die Alm

If you’ve read the children’s classic, Heidi (and if you haven’t, then you should immediately do so), then you’ve already learned about die Alm. It’s such a unique term that it isn’t usually translated. Die Alm is any high mountain meadowland where Alpine shepherds in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland pasture their flocks and herds in summertime. In the winter, die Alm is subject to bitter cold, wind, and thick snowfall, so the livestock can’t stay there; they have to be driven up to die Alm in spring and back down into the valleys in autumn. This results in parades all over the region in September and October as the shepherds and farmers decorate their animals with flowers, headdresses, and special bells to move them back home. This parade is known in German as der Almabtrieb, from treiben, “to drive,” ab, “off” or “down from,” and die Alm, that high Alpine summer pastureland.

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