Austria is blessed by coincidences: close to nature and informal, yet valuing tradition and etiquette. Once-courtly formalities are lived out with a light touch at elegant events, while thandcrafts are creatively brought into the modern era.
The practice of driving animals down the mountain, or transhumance, dates back to the Middle High Ages, and this tradition has been enthusiastically maintained in all Alpine regions of Austria. Every year in late September or early October, the cattle that feed high up on the Alpine pastures during the summer are brought down to their barns down in the valley.
If there have been no accidents on the Alm during the summer, the cattle will be elaborately decorated with headgear and adorned with Alpine flowers, ribbons, mirrors, and bells. Their return to the valleys is celebrated in front of tourists and enthusiastic onlookers, against an intoxicating atmosphere of live music and dance. The clanging of the cowbells is essential in order to ward off the evil demons on their way down into the valley.
In many towns and villages, there are also food stalls, alcoholic beverages on sale and stalls selling artisan goods and hand-made crafts.
Meet the Austrians
Austria is a wonderfully uncomplicated place to visit. It is in the heart of Europe, most people speak English, and there is a spectacular combination of cultural and natural attractions. And, like everywhere, there are national peculiarities that you will not find described in standard guidebooks. Which is a pity, because the following - quintessentially Austrian - expressions, institutions and mannerisms are integral parts of the real Austrian experience. Some of them may seem trivial, but knowing them will earn you kudos points among locals and enhance your understanding of 'Austrianness'.Meet the Austrians
Eating at the mountain hut in Tirol