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A major celebration marks the end of the pasture period in Breil/ Brigels each year in mid-September with an "Alpabzug" - the Alpine descent from the mountain pasture. It is an important day for the local farmers, and has evolved over the years into a well-known event.
The villagers are preparing to greet the cows in the village. The women have already prepared the flower decorations on the day before. Around 9am the 700 cows from 5 pastures (Alp Tschégn-Dadens, Alp Nova, Alp Rubi, Alp Quader, Alp Tschégn-Dado) begin their descent from the Alps.
The descent is very, very fast and sometimes dangerous because the cows feel that they are coming home, so they are very excited and are running fast. Once they arrive in the lowlands, they stop at the edge of the village, where they get ready for the parade.
The same women who made the floral decorations the day before now bind them on the cows' heads and around their bellies.
The cow that has given the most milk during the summer - Miseriera - and the cow which became the matriarch over the summer - la Pugnera - lead the Alpine descent, accompanied by the cowherd. They also get the most beautiful flower decorations.
The beautifully decorated animals walk in front of the many spectators to the sound of their neck bells and traditional Alphorn music. They arrive in a fixed order at the meadow "Plaun Rueun".
There the party is in full swing: people enjoy the local home-made specialties and grilled sausages, children entertain themselves in the straw castle and in the petting zoo.
The hard work of humans and animals during the Alpine season is celebrated by inviting the cowherds of the 5 pastures onto the stage to congratulating them.
Those who love authentic customs and traditions and are staying in Graubünden during mid-September should not miss the Alpine descent in Brigels - the "Scargada a Breil" in Rumantsch.
Brigels is a place that impressed me from the first moment. Farmers work from dawn to dusk, preserve traditions, are cheerful, hospitable and never complain about anything. They are very proud that their community is so united when it comes to the organization of such events.
They are very proud that the farmers can cooperate with each other to put on such a spectacular event. I am honoured and grateful to have been part of the event.
Pictures and text: Ruxi Balea
Ruxi is a professional photographer based in Zürich but works pretty much everywhere she's needed. She uses an eclectic mix of genres to achieve her goal: to reveal everyday life in an interesting way and tell a story through photography.
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