St Stephens Alpabfahrt 2014… Mooooooch fun

In September we were witnesses of one of the most popular events in the Alps, the “Alpabfahrt”. The Alpabfahrt or Almatrieb refers to an annual event in the alpine regions of Europe where the cow herds come down from the mountains. This happens because during summer cows feed on alpine pastures high up in the mountains.

The Alpabfahrt usually happens in September when the cows come down to their stables in the valley where they meet their owners. The cows coming down to the valley is definitely a reason for a great celebration. People gather to wait for them while enjoying local dishes, beer and listening to folk music. The cows are definitely the protagonists of the event, in during which we can enjoy the music from alphorns and yodelers who keep the visitors entertained until they start descending, decorated elaborately with flowers, ribbons and huge bells.

Decorated cows during the Alpabfahrt in St Stephens, Switzerland

I originally thought this only happened in Appenzell, but it turns out this happens all over Switzerland on different days during the entire month of September. We decided to go to the Alpabfahrt in St. Stephen, a tiny city in the Oberland (not too far from Interlaken) because it fell on a weekend we were free and also because it was one with the most cows during that weekend, with more than 300 heads of cattle.

A house in the Alps

We went with our Italian friends Anna and Marco. Left Zürich at 8:00am and arrived at the festival around 11:00am. St. Stephen’s Alpabfahrt festival happens in the city’s airport. Parking was free, the entrance fee was about CHF7 per person. As soon as we arrived I was convinced we picked the right festival. There were not too many people, but the ones attending were mostly locals. The stands just started to open. We headed to the raclette and pastries stands right away.

Delicious raclette. This is the Swiss version of “junk food”

After enjoying our delicious bread and cheese, we then we stopped to watch the yodelers and alphorn players when suddenly we heard the bells!

Making cheese “live”
Alphorn players
Alphorn players and flag throwers
Performance of alphorn players and flag throwers

The cows started descending from the Alps. Farmers, adults and kids, where dressed in traditional clothing.

And the parade began
A very photogenic cow
Twin sisters
These cows changed their minds
One very stubborn cow
Tough guy
Farmers marching with their cows in the parade
Look at that flower crown!
What are you looking at?

After watching the first 2 groups of cows descending, we headed to the “Bierhalle” where we bought steak, potatoes and of course, beer. Had a nice time speaking with an older Swiss gentleman who traveled all the way from Basel just for the festival. He did not speak any English which was a good thing because it forced us to practice our German. Then we met two ladies from North Carolina who were on vacation. All this while looking at the beautiful alps and listening to the yodelers.

Everything was great, except for the fact that I was also sweating like a pig. because according to the weather forecast it was supposed to be cold (less than 40F, 5C) so I decided to wear fleece (great idea Zuly).

We finished our lunch before 1pm which meant we had plenty of time to do something else. We decided to stop by Interlaken on our way back to Zürich because none of us had never been. We arrived in Interlaken and did some window shopping. Anna bought a fleece jacket she fell in love with. Then we did a bit of sightseeing and ate a gelato which to me was very unforgettable, but the view was priceless.

Carved tree in Interlaken
Fell in love with this charming town
Alexis, Marco and Anna on the bridge
The views are amazing

We headed to a park nearby to eat our gelato while watching paragliders landing in front of us. With the alps in the background and a nice warm and sunny weather. Just the perfect ending for a perfect day.

Paragliding in Interlaken. Want to do this one day.

If you ever find yourself in Switzerland in September, don’t forget to include in your itinerary visiting one of the Alpabfahrt events. You will have a great time.

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