One of the most beautiful lakes in Europe plays host to a historical cattle drive during the alpine summer
Long considered one of the most beautiful and pristine lakes in Europe, Lake Königssee offers travellers a unique perspective of the Bavarian region. Nestled in the Berchtesgaden municipality in the German Bavarian Alps, the area is a real longed-for destination, with magnificent views, great hiking trials and fine nature experiences. It is also home to one of the most magical boat rides in the world. But in mid-September, during the end of the alpine summer, the lake area becomes a hotbed of activity for the Almabtrieb, a traditional Bavarian cattle drive.
For visitors, the Almabtrieb offers a unique look at the Bavarian region as well as its traditions. Practiced for hundreds of years, the cattle drive sees the alpine farmers bring their cows down from the alpine meadows at the end of the summer. The cows are taken on an extraordinary journey via boats, across the length of Lake Königssee.
The farmers from Rennerlehen, Mooslehen and Grafenlehen have had mountain rights on Lake Königssee, the Salet and the Obersee, since time immemorial. The alpine pastures on the southern banks of Lake Königssee are so idyllic, precisely because they are so difficult to access. Steep rocky banks border the narrow valley; there are no paths along the banks of the fjord-like lake; and the paths over the mountains are long and difficult. The easiest route for humans and animals is across the water and because of that, the Almabtrieb has now become an event in itself for both locals and visitors to marvel at yearly.
The Lake Cows
Often taking place on a morning sometime in mid-September, the Almabtrieb sees alpine farmers assemble their cows on the bank of Lake Königssee before boarding the traditional, wooden transporter boats – the so-called Landauer – with them. The journey oftentimes takes an hour and passes by scenic points including the pilgrim church of St Bartholomä. The journey ends at the northern banks of the lake where curious onlookers gather to witness the amazing spectacle.
As soon as the boat trip has been completed and both farmers and their cattle are back on solid ground, the festivities truly begin. Farmers don their festive attire and the cows are crowned with an elaborate Fuikl or a headdress made from fir or spruce branches and decorated with brightly coloured roses made of twigs. Accompanied by music, and under the gaze of hundreds of onlookers, the cows then return to their barns on the farm. The festivities normally end with a party, which officially brings the alpine summer to a celebratory end.