Alpabzug Seewis im Praettigau 8 October 2016

Alpabzug Seewis im Praettigau 8 October 2016

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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1107 posts
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Nov 5, 2016 - 11:12 AM

Every year in the alps, farmers take their cows and/or goats up to graze on the high alpine pastures during the summer. In autumn, before the snow sets in, the farmers adorn their cows with flowers and big cowbells and descend with them in a procession back to their villages. In German-speaking Switzerland this is called the Alpabzug, and in the French-speaking area it is called the désalpe.

I went to the “Prättigauer Alp Spektakel” Alpabzug in Seewis im Prättigau during my recent trip to Switzerland. The Alpabzug was actually just one event of many in a 4-day alpine festival. On the day of the Alpabzug, there was also a village market selling local produce (mainly cheese!) and handicrafts, as well as food stalls and some large tents and indoor venues where you could have sit-down meals and drinks.

To get to Seewis, you catch a train to Grüsch, which is between Landquart and Klosters. From Grüsch there is a PostAuto bus to Seewis, a trip of 10 minutes that climbs about 300 metres in altitude along a winding road above Grüsch. On the day of the Alpabzug, there were also additional shuttle buses running frequently between Grüsch railway station and Seewis village. No cars were permitted to drive up to the village, but parking was available in Grüsch, and the shuttle bus also serviced the car-parking area.

I was travelling from Scuol, and had the option of arriving at Seewis at about 9:15 am or a bit after 11:00 am. As the Alpabzug was due to enter the village at 11:00 am, and I had read that there would be delays for people arriving in Grüsch after about 9.30 (due to the number of people to be transported from Grüsch up to the village), I opted for an early arrival and left chilly Scuol on the 7:41 train after a hasty breakfast, reaching Grüsch just after 9:00 am. Various people in traditional clothing boarded the train along the way, also headed for the Alpabzug.

There was a table set up in front of the station at Grüsch, where you could pay your admission for the Alp Spektakel (CHF 10). There wasn’t too much of a crowd at the station, and I was able to get onto one of the buses up to Seewis straight away. The bus dropped us on the edge of the village, and it was just a matter of following the crowd uphill to find the centre of the village, where the market was under way.

I filled in the next hour or so by strolling through the market and around the village, during which time I came across a map showing the route the Alpabzug would take coming down the mountain and then through the village. As the village streets were narrow, and the crowd was building up, I thought it might be better to walk out of the village a little way, hoping I would get a better vantage point without too many people obstructing my view. This turned out to be a good idea, and a steady stream of people walked much further up the mountain as well.

The Alpabzug wasn’t a continuous procession, but started off with a cart pulled by a decorated cow, and followed by some small girls with floral head-dresses, carrying baskets of cheese that were also decorated with flowers.

After a few minutes, bells ringing rhythmically in unison could be heard from higher up the mountain, and eventually a group of 8 men came into view, walking two-abreast and each carrying two huge bells suspended from curved wooden beams across their shoulders.

A short while after the bell ringers came some goats, with red scarves and small bells around their necks. They were quite hilarious, being totally incapable of walking in anything resembling a straight line, and sometimes turning around and heading in the wrong direction. Some of them ran down the embankment at the side of the road, before being chased back up to re-join the procession! A small boy of about 6 years old provided some wonderful entertainment, running here and there with his wooden staff, helping to round up the goats, with a call that sounded like “höa, höa”.

Then came one group of cows after another, with their big bells and beautiful floral head-dresses, accompanied by the farming families – men, women and children of all ages, many wearing traditional embroidered blue shirts, and most carrying a wooden staff.

The whole parade took about 20 minutes, and after the last cows had passed, everyone headed back into the village to have some lunch. One of the stalls was serving raclette, so I took this opportunity to try it for the first time!

When I eventually decided to walk down to the village bus stop to catch a bus back to Grüsch railway station, lots of other people had the same idea, and I had to wait for the fourth bus before I managed to get aboard. However, they were running frequently, so I didn’t have to wait more than about 15 minutes.

This was a community event drawing a large crowd into a small village. I was impressed with how well it was organised, including transport, food and toilet facilities. Luckily the weather co-operated as well. It was chilly, sometimes sunny, sometimes threateningly cloudy, but dry all day.

This day was definitely one of the highlights of my trip! If anyone is interested in seeing the Alpabzug next year, it will be on Saturday 7 October 2017. (This is one of the few Alpabzüge that set a firm date so far in advance, which is very helpful in enabling you to incorporate it into your itinerary). Some photos are attached.

