• 30-AUG-2016

  • SOURCE: Bayern Tourismus Marketing GmbH

The Sound of the Alpine Pastures

'Almabtrieb' or 'Viehscheid' as it is called in the Allgäu region in September // Lake cows of the Königsee // Cowbell blacksmith and yoga teacher Kilian Trenkle

The summer spent by the cattle in the mountains traditionally closes with the 'Almabtrieb', or 'Viehscheid' as it is called in the Allgäu region. After around a hundred days grazing on the Alpine meadows, the yearlings are brought back down into the valleys in September. If all has gone well, the leading cow is elaborately decorated. Whilst all of the cattle are decorated in most parts of Bavaria, only the leading cow, or 'Kranzkuh', is decorated with a wreath, the 'Kranz', in the Allgäu region. It leads the procession of animals wearing a wreath fashioned from Alpine flowers, and bearing a cross and a mirror. All the other cows wear huge bells to ward off any evil demons the cattle might encounter on their way back down into the valley. Over the years, the various Almabtriebe or Viehscheid have increasingly become popular public events.
The Almabtrieb in the Berchtesgaden National Park which takes place at the beginning of October is unique. The path down from the summer grazing to the winter quarters in and around Schönau is blocked by a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in the shape of the majestic Lake Königssee. There is no road around so the cowherds drive their charges onto purpose built rafts and row them back across the water to Schönau.

Cowbell blacksmith with passion
Kilian Trenkle learnt the craft of bell forging from his father. The fire in the locksmiths and bell forge "Beim Hummelbaur" in Pfronten-Heitlern has been blazing for four generations now. The warm glow of the fire, the muffled impact of the hammer, the careful movements of the smith – bell forging has a meditative aspect. It fits that Trenkle also works as a yoga teacher. Becoming a bell forger was never forced upon him, he says.
He was free to choose his own path: "After completing my A-levels, the first thing I did was to design a stool for headstands for yoga as a product designer. I called it FeetUp and began selling it online." With success. Barcelona, London, Amsterdam – the headstand stool was soon in demand and Kilian presented his idea again and again at yoga conferences and trade fairs. Over the years, it developed into a small family business. Trenkle likes to refer to yoga and everything that it entails as his soft side; as the complete opposite to the archaic, powerful craft of forging bells. The contrast appeals to him. "I discovered forging bells for myself in my early twenties. Besides yoga, forging bells started taking up more and more time. I am always fascinated by the idea of creating something with your own hands. It is clear to me now that forging is the best job in the world."
It takes the man from Pfronten around 1,000 blows to create the two curved halves of the bell from two pieces of flat sheet metal; he then welds them together. Trenkle then mounts the tongue, which generates the characteristic bell ring when it hits the sheet metal. "The meadow sounds perfect when the angelic tone of the "Glocken" bells mixes with the earthy sound of the ’Schellen’ bell", states Trenkle. "Yes, the chiming of cows is somehow a key part of mountain climbing in the Allgäu", enthuses Trenkle with a finished bell in his hand. And rightly so: The mountain summer would not be half as wonderful without the special ringing, the bright jingling and clanging of a herd of cows on the alpine pasture.

Dates 2016 (some dates are not fixed yet):