Almabtrieb in Austria

By Gerald Bitman
This item appears on page 36 of the February 2014 issue.

My wife, Rosalie, and I were fortunate to be staying near Russbach, Austria, Oct. 4-6, 2013, during the Almabtrieb, a ceremonial cattle drive marking the end of summer.

In summer, the cattle are sent to the high Alpine pastures to graze, and at the end of summer they’re brought down by herdsmen and returned to their owners. The cows are crowned with brightly colored headdresses, ribbons and flowers.

Thousands of people attended the 3-day festival. Arts and craft stalls were set up, and food and Augustine draught beer were available for purchase. There was dancing and a folk band to welcome the returning cows. There was no admission charge to enter the area where the festival was held and to watch the cows enter the little village of Russbach. Parking was at a premium.

Decorated cows at the Almabtrieb in Russbach, Austria. Photo: Bitman

On Friday evening, Oct. 4, Russbach’s mayor declared the end of summer and the beginning of the Alpine country fair. 

On Saturday, Rosalie and I viewed the rustic handicraft stalls and delicacies from the farmers’ market. The cows started to arrive at about 12:30 p.m. and were put in a pen. There were about 35 cows in the procession. Many people attending the fair were dressed in traditional Alpine clothing. The cows were decorated only if they passed the summer without incident or injury.

All over the area near the Branntweinhäusl Inn, tables were set up seating 10 to 12 people each, and beer and barbecued chicken were sold in several places. We don’t speak German, but some of the people at our table spoke a little English and we were able to converse. 

Later in the afternoon, a children’s dance group performed. 

On Sunday at 9 a.m., hundreds of people dressed in Alpine costume attended parish church services in St. Wolfgang.

About a 15-minute drive from Russbach is St. Wolfgang, locally also called Sankt Wolfgang. We stayed in the center of town at the Seeböckenhotel Zum Weissen Hirschen (Markt 73, A-5360 St. Wolfgang, Austria; phone +43 6138 2238, fax 6138 2238 88, www.
, located beside Lake Wolfgangsee.

Well run and well maintained, and with an elevator and complimentary parking, this was one of the best hotels we stayed in on our trip to Germany and Austria. 

Our room had a balcony facing the lake. We paid 174 (near $235) per night, including a huge buffet breakfast. Their food was so good, we had dinner there all three nights and were never disappointed. The hotel owner came to our table each night to make certain everything was satisfactory. 

In 2014, Almabtrieb appears to be scheduled for Oct. 2-5. Several other towns on Lake Wolfgangsee are also worth visits, and boat excursions are offered as well.


Lake Worth, FL