Alpenrose

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maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
460 posts
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Nov 5, 2016 - 1:34 PM

Hello again Alpenrose

What a fabulous experience and again great photos! I liked the ones of Sils-Maria as well - it's a lovely place.

We are usually in Switzerland on August 1st - National Day and a couple of times we have been to Interlaken on that day to see the parade which is a massive affair! They too have cows with their bells and head-dresses and a whole manner of other traditional things. I will hunt out a few photos of the parade to post but will need a little time to find them and re-size them first!

It's great to share experiences on this forum so a huge thank you to Arno and Annika for setting it up and running it and to the people who post on it.

Best wishes

Maggie

Arno
Arno
9572 posts
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Nov 5, 2016 - 4:20 PM

Thanks Alpenrose for reporting on an event most tourists miss out on!

Thanks Maggie for your kind words!

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1107 posts
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Nov 6, 2016 - 9:34 PM in reply to maggiehorswell

>> We are usually in Switzerland on August 1st - National Day and a couple of times we have been to Interlaken on that day to see the parade which is a massive affair! They too have cows with their bells and head-dresses and a whole manner of other traditional things. I will hunt out a few photos of the parade to post but will need a little time to find them and re-size them first!

Hi Maggie,

The National Day festivities sound wonderful. With a bit of luck I might be able to organise a future trip to take in National Day celebrations!

I was lucky enough to come across some alphorn performances while I was there recently. They weren't part of any particular celebration. The first group I saw was at Kleine Scheidegg, where a group of 15-20 players was rehearsing one Saturday. That was my first experience of hearing alphorns live! Then the following day at Schynige Platte, two men were greeting the arrival of each train with a short performance, and were also playing later on the restaurant terrace.

I look forward to seeing your photos of the National Day parade!

Alpenrose

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
3628 posts
expert
Nov 20, 2016 - 8:37 AM in reply to Alpenrose666

Hi Alpenrose-

Those are very nice pictures of the Alpabzug. They really capture the spirit of the event and are of excellent quality. You are right about the goatherd. That is my favorite picture, followed by the one of the men with the cowbells and yokes.

Those bells are really heavy, and the cows don't really like them very much. Those men likely had sore shoulders at the end of the day.

I've been told that Swiss driving their cars on those roads during the ascent or descent will get out of their cars and stand beside the cars. That way, the cows will avoid the cars. Otherwise, they can swing those heavy bells into the the sides of the cars. The result is an expensive trip to the auto body repair shop.

We were near Lake Lucerne a few years ago and saw the procession passing through Beckenried and up toward Trogen above Buochs and Ennetbürgen on the back side of Bürgenstock. Later, we met them again as we descended from the parking lot near Trogen. My pocket camera in those days tended to blow out highlights, so the attached images lack a bit of technical quality, compared to your excellent images. And, since the cows were coming directly toward our car, I was in a bit of a hurry. Still, it adds to the impressions. Some of the head dresses on the cows were quite elaborate.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Nov 20, 2016 - 8:39 AM by Slowpoke
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Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1107 posts
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Nov 22, 2016 - 9:56 AM in reply to Slowpoke

>> Those are very nice pictures of the Alpabzug. They really capture the spirit of the event and are of excellent quality.

Hi Slowpoke,

Thanks for your kind words about my pictures.

>> Those bells are really heavy, and the cows don't really like them very much. Those men likely had sore shoulders at the end of the day.

Yes, I can well imagine that they would have sore shoulders! Later on in the village I saw another group of men preparing to parade through the village ringing the the bells. It was very interesting to see how they got started. One bell ringer stood at the front facing the others and started swinging rhythmically to and fro to get his two bells ringing. Once he had established the rhythm, the others joined in, and when all the bells were ringing in unison, they set off through the village.

>> I've been told that Swiss driving their cars on those roads during the ascent or descent will get out of their cars and stand beside the cars. That way, the cows will avoid the cars. Otherwise, they can swing those heavy bells into the the sides of the cars. The result is an expensive trip to the auto body repair shop.

Interesting you should mention that! One of the cows I saw went up to a car parked on the side of the road to take a closer look! (Photo attached) Luckily the bell didn't seem to make contact with the car.

>> We were near Lake Lucerne a few years ago and saw the procession passing through Beckenried and up toward Trogen above Buochs and Ennetbürgen on the back side of Bürgenstock. Later, we met them again as we descended from the parking lot near Trogen. My pocket camera in those days tended to blow out highlights, so the attached images lack a bit of technical quality, compared to your excellent images. And, since the cows were coming directly toward our car, I was in a bit of a hurry. Still, it adds to the impressions. Some of the head dresses on the cows were quite elaborate.

