The Spirit of Bavaria

Dairy herd on the Alm by the Königssee

Dairy herd on the Alm by the Königssee

If you take the walk suggested in yesterday’s post from the Königssee to the Obersee in Berchtesgaden National Park, you will soon come across a rugged wooden sign. For those who don’t read German, here is a translation. “At the little Alpine cabin, there is fresh Alpine milk and buttermilk every day. A butter, bread, and cheese snack is six minutes’ walk away.”

Signpost pointing the way to fresh Alm milk by the Königssee

Signpost pointing the way to fresh milk by the Königssee

From this signpost, we couldn’t see the cabin in question, but we could see the source of that fresh milk and butter: a herd of contented dairy cattle lying around on the hills nearby, accompanied by a couple of goats that looked as if they were straight out of Heidi. I don’t know when dairy cattle eat. Every time I see them, they’re lying down.

Cows dozing to the chime of their own cowbells

Cows dozing to the chime of their own cowbells

Even when we couldn’t see the cattle and goats, we could hear them. Each has its own bell, and the whole area rings with their gentle chimes. Those bells aren’t for tourists, either. Cowbells have been used by shepherds for over 5,000 years. In hilly terrain, shepherds need their help to find missing livestock. So cows really do need the cowbells–because because their horns don’t work!

Unable to resist the offer of fresh milk, we took the six-minute walk to the cabin. (More like three, I’d say.) It had a cheerful appearance, a few picnic tables out in the sun, and two self-serve windows.

Snack time on the Alm by the Königssee

Snack time on the Alm by the Königssee

There, the simple menu included milk from the day’s milking in massive mugs, as well as beer and a few other kinds of drinks. The milk was amazing, even according to my friends who didn’t ordinarily drink milk. It had the mildest, sweetest taste of any milk I’ve ever drunk. The chewy rye bread and butter (Butterbrot) had a sprinkling of spices on it that my friends pronounced very good, but I ordered it without spices (ohne Gewürz). But then we saw a platter of the Speckbrot go by, and we had to have some. Speck is bacon, more or less, and each little square of rye bread had its own complete piece of of it:

Speckbrot ("bacon bread") on the Alm by the Königssee

Speckbrot (“bacon bread”) on the Alm by the Königssee

Meanwhile, here was the view from our picnic table. Emperors and sultans haven’t had a better meal in a better hall than this.

View of the Königssee from the Alm

View of the Königssee from the Alm

To read my latest blog posts, please click on the “Green and Pleasant Land” logo at the top of this page. All photos taken in May, 2014, in Nationalpark Berchtesgaden, Germany. Photos and text copyright 2014 by Clare B. Dunkle.

This entry was posted in Farm life, Folk traditions, Food and drink, German language, Germany, Recreation, Rural scenery, Tourist destinations. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Spirit of Bavaria

  1. tanita says:

    We were privileged to be in the Italian alps — where those little roofed icons next to fields of cows and sheep and charming little houses — are also quite common. Sadly, no one offered speckbrot or milch anywhere – just lots of views, the far away tolling of cowbells, and meadows dotted with flowers. It was utterly lovely — and it’s on my “someday, do again” list.

  2. Clare Dunkle says:

    Joe had the chance to hike in the Italian Dolomites, but I haven’t. It’s interesting how the cultures blend in the mountains, regardless of national borders.