available every day of the season. It costs 85€ and is valid for both parents and all their own children up to age 15. Also starting 10 January is the Ladies Day Pass offered every Wednesday during the season but Ash Wednesday, for only 17€.

 

 

For more info:
www.alpenplus.com/alpen-plus/alpen-plus-skipasspreise-uebersicht/saisonskipaesse/

 

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).