The highlight in the Eng

On this day, the most beautiful and oldest alpine village in Europe is transformed into a scene of high alpine merriment. What makes the Kirchtag in the Eng even more special: the festivities, although they take place in the high mountains, are barrier-free!

They do it as always. Or maybe not? As the day draws to a close, the 230 or so cows that spend the summer in the Eng trot back to the Almdorf, home to their stalls. There are nine stalls to choose from. "They know where to go. Those who have a connection to it know that it's a normal thing. Those who don't have that connection wonder. People really like to look at that," says Hansjörg Reiter. One of the stables is his. He is chairman of the agricultural community Engalm, whose ten partners or owners are at home in the middle Unterinntal and have the right to let their cattle "oversummer" on one of the probably most beautiful alpine pastures in the world.

About 600 cattle do that and 230 of them are dairy cows, which quite naturally take the impressive march. In the evening. Every day. Whether Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday - or church day. Even on Kirchtag, the Almkirchtag in the Eng, the biggest festival day on the alp, the cows walk back to their stalls. Sure they do. They do it as they always do. And yet, on this day, they might carry their heads a little higher, tighten their proud bovine chests a little more, and give their gait a slight spring. Or a leap of joy. On Kirchtag, the path of the cows resembles a small catwalk. So many people are watching and such enthusiastic ah's and oh's probably make cattle hearts beat faster, too. "Most of the time, people stay until the cows arrive," Hansjörg Reiter knows. Their stable walk is the last fun on Kirchtag, the last impression that visitors take home from this holiday. Much they can tell there.

To be up close
"For the Almerer are very special hours," knows Hansjörg Reiter. Since his memories began, he knows that. "Tomorrow is Kirchtag," it said when he was still "a Bua". "That's when we had to put on a white shirt and drive up. That's how you grow into it over the years," he says. Kirchtag is as much a part of his life as Christmas. And like Christmas, Kirchtag has a fixed date. It is on the first Sunday in September. Then when the first leaves are already slowly changing color, the lakes are only "haunted" by the brave, the most beautiful time in the mountains reaches its peak and the most beautiful time of the school children reaches its end point. "Many families use the day to make a trip with the children before school starts, a small mountain tour," says Hansjörg.
For the people of Almer and their families, the Melker and all the little helpers who annually prepare the church day in the Eng and who have long been a well-established team, the thought of a leisurely stroll on this Sunday morning is probably as far away as Timbuktu's maple grove.

And yet it is a solemn moment of pause that gives the starting signal. Starting at about 10:15 a.m., the residents of the Engalm begin to slowly gather at the Almkapelle. At half past ten the mass begins and it is a beautiful moment when the joyful whispering and murmuring abruptly falls silent as soon as the priest raises his voice and all the senses focus on the mass. It is only afterwards that the bombastic surroundings are fully perceived again, the impressive mountain landscape of the Karwendel, the Ahornboden or indeed the Almdorf itself, which is testimony to centuries of agricultural history. And with the Frühschoppen begins the secular part of the holiday.

The exception
That so many people flock around the huts is an exception. Although the Engalm is a popular destination and starting point for numerous Karwendel hikes, but the residents of the Alm get little of it. "The milkers start as early as four o'clock in the morning so that the cheese makers can begin their work as early as possible," Hansjörg Reiter looks into the daily routine of the workers. The really early starting working day is only interrupted at noon with a well-deserved break. The hikers usually start in the morning, when work is in full swing, and by the afternoon the flow of hikers subsides, so life on the alp is as regular as it is quiet. Only on Kirchtag is it different. "That was always the highlight for the residents of the Engalm," knows the agricultural chairman.

When then at the end of the exceptional day the cows come and trot into their stalls, usually ends the festival. With almost 230 cowbells. The cows do it on Kirchtag apparently as always. Probably, however, not.

Dance in the streets
Musicians play, at the stalls delicacies such as the Zillertaler Krapfen or Kiachl are prepared, at the alpine market Ranzensticker, basket weavers, carvers and others take their places. "Showing traditional crafts is as much a part of the Kirchtag as the Kiachl," says Hansjörg. Like the Kiachl or the small zoo, where rabbits and goats vie for the caresses of the little ones.

That the cheese of the Engalm is also paid homage in a festive setting, of course. Both the mountain and the cut cheese "clear" at the international Almkäseolympiade taking place this year for the 23rd time downright. In 2016, for example, Engalm Bergkäse was awarded a gold medal and the semi-hard cheeses also landed "on the podium". Every year, around 500,000 liters of milk are processed into cheese and butter on the alp. That is an enormous amount. Thanks to the cows, milkers and cheese makers.

When the weather is right, the Kirchtag in the Eng develops into a very special folk festival in any case. Talking about bad weather is taboo. "It comes as it comes. There's no need to discuss it. But it does have a certain flair when the sun is shining, music is playing, people are sitting between the huts and enjoying the delicacies. If it is particularly sociable, also on the road one dances , knows Hansjörg and refers to still another characteristic: Almfeste gives it many. But what sets the Eng apart from other alpine pastures is that older, frailer people or people in wheelchairs can also be there live. That's not possible on other alpine pastures. Elsewhere, they can not experience it so closely."

To comprehend this uplifting feeling, succeeds only in the idea of no longer overcome steep paths, storm peaks and enjoy the alpine life only in memory or in front of the TV. Yes, Hansjörg is right. Making this possible sets the Eng apart from all the other alpine pastures. And gives it even more charm.