As we sauntered closer to the village of Unterammergau, Germany, horses trotted past us, their highly decorated manes and tails blowing in the late autumn breeze. Not to be outdone by the animals’ distinguished appearances, the horse owners also sported fine Bavarian attire: the men wore grey woolen jackets finished with deer-horn buttons, and dark green or brown Lederhosen, while the ladies sported Dirndls with colorful flowing skirts, and button-down sweaters to protect them from the chilly air.
On horseback and on foot, we were all heading through the idyllic Bavarian countryside to Unterammergau’s annual Leonhardiritt or Leonhardifahrt procession and horse-blessing ceremony. Such events are held in parts of Germany and Austria mostly during the end of October / early November to honor St. Leonhard, the patron saint of agricultural animals. The occasion is a way of remembering the horses that have historically played such an important role in rural communities.
In addition to the parade and blessing ceremony, there was also a traditional concert held in the town square, and plenty of local restaurants grilling up German cuisine and serving up beer.