I had always wanted to go to Oktoberfest in Munich... It struck me as an event where you could experience the Bavarian culture - or did it? What attracted me was trying new beers, dressing up in lederhosen and dirndls, eating pretzels, bratwurst, schnitzel and legendary atmosphere famous the world over.
However, I had heard some horror stories about Oktoberfest. The cost of flights is ridiculous, there is huge demand for accommodation, and if you can find somewhere it will cost you a small fortune. I’d heard of all the campsites being packed, full of pissed up travellers (yes we all know the guilty nationalities), queues and general commercialisation of the whole event. I wasn’t convinced that the pros outweighed the cons. Had the cultural and historic side of the even been victim to yet another over commercialised backpacker event like the Full Moon Party in Thailand?
There is an amazing alternative a train ride away from Munich; across the border in Austria in its Tyrol region; a wonderful hidden gem known as Almabtrieb in the village of Söll.
The Almabtrieb is an annual event that happens in many villages across the Alps. It occurs in September when Summer turns to Autumn. It’s a celebration of the farmers bringing their cattle down from the mountains for the winter which brings the whole local community together for beers, music, dancing and amazing food.
So here is the hidden treasure - Almabtrieb in Söll - a unique weekend escape.
We flew into Salzburg airport – there was a choice of Innsbruck and Munich but our decision was driven by cost and my love of the Sound of Music so I wanted to perform a Maria Von Trapp around Salzburg singing the soundtrack I learnt by heart when I was 8!
So we arrive and collect a hire car and thanks to a sat nav fail and a marital disagreement we found ourselves on the scenic route, crossing briefly through Germany back into Austria. The views on the drive alone a fantastic. We drove through forested areas and Valleys surrounded by luscious green hills and mountain tops.
We arrived later than planned at Manorhaus apartments in Soll with a warm welcome from the British owners, Dave and Vicky (see link below). A quick turnaround in order to grab a well deserved steiner of beer we headed into town for some local grub. My short experience of Soll tells me you’ll love the food at pretty much whatever establishment you choose… and of course the beer.
The next morning we were up bright and early, fresh as a daisy to climb the Hohe Salve*. The Hohe Salve is the mountain that sits right next to Soll. We set off to climb the bugger at 6am with the promise of some spectacular panoramic views of the valleys below. The 3 hour climb (probably would take someone else 2) was well worth it. We were rewarded with views of the beautiful green valleys. We met farmers already starting to move some of the cows on our way. I can’t do the views justice so some picture below adequately capture the beauty.
*This is a total lie we overslept and had to haul our lazy arses out of bed.
After a slap up breakfast of meats, cheeses, Stiegl beer from Salzburg, and my new favourite drink Radler (literally means ‘cyclist’, so a shandy type beer for someone who needs some concentration on the road ahead!) with a toilet trip with a view (see below) we headed to get the gondola back down the mountain.
The journey down gifted us with a birds eye view of the start of the proceedings. Once back in Söll town we were just in time to see the elaborate display of cows in headdresses and bells and even some goats and tractors.
After the initial novelty of the parades taking place every 45 mins to an hour or so and the well earned beers I explored the full extent of Almabtrieb. There was a plethora of beer tents, brass bands, so many food stalls I lost count and every bar / restaurant was heaving. Roughly every second person was dressed up in traditional outfits. There were young and old all having fun. Late afternoon some of the masses went back on their coaches leaving a smaller but still buzzing vibe.