Before you see them, you can hear them: Loud bells accompany the cows that are driven down to the valley by the farmers in September. The summer freshness on the alpine pasture is over, now the warm barn where the animals will spend the winter is enticing. The Almabtrieb marks the traditional end of the alpine summer. We want to review the alpine summer in the Hochkönig region once again. A summer of regional specialties, hard work, precious moments of leisure and cordial people.
"The animals know exactly when it is time to go home. Most of the time they are already waiting for us when we come up to the mountain pasture", Christian Rainer smiles. The animals of the Melcham farmer from Maria Alm spend every summer on the Melchamalm, 1,250 meters above sea level. This year, in addition to the dairy cows, there were two pigs on the Alm, as well as a few chickens and Rigo the herding dog. During our visits we were allowed to accompany the dairymaid during her daily routine on the alpine pastures, to look over her shoulder while milking and cheesing, to accompany her over hilly alpine meadows and through shady forests and to drive the cows back to the barn in the evening. We visited a calf that was only a few hours old in the pasture, listened to the thunder of the thunderstorm in the night and to the raindrops that pattered on the hut roof in the morning. We were allowed to taste handmade cheese, fresh milk and delicious wild sausages. And so we learned a lot about the real life on the mountain pasture.
A feast for the palate and the eyes: Herbal mountain pastures on the Hochkönig
We also experienced real alpine life at the other huts we visited this summer - for example at the beautiful Königsbergalm. The young hut couple Wolfgang Hotter and Daniela Pfisterer run the beautiful hut and herbal alp in Dienten with passion and dedication. In front of the fantastic panorama of the Dientner Berge they serve their guests traditional delicacies, which not only taste good but are also very nice to look at. The Königsbergalm is one of 13 herbal mountain pastures at the Hochkönig. So Almjause, homemade herbal juices and more are decorated with colorful flowers and fresh leaves - a joy for eyes and palate. Our tip: after a fine Almjause, lie down in one of the deck chairs, let your eyes wander - and simply enjoy.
With child and skittle on the alp
We wehttp://relaunch.hochkoenig.at/de/covid-19/massnahmen-informationen-zu-covid-19.html?_Preview=1re also looking forward to the visit of Hans and Traudi Aigner from the Molterauhütte. The beautiful hut on the Widdersbergalm is worth a visit in itself - it is located directly on the Salzburger Almenweg, the panorama is breathtaking. Traudi and Hans are warm hosts and embody the authentic life on the alpine pasture. With bag and baggage they move up to the Alm in early summer - including children, cats and dog Joki. They spend the whole summer up there and sleep in the hut. Traudi produces curd cheese, cheese, butter, sour milk and bread themselves. Everything that has to be bought, the two of them check carefully on its origin. After all, being an organic farm also means taking responsibility, says Traudi. When the summer draws to a close and the leaves begin to change color, the Aigners slowly pack up and drive the animals down into the valley to the Molterau Gut farm in Mühlbach. There the work on the farm continues until the mountain calls again next year at the beginning of June.
Alpinelove knows no age
The mountain - more precisely the Hochkönig - also plays a major role in the life of Rudi Nussbaumer. Together with his wife Tine and mother Gretl, he manages the Dientalm at Dientner Sattel from mid-May to the end of September. The Dientalm has been family-owned since 1928, and the restaurant has a long tradition here. Cheese has always been made at the Dientalm - until today. About three times a week, cheese and butter are produced on the alpine pasture from the milk of 20 cows. Most of the time the cheese is taken over by mother Gretl, who, at just under 70 years of age, is still passionate and expert in the business. According to her son Rudi, she is the heart of the beautiful Dientalm. When she's not cheesing, she devotes herself to the well-being of the guests or to her "ladies" - the cows that doze in front of the hut on the large pasture. In general, the welfare of the animals is very important here - he also takes great care that his animals have a good character, Rudi tells us. In autumn the animals come to the valley, to the farm in Mühlbach. Rudi and Gretl also retire to the valley, and the work on the farm becomes the center of attention again. But especially in autumn, Rudi says, he likes to look up at the "king" - when the autumn sun shines on him and he glows deep red in all his glory.
Enjoyment is king and variety is trumps
There are 22 managed alpine huts in the area around Maria Alm, seven in Dienten and 22 in Mühlbach am Hochkönig. Each hut is unique, either because of its location, the food on offer or because the hut people make the hut something special. With this large selection, everyone will find what they need in the Hochkönig area: whether modern huts with first-class cuisine, herbal alms, traditional alpine huts with music or quiet, relaxed alpine life away from busy routes, to relax and unwind. This large selection does not stop at the culinary delights. Because who thinks that alpine huts are only something for lovers of Pinzgauer Kasnocken, bacon breads and Co., will be taught a better lesson in the Hochkönig region. Some huts offer not only classic hut delicacies but also vital delicacies that do completely without meat and animal products. In Maria Alm, for example, this is the beautiful Steinbockalm, which skilfully blends modern with traditional - both in terms of ambience and in the kitchen. Whether veggie burger or salad with falafel - friends of meatless delights will be happy here. Also the Jufenalm, the Wastlalm, the Zachhofalm in Dienten or the Mühlbacher huts Karbachalm, Pronebenalm, Tiergartenalm and Zapferlalm convince with their vegan and vegetarian offer. Variety is the trump card in the Hochkönig region. And anyone who has experienced this once knows it very well: the "I'll be back" feeling.
High feelings at the Hochkönig
This feeling also comes over us on the day of the Almabtrieb. We are allowed to accompany Christian Rainer from the Melchamalm and his family on the weekend of the departure. Already the day before, the whole family including friends meets to make the "furrows" - the beautiful flower decorations that the cows will wear during the drive-off. Fresh herbs, green branches, colorful flowers and red berries - everything is tied together by hand, plucked here and there until it results in dreamlike combinations. The mood among the helpers is cheerful and exuberant - a summer without accidents is behind them. Because the animals are only crowned up when everything went well during the summer, no losses are to be lamented. The day of the Almabtrieb only begins like any other with milking and cleaning the barn. Then Christian polishes once again the beautiful bells that the animals will wear around their necks. Also the artfully made masks get a thorough cleaning once more before they are put on the cows. Finally, it is the turn of the "furrows" - the ornamental bushes that the cattle will wear between their horns. Thus begins the ceremonial drive - the animals beautifully decorated, the people in festive costume. It takes about two hours until the animals of the Melchamalm arrive down in Maria Alm. There the farmers' autumn is already in full swing. The smell of fresh farmer's doughnuts and all sorts of grilled delicacies wafts through the streets, the farmer's wives sell cheese and bacon. Everyone is eagerly waiting for the first signs that the animals are coming - the ringing of the bells, the calls of the accompanying persons. And finally, they are there, trotting through the streets in a beautiful circle towards the stables. Happy faces can be seen on both sides - those of the farmers and those of the visitors. A summer on the mountain pasture is coming to an end. A summer with a lot of work, but without losses. With guests who want to appreciate and experience real alpine life.
If that is not a nice reason to celebrate.