Thanks for those photos, they're great!

Alpenrose

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maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
460 posts
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Nov 26, 2016 - 11:13 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

Hi Alpenrose

Sorry to keep you waiting so long for the promised pictures of the August 1st Parade in Interlaken. I was having some trouble with my eyes so avoiding using laptop too much but thankfully much improved now so could get on with resizing photos for posting.

I have so many photos that I found it difficult to choose and there are far too many for one post so you will have a series of posts coming your way! I wanted to give a flavour of all the participants in the Parade and not just the cows! I was particularly impressed by the men carrying those massive loads of hay!

So here goes with the first lot.

Best wishes

Maggie

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maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
460 posts
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Nov 26, 2016 - 11:16 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

Here comes second group

Maggie

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maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
460 posts
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Nov 26, 2016 - 11:20 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

Here we go again with group 3

Maggie

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maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
460 posts
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Nov 26, 2016 - 11:25 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

And finally group 4!

Maggie

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maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
460 posts
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Nov 26, 2016 - 11:37 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

Hi Alpenrose

Me again! You mentioned hearing alphorns in your post s0 I hunted out some more photos from 2013 - we went to an Alphornfest on top of Maennlichen - there were competitions for duets, groups etc. then they all performed together a few times, I believe there were over 100 altogether! The ubiquitous flag-swingers were also involved! A couple of weeks earlier, also on Maennlichen there was a Trachtenfest which involved a dance troupe, a yodelling duo, an alphorn trio, a whip-cracker, cowbell ringers and the inevitable flag-swingers! So I am including photos of this occasion as well. By the way the dancers in one picture are supposed to be sitting down - it is part of the dance!

Hope you like them.

Maggie

Last modified on Nov 26, 2016 - 11:44 PM by maggiehorswell
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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
3628 posts
expert
Nov 27, 2016 - 3:01 AM

Hi Maggie-

Nice work!

I can see why you had difficulty in making selections. Those images showing "ordinary" life are hard to compose for artistic values. They are immensely valuable as insights into the country, however.

Slowpoke

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1107 posts
top member
Nov 30, 2016 - 11:29 AM in reply to maggiehorswell

Hi Maggie,

Thanks for posting those wonderful photos! I enjoyed them very much.

Those men carrying hay bales are certainly impressive! The alphorns people were carrying also looked like they could be quite heavy! Then there was the woman marching in stilettos, also impressive in its own way :D

I liked the cheesemakers, and the various small carts too, as well as the girl doing a balancing act on a horse.

Do you know what those masked, horned characters represent? What route does the parade follow?

Nice to see those flag swingers too. What a superb location they have on Männlichen for those festivals!

Alpenrose

maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
460 posts
top member
Nov 30, 2016 - 2:39 PM in reply to Alpenrose666

Hi Alpenrose

The masked figures appear also on Jan 2nd each year!

"Harderpotschete"

On January 2nd every year, Interlaken is haunted by the masked figures of the Hardermann, his wife and his band of followers, the Potschen. Masked figures (known as the Potschen) run through the streets, screaming and shouting, pulling spectators along, and spreading (mock) fear and dread.

The source of this tradition is a cult of the dead. In the past the masked people represented the dead, who were offered a gift to appease them. After the tradition led to wild fights amongst the youth, people reformed the tradition in 1956. The so-called “Chummeln” was combined with the legend of the Harder Man, whose face is hewn into the rock of the Harder House Mountain. The face looks down from the mountain, high above Interlaken. The legend of the Harder Man tells of a monk who molested a young girl, who then jumped over the rock face. The monk’s punishment was to look down onto the scene of his crime for thousands of years. This is how today’s Harder-Potschete procession was born.

In addition to the Harder-Postschete, the procession is accompanied by Guggen Music, members of the Musical Society, Drummers Association, Trychler Formations (cowbell players) and numerous children’s “Potscheni” (masks). The laboriously carved masks are all of wood and were individually carved by hand. After the traditional Potschete “procession”, people meet in the pubs to socialize in a congenial atmosphere.

They take part in the August 1st parade as well. They throw sweets to the children as well as "frightening" them - local kids of course love them but tourists seeing them for first time can be somewhat taken aback.

Google Harder-Postschete, Interlaken and follow link to Myswitzerland for some scary pictures!

Maggie

Alpenrose666
Alpenrose666
1107 posts
top member
Dec 3, 2016 - 5:37 AM in reply to maggiehorswell

That's fascinating Maggie! Thanks so much for that information - I enjoyed finding out about the significance of those figures very much!

Alpenrose

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