In southern Bavaria, there is a tradition signifying the end of summer called the almabtrieb – essentially when the cows come home from pasture. At the beginning of summer, farmers lead their cows into the alps to spend several months grazing atop the now green grass covered mountains. As the weather starts to turn and summer melds into fall, the farmers retrieve their cows and Parade them down through their local village in a festive fashion. Most – if not all – of the cattle are decorated in headdresses, wreaths, bells, flowers, and brightly colored clothing. In northern Bavaria there are no alps, yet a small town still manages to have their own almabtrieb to celebrate the coming fall – but with goats!
The town of Neustadt am Kulm gathers together during the first weekend in October for their own almabtrieb to celebrate the goats coming home from pasture. The parade usually starts early afternoon, but spectators come early to explore the stalls set up by local vendors.
Local Handmade Goods
The event is held along two streets within the small town and both streets are lined with carts selling local handmade products, antiques, beer, and food. They had everything to lawn ornaments to pillows to paintings and as you can see in the photo above, all your kitchen needs! This is probably one of my favorite parts of German fests; I love getting to see what the locals have created and see how similar or different they are to what you’d find in the States. Plus they make great gifts!
My sister was visiting for two weeks and had several friends and family members to bring souvenirs back to. She bought something for almost everyone on her list, including herself, at this event!
The Goat Parade
The parade started in the afternoon with several locals dressed in their Bavarian best – dirndls and lederhosen! Parents with their children braved the cold and wet weather for the parade. They walked down the street pulling decorated carts, holding signs, and then finally what we had been waiting for arrived. THE GOATS.
These goats were freaking adorable! However, the parade seemed a bit anticlimactic at the end. I had hyped it up so much and it was over within ten minutes. That’s not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable! I loved watching those little cuties trot along. I just hoped I would have been able to pet them. (This is what we call foreshadowing ~ spooky) The goats disappeared into the crowd and my sister and I made our way to the stage to watch some of the paraders play their alphorns.
At the end of the parade we saw these guys lugging those giant horns through the crowd. All I could think of was the Ricola throat lozenge commercial – you know, the one with that same horn and the guy going reeeeeecolaaaaaa? No? Well anyway, when they played it didn’t sound like that commercial. It actually sounded really neat. I’d never heard this instrument being played so it was different and amazing to experience this part of German culture.
We listened to a few songs and then my sister wanted to buy a beer. She was legal in Germany, but not in the States so she was taking advantage. After she bought her beer we went to find a table to sit at and figure out what else we wanted to check out at the event. When we sat down, I noticed a crowd of people surrounding what looked like a fence. Someone moved and there were the goats!
Playing with the Goats
Alright, so we didn’t get to play with the goats per say, but we did get to pet them and feed them! The goats were enclosed in a wooden pen with openings wide enough to fit your hands in – which you can see along the right hand side of the picture above. In several places along the fence were actual cornstalks with ears of corn just waiting to be plucked and fed to the goats! Most of this was gone by the time we got there, but the goats were also eating the leaves off the cornstalks and the flowers they were previously adorned in.
Any time the goats got close to our side of the fence, we’d stick our hands in and try to pet them. Just be careful though – those guys are feisty. They come in hot trying to knock into one another and just about took my hand off! We started scraping up corn kernels off the ground that hadn’t been eaten to try to feed the goats. More often than not they were uninterested in our hands full of corn. However, two different goats at two different times did come up to me and eat out of my palm!
I mean look at this little guy! Or girl? This was seriously the best moment of the day. It wasn’t as big and elaborate as the almabtriebs with cows near the alps. But I’m truly glad that I chose to experience this small, local tradition instead. It’s cute, full of culture, and you get to pet the goats! This event is perfect for families with kids – or big kids like me. Just go, seriously.
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