Slowing down on the alm
He always has the feeling that time passes more slowly on the mountain, says Peter Fernsebner. We meet the “Feichtn“ farmer from St. Martin bei Lofer high up on the Kammerlingalm, in the middle of the beautiful Naturpark Weißbach, and talk to him about his favourite place and the calming permanence of the mountains.
As a mountain farmer and owner of the Feichtnkaser on the Kammerlingalm, breaks are rare for Peter Fernsebner. In winter the 49-year-old also works for the piste service of the ski lifts in the Almenwelt Lofer. In the summer he supports the Tourist Office Salzburger Saalachtal in their work outdoors – at events and as the person in charge of the maintenance of benches, paths and signposts in the municipal district of St. Martin. “No, I’m never bored“, says Peter and laughs heartily. We meet him on a sunny autumn day up at the Feichtnkaser. A “kaser“ is the name for an alm hut in the Salzburger Saalachtal. Peter and his wife Irene’s hut was newly constructed in 2007 and lies in the middle of the magnificent Naturpark Weißbach – on the Kammerlingalm, around 1,300 metres above sea level. The Kammerlingalm is a communal alpine pasture with a total of twelve huts.
An alm out of a picture book
Here steep slopes alternate with lovely alpine pastures; dark green forests with rugged mountains – just like in a picture book. The “Nationalpark Kalkhochalpen Berchtesgaden“ is just a hop, skip and a jump away – you notice that by the number of day visitors who hike up here from neighbouring Bavaria, says Peter. We have driven from Weißbach bei Lofer in the direction of Hirschbichl up to the Schaustadl car park and then walked to the right along the marked forest trail up to the Kammerlingalm in around 1 ½ hours . However, the alm can also easily be reached by hiking bus – from the bus stop to the Feichtnkaser takes about half an hour on foot. The alm is normally open from the end of May until the end of September. At the weekend Peter and Irene are also here to lend a hand and host the numerous guests.
Alm snack and cow bells
When we arrive at the Feichtnkaser, we are greeted by Claudia ,who has spent the summer here as a milkmaid, with a juicy redcurrant cake and a mug of coffee. “My wife Irene always freshly bakes the cake“, says Peter smiling, after we have devoured the big piece in no time at all. All the products available to buy and take away at the Feichtnkaser are produced by Peter and Irene themselves. At the Feichtnkaser there is also a delicious alm snack with homemade bread, cream cheese which is produced right here on the alm, hard cheese and of course fresh pasture milk. “Normally eleven dairy cows spend the summer up here“, explains Peter. “We also have calves nearly every year who are live a little way above the alm. It’s always especially nice when I go up there in the evening to see the calves. The panorama impresses and touches me again and again.“
The atmosphere on the alm relaxes him, Peter tells us. “The special thing for me up here is that there is a definite slowing down compared to what happens in the valley. It is peaceful, mostly you only hear the cow bells. The time here seems to pass more slowly. It doesn’t matter what is happening around about – the mountains are always the same every year. That is enough for me sometimes, just to come to rest.“ He always likes to see and feel the seasons very clearly, says Peter. “In winter we really do have a lot of snow, everything is white. In summer, the meadows are a juicy green and stand out from the rough rocks.“
A family farm from the early 18th Century
As mountain farmers, the Fernsebners experience the changing seasons even more intensively than the inhabitants in the valley. “We run an organic farm in zone four, so we are officially mountain farmers“, explains Peter. The farm on which Peter grew up is an inherited farm which has been known as the “Feichtnbauer“ since 1728 and has been run by the Fernsebner family since then. Peter took over the farm from his father in 1992. And the likelihood that one of their three sons will continue the tradition is very high.
“It is beautiful everywhere here on the alm“
When he has time for a short break, says Peter, he comes up here to the Kammerlingalm. He loves to sit at the first table, on the bench next to the wall of the hut, says Peter. He thinks for a while and then adds, “But it is actually beautiful everywhere here on the alm.“ At this moment some hikers wander in through the garden gate and settle down at a table. Peter stands up and gives milkmaid Claudia a hand, who is already taking their order with a smile on her face. There is always something for the Feichtn farmer to be doing. How nice that it isn’t far from his breaktime resting place.