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Jackie Guigui-Stolberg
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Home, home on the Alm (about cowherds in the Alps)

München, Germany Cultural January 2 @ 10:24am

Home, home on the Alm (Article idea - cultural/travel story)

I’d love to write an article about the traditional job of Senner or a Sennerin, that is a person who spends several summer months (usually from May to September) living in a hut and taking care of cows at an Alm, a pasture in the Alps. My article could describe the Senner's work (milking, making cheese and buttermilk, serving dairy products to hikers), but could also be of interest for your readers because they might be inspired to spend a wonderful summer in Germany, Switzerland, or Austria working as a Senner themselves. Every summer, for example, about 350 farmers in Upper Bavaria have to find someone to take care of some of their animals up in the mountains. Sometimes the Senner lives alone, sometimes pairs of friends or married couples share the work. Some members of farm families do this every year for many years, but many students, retirees, and people from completely different walks of life sometimes do this job. The only requirements are that the person is able speak German (at least well enough to understand the farmer’s instructions and also be able to serve milk products, snacks and drinks to hikers, if that is done on their particular Alm), and that they do a week-long course in animal care (often at Easter-time) at one of several “Tierhaltungsschulen.” Some Senner are also expected to make cheese and butter. Applicants don’t necessarily have to have had any previous experience with animals. In my article, I could talk about the history of Senner and about how their work has changed in this day and age. I could also mention the weird legend of the Sennentuntschi, a story about a sexy, lifelike female doll who was supposed to keep a lonely cowherd company in his mountain hut, then came alive and murdered him before he could return to the valley. The main body of my article could be an interview with a particular Senner/Sennerin, whom I would visit and photograph up in the mountains; we could also include a box/ sidebar with concrete information /contact numbers and addresses for article readers who might be interested in working as a Senner in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland. (The Almwirtschaftlicher Verein Oberbayern, for instance, is an organization that helps farmers find Senners.) Beautiful photos could show the particular Alm and Almhütte; we could also show photos of an Almabtrieb, that is when the cows are festively decorated and driven back down to the valley in a colorful procession at the end of the season. I could provide my own photos for this article, supplemented by photos from local sources (many gratis).

Greetings from beautiful southern Germany,
Jackie Guigui-Stolberg
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