Sorry, I couldn't resist the title, since at the moment I left Cedar Rapids, McCain and Palin were campaigning at the airport. Proof!
I arrived in Austria early expressly to see the Almabtrieb in Donnersbach. This a festival in which the shepherds (or in this case cowherds) drive the cows from the mountain pastures where they have spent the summer months into the valleys where they will shelter for the winter. The cattle are decorated with flowers and ribbons and bells and mirrors to ward off evil.The festival is not at all kitschy as you might expect. There's a wonderful brass band, and really good food--just clean, wholesome fun. Well, not so clean actually... they are cows after all! And the Stiertreiber runs around covered in "pitch" (actually a mixture of cold cream and soot) and hugs all the women leaving black marks on their cheeks. You've been reading this blog long enough... Are you really going to be surprised when I tell you that this is supposed to be a fertility ritual?You can see more pictures from last year's festival under September 2007 in the Archives.