What is a Viehscheid?

Viehscheid, or Almabetrieb, is popular in the alpine regions of Bavaria. This local fest celebrates when the cows finally come home!

Viehscheid” literally translated means “Cattle Separation.” In the Allgäu region of Bavaria, it's called a "Viehscheid," but over towards Berchtesgaden it's known as "Almabetrieb."

In the Alp countries, it is common for farmers to brand their cattle and send them higher up into the mountains for grazing. It’s actually important for the cattle to chew down the grass. If the grass stays too long when the snow hits, the snow clinging to the grass causes the grass to be pulled out, roots and all, and leads to a great deal of erosion on the mountain-side. Letting the cows keep the grass “mowed” to a short length is a great benefit.

At the end of the season – about the middle of September – the cows are led back down to their farmers. As they come down the mountain, they are separated off to their owners. The owners then “gussy up” the cows–sort of like putting lipstick on a pig–for a parade through the village.

After the parade, the cows are led to an auction and people can bid on them. I’m told that the small town of Buching is one of the few that still does the auction. After the auction a keg is tap in the big tent and the party begins.

There is a bis tent with a huge stage and brass band up front. Some of the town officials gather to tap the first keg. The food in the tent in really good – the favorite in Buching was “Kesselfleisch”

A tasty little dish of somewhat fatty beef – goes great with beer.  The people are awesome and more than 90% are wearing “Tracht” – the Bavarian national dress – Lederhosen for the Gents and Dirndls for the girls (Every girl looks better in a Dirndl!!!)

The party starts out slowly, as all German Parties. Be patient. It starts with traditional Blasmusik – Oom-pah music. The point here is to talk to your friends, eat some good food and get down a good fatty base in your stomach. Believe me, this is good advice. Once a good layer of fat is lining your stomach, it’s a big safer to have a few beers. The beer is served in a Masskrug – a one liter glass – which is about three 12-ounce beers. Plus the German beer is a tad stronger than American beer.

Gradually, the music picks up and soon you hear songs you can sing along to.

The Viehscheid in the small towns is more rowdy than is allowed at Oktoberfest. Here, dancing on the tables is de rigeur. Having your friends hoist you and the table up in the air is beyond pale. A stunt like that at Munich’s Oktoberfest will land you in the hoosegow – here it gets you cheered like a hero. More drinking, more celebration, more fun. Unfortunately the tent closes at midnight and you are unceremoniously thrust out into the cold – and the mud. But, since you started at 9:00 AM, you probably should go home.

Did I mention it’s Monday?!!??!

(I love Bavarians!)