If there is a Swiss tradition that I was looking forward to seeing that is the Alpabfarht. What is the Alpabfarht? The Alpabfarht (from German, means the drive from the mountain pastures) takes place when the farmers take their cows (or goats or sheep) back to their sheds after they have spent the whole summer grazing in the green pastures high in the Alps. It’s quite an event! From mid August to mid October, farms all around the country make their own Alpabfarht. It’s like an unofficial end of summer event in Switzerland. And why is it special? Well, farmers, the whole family, wear traditional costumes, and they dress up their cows too. They adorn their animals with beautiful flower crowns and big and specially decorated bells… Then they take the cows from the mountains to their winter barns down in the valleys, making a small parade through the town…

To experience one of these Alpabfahrt, we recently went to Elm, in Canton Glarus. The trip to the town itself was impressive. This little village sits at the bottom of the gorgeous Sernftal valley, surrounded by majestic mountains, some of them part of the Unesco world heritage site of Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona. When we went to see the Alpabfahrt, we were lucky to see all the forest area around the village already changing to the beautiful golden autumnal tones which, along with the traditional buildings of Elm, gave the area even a more beautiful and photogenic appearance.

Before the Alpabfahrt took place, we could enjoy a little market in Elm. The atmosphere was really fun. There were lots of stalls from local farms where we could try and buy their exquisite Alpine cheese. All visitors sat together to enjoy lunch together while traditional music was played live… After visiting the market and feeling a bit more Swiss ( 😛 ) we went to the main street of the village to wait for the highlight of the day: the cow parade. We could hear it a long time before we saw it: the huge bells from the cows sounded from afar, making the wait even more exciting… And after a while, they came! Preceded by a tractor (also decorated with flowers) and the farmer’s family, the cows, wearing their beautiful flower crowns appeared in the scene!

The “parade” didn’t last long… I wasn’t prepared for such a quick parade and I couldn’t take as many photos as i would have wanted!! I even had a few problems with the focus of the new camera, as I’m not yet used to take photos of animals and wildlife with it… But seeing a few adorable chubby Swiss cows wearing their crowns and strolling along the street was enough to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day! And it made me want to repeat the experience… So now I’m looking forward for the spring, to repeat the experience when the Alpaufzug takes place (which is just the opposite, when the farmers take their cows up in the mountain to the Alpine pastures for the summer).

Here are some photos I took that day in Elm. I hope you like them!! 🙂

Elm. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/11 1/250sec. ISO100
Elm. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 63mm f/5.6 1/400sec. ISO100
Swiss house. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 42mm f/6.3 1/160sec. ISO200
Views from Elm. Cannon EOS 1200d 89mm f/5 1/4000sec. ISO400
Views from Elm. Canon EOS 1200d 250mm f/5.6 1/4000sec. ISO400
Autumn light. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 70mm f/11 1/320sec. ISO100
Cabin in Elm. Canon EOS 1200d 113mm f/9 1/320sec. ISO400
Views from Elm. Canon EOS 1200d 157mm f/5.6 1/1000sec. ISO400
Elm Cheese Market. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/7.1 1/200sec. ISO200
Glarus Alpine Cheese. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 45mm f/2.8 1/3200sec. ISO200
Alpabfahrt. Canon EOS 1200d 152mm f/5.6 1/500sec. ISO200
Farmer family. Canon EOS 1200d 55mm f/5.6 1/400sec. ISO200
Swiss cow. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 70mm f/11 1/80sec. ISO200
Swiss cow. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 50mm f/11 1/80sec. ISO200
Dressed up for the Alpabfahrt. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 42mm f/11 1/500sec. ISO200
Little farmer. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 70mm f/5.6 1/800sec. ISO200
Beautiful ladies. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 55mm f/4 1/2000sec. ISO200
Swiss cow. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 41mm f/4 1/2000sec. ISO200

 

2 Comments

  1. A fun ritual and beautifully captured.

    • mercedescatalan

      Thanks a million, Anne!!! I saw a few photos on Instagram about this event and I was so looking forward to seeing one in person!! I think I’m already so used to hike with the sound of the cow bells accompanying me that I also wanted to saying goodbye to them until next spring, when they’re back in the mountains, hehehe. I’m going to miss them during these cold and silent winter months! 🙂

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