Almabtrieb und Landesumzug, 2009

There are few weekends here where there isn’t something going on either in Innsbruck or in one of the neighbouring towns. Pretty much anything is taken as a reason to gather outside, drink beer, eat deep fried cheese and sausages, play traditional Austria tunes and…drink beer.

This weekend we fit in two festivals. The first, on Saturday, was in Kufstein. The festival is a celebration of the cows being taken down from their alpine summer home back to the farms. “Look, the cows are coming! Let’s sing, eat and drink!!” Cracks me up.

The farmers dress their prized bovines in floral headdresses and huge cowbells and parade them through the city center. My friend, Nicole, caught the action on her cell phone video.

Almabtreib from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

The other festival was a 200-year celebration of Andreas Hofer. Hofer is a huge hero here, as he and his army of pitchfork-carrying farmers pushed back Napoleon’s troops. A few times. The result of these battles (eventually lost by Hofer’s troops) was that Sudtirol became a part of Italy. The parade included several groups and banners calling for the reintegration of Sudtirol into Austria. This part of Italy even has a “distinct society” status. All very Quebec, right down to the protest bombings in the 1960’s. Markus tells me that the Italian police weren’t too fussed about giving the suspected rebels a fair trial at that time. They just never came home.

The parade was massive. 26,000 participants marched through downtown Innsbruck for four hours in front of about 50,000 spectators. Given that Greater Innsbruck has only 350,000 residents, this is an impressive turnout.

The traditional costumes are always interesting to see and Annie loved the music. The highlight of the parade was the carrying of a giant crown of iron thorns on the shoulders of 20 men to represent the suffering of the Sudtirolers. Apparently this caused quite the controversy in the past, so the thorns are now covered with red roses. In celebration of the year, 2009 roses were used to beautify the crown. Very impressive.

Our pictures weren’t great, but you can see 44 images of the parade here on the local newspaper’s website.

Another highlight for me was taking Annie to the start of the evening festivities in the square behind the hotel. A band was playing traditional music that literally everyone in the crowd knew and sang along to. Annie and her cousin, Lili, joined the dirndl and lederhosen-outfitted couples and were dancing queens for over an hour. Sadly, no pictures or videos but, trust me, it was cute, cute, cute.

I’m sure there is more going on next weekend, but on Friday we are off to the island of Elba, Italy (between the mainland and Corsica) for 6 days. But more on that later…