Walderalm, a Traditional Farm High in Austria's Alps
Sometimes you need to drive the tiny roads high above the valleys (like this one above Innsbruck) to find farmsteads where traditional life still vividly survives.
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From the end of the road, it's an easy 20-minute stroll to the Walderalm farm. It's actually a cluster of three family-run dairy farms, with 70 cows sharing their meadow amid staggering mountain views.
These families have eked out a living on these farms, with remarkably little change, for generations. Hans, while well into his 80s now, is still involved in the family farm. Today, it's so hot the cows are hanging out in the barn. But there's still work to be done.
And, with the chores finished, Hans enjoys whittling in his spare time. His favorite subject? Cows, of course.
The traditional alpine farmhouse was energy efficient, considering the technology of the day. The family lived here, on the middle floor. The cows got the ground floor — there's about 40 cows just down there; they'd catch the body heat of the cows and that would help to heat the family. And the hayloft provided insulation and the assurance there'd be enough food to get the cows through the winter. And on this farm, the system works to this day.
These days family farms struggle to survive. Here in Europe, many manage only with the help of government subsidies and by tapping into the tourist trade. A steady stream of hikers and bikers work hard to reach this idyllic spot. And Hans and his family are happy to serve a hearty lunch or refreshing drink.