Sunday, 21 September 2008


The Vieschied Festival is the seasonal event marking the arrival of the cattle which have been brought down to the valley from the high pastures at the end of summer. Every year it takes place the second weekend in September. To be part of this festival is the main reason we were Dietrich and Reingard's guests at this particular week in September.

It proved to be a wonderful day for us and I have many photos to share. In fact, I have so many I have divided it up. This is Part 1 of 3 and is about the animals as they arrive in the valley, how they are sorted for identification and the process of getting them ready for their trip back to the farms. Part 2 is about the people and Part 3 is about ... the beer!

This picture (above) is really about Sound. The procession is arriving but the best bit isn't what you see but what you hear!

Take a look at it closely. First of all, you have to imagine this lane through these trees as being empty and quiet with everyone milling about elsewhere on the verges and pasture. However, all are expectant. They know the cattle herds are due for arrival - about 40 animals in a herd - as they are coming one after the other down to this final arrival field on the edge of town.

You stand there straining your eyes for the first of the herd filling the lane. There is nothing to see but ... you become aware of a sound in the air - is that a waterfall? It is coming from afar. The sound begins to get louder ... then you begin to identify the sound of deep toned cow bells ... a lot of cow bells! It is quite thrilling! And then you can see in the distance the herd and their herdsmen slowly getting closer!

Everyone moves to the edge of the road to watch. Quite spectacular in an understated sort of way! We are witnesses to an event that goes on every year and, indeed, herds will be arriving all day and well into the night as the farmers' routine moves through the calendar year.

Again you have to look closely. Between the 2 herdsmen - bottom right - is the animal bedecked in flowers rather in the shape of a floral mantilla.

The herd has now arrived in the receiving area which is a fenced-off space giving the herdsmen room to line them up for the identification process.

This fellow's job is to identify the cattle as they are led, one at a time, through a channel where he stands on a platform with his microphone (covered in a poly bag for the drizzle) announcing which animal belongs to which farmer. He has to know all the animals! Apparently he has a mate who can spell him off!

The owners and their helpers are ready and waiting to take the animals, remove their finery and tether them to the railings while they go and collect the others.

Everything is done in a very orderly fashion. These lads appear to be Keepers of the Cow Bells - all lined up: small, medium, large.

And lastly, we have the lead animal now back with its owner and no doubt looking forward to a well-deserved trip home.

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