Alpine shepherd and opera singer, in summer in the mountains, in winter on stage - Florian Karg lives a happy life between mountain solitude and audience hustle and bustle, mindfulness and attention. A visit to the singing alpine shepherd and his family in the Allgäu mountains.
Sausteig is the name of the trail that leads up to Alpe Plättele in the Obertal near Bad Hindelang through sparse mixed mountain forest and across lush alpine meadows. The family-friendly hike through the Hintersteiner Valley and on to the Upper Valley is eight kilometers long and takes a good hour, accompanied by a rushing mountain stream. You see waterfalls and rocky peaks, which are sometimes already powdered white in autumn. But you don't see any pigs on the Sausteig, not a single one. But lots of cows: cows on the left, cows on the right. Cows standing or lying on and next to the farm track. It is a comfortable tour, the path is wide and mostly asphalted, even with a stroller you can make good progress. At an altitude of 1,350 meters, shortly before a hairpin bend, the Plättele Alp is reached. 450 years old is the shingled wooden hut that ducks on it. During the summer, the Karg family lives here, three generations under one roof. Together they run the hut, fortify tired hikers with fresh buttermilk and alpine cheese, with homemade cakes and sensationally good Kässpatzen.
With around 120 young cattle, the opera tenor moves across the surrounding alpine meadows in summer. It takes a bit of luck to find Florian Karg on the alpine pasture - he is usually with the cows further up in the mountains. The work up here is hard, life simple. The family sleeps in a simple mountain hut equipped with only the bare necessities. There is no electricity, no hot water. They get up at dawn and go to bed long after the sun has set. In between, the dairy cows are milked, butter is churned and cheese is made, Karg and his children cover many kilometers as they drive the young cattle from one pasture to the next - always vigilant so that no animal gets lost or injured. The cattle graze at altitudes of up to 2,000 meters in high summer. The higher the animals get, the more species-rich nature they find: lush green grass, colorful flower diversity, herb-rich meadows.
Up here, people and animals are closely connected. "I know every single animal personally. Each one has unmistakable characteristics and its very own character," says Karg. A life without the Alpe is unimaginable for the free spirit. Yet he actually wanted to take a completely different path in life: he completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter. But that did not fulfill him. Then he wanted to train as a zither player. But the course of study was canceled without further ado. Out of necessity, he ended up studying classical singing at the Academy of Music. His talent for opera singing soon became apparent. Nevertheless, he was soon driven back to the mountains. "With me, the feeling of homesickness is extremely strong. I simply can't live without my mountains, the animals and my family," says the Allgäu native, explaining his winding path through life.
Shepherds enjoy a high reputation in the Allgäu. They preserve the mountain landscape. Because if the alpine meadows are not grazed, they become stale. The grass chokes the flowers and the herbs can no longer flourish. For the animals, in turn, the healthy diet acts like a natural pharmacy. They become hardy and robust. At the cattle drive, also known as the Almabtrieb, the shepherds drive the festively decorated animals back into the valley, celebrating the accident-free grazing year together with the farmers and villagers.
At the same time, the Viehscheid is also the starting signal for Florian Karg's second season. Because when the alpine summer comes to an end, he has time for singing again. The rehearsals for the Christmas opera "Silent Night", which will be performed in Bad Hindelang and Memmingen is performed and tells the story of the origin of the world-famous Christmas carol.
Karg plays the leading role. With his powerful tenor, he carries the audience away and then enjoys the thunderous applause. He enjoys it, you can feel it. Nevertheless, he does not regret his decision for the Alpe: "Sometimes after the performance I think that a life as an opera star would have been nice, too. But as soon as the final curtain falls, I look forward to being able to return to my alpine pasture and my animals soon."
This is how you get to Bad Hindelang by train and bus: Plan arrival.
Cover picture: Florian Karg, alphirt and opera singer © www.bayern.by - Gert Krautbauer
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