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

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).




Never a Shortage of Winter Fun

On many snowy winter’s days in Schliersee we are faced with an important decision: “What are we going to play today?”  Should we go sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, cross country, ice skating or just take a beautiful hike. What a wonderful plethora of outdoor adventures await us each day.

This year we were treated to not just one, but two of our local lakes freezing completely over.  After approximately two weeks of sub-zero temperatures, Spitzingsee iced over and was quickly followed by Schliersee in the valley.  It was as if we had reclaimed land mass. Absolutely everyone cautiously started taking the first steps onto the ice.  Within days there were people playing hockey, ice skating behind baby carriages, curling and just walking their dogs.  There were times I couldn’t tell who was enjoying the ice more, man or beast. Tables and chairs were set about for sitting and sipping and enjoying the sunshine, while gazing upon the lakes icy surface.

For me, watching all the people gathering to share warm drinks and experience walking on the lake’s surface was a wonderful treat.  On one Saturday morning on Spitzingsee, there was even an alpine band playing.  The energy was infectious.  As the day progressed the long shadows grew across the ice and the fog rolled in and created incredible hoar frost in thick patterns like feathers.

Once the fresh snow fell so heavy that it covered Spitzingsee the ice became impossible to skate upon and at that time the cross country skiers and snowshoe walkers began to flood the lake’s surface.  Following the paths that formed like highways felt like you were discovering new lands.  Being able to see the mountains from this new perspective offered different views as well.  It’s wonderful how this well known landscape continues to change and offer new experiences through out the seasons.



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).




Loipen Lovin’

I have never tried cross country skiing, but am totally fascinated by the sport and it’s beautiful trails. Perhaps it will be my new sport for next winter, though I am not sure anyone would like to ski with me since I would need to stop constantly to take photos of all the natural beauty. So in order to give you some knowledgable information I recruited a Loipe Lovin’ girlfriend who kindly share her passion for the sport with me.

My girlfriend, who met and married a German man and came to live in Irschenberg from a warm southern state in the United States, needed a sport she could become passionate about in order to learn to enjoy the long alpine winter months. Winter can be a real challenge to those who grew up without snow. The lack of sunshine alone can be daunting so finding a winter sport that motivates you to get out is very important.

Daily the trails in Schliersee and Spitzingsee are skillfully and precisely groomed just like our downhill ski slopes. What is most incredible is that once you buy your own gear, many of the local Loipen are absolutely free. Yes, you heard me….FREE. Not only do you get incredibly fit doing cross country, you are out in the winter sun, soaking in all that vitamin D. Another great tip about the Loipen in Schliersee is that when the slopes get busy on weekends you can almost guarantee that the Cross Country trails will have plenty of space.

One thing I found really incredible with the Cross Country gear is that it was incredibly light. My girlfriend has a Mini and she just popped her skis other gear right in back. No need for costly roof racks. Also it is possible to rent Cross Country gear at any of our local ski rental places for anywhere between 15€-25€ average price per day. I have been told that taking a lesson is really important to help you get started. Lessons can be found right where you are renting your skis. It is all very convenient.

When you first approach a trail or a Loipe you will notice that there are two different parts to the track. One part has two very carved grooves and one part in the middle is smooth and many times in the snow is a herringbone pattern being created by the skis. There are two types of skiing going on. One is the traditional Cross Country which you move your skis in a smooth forward to back rhythm. The other very challenging type is called Skate Skiing and just like it’s name you ski in that flat middle part of the track in a skating manner. It really looks so graceful when you see someone very proficient Skate Skiing.

I really hope that you will get out and try one of our Loipen and give this beautiful traditional sport a try.

Here are a few of Schliersee’s Loipen:

Hoamatsau Loipe:

Valepper Almen Loipen:

Kirchbichl Loipe:

Information on all Loipen:

Loipen Review:



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).