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x0x Holidaying on the high pastures Seben in Bolu

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x Holidaying on the high pastures Seben in Bolu By Akgun Akova Every season in Turkey is dressed in a different garb, and if like me you are not only a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2004
      x0x Holidaying on the high pastures Seben in Bolu

      By Akgun Akova

      Every season in Turkey is dressed in a different garb, and if like me
      you are not only a dedicated traveller but fascinated by the special
      pleasure of revisiting the same places at different times of year, you
      will have observed how some places capture the quintessential beauty
      of each season.

      One such place is Bolu, a region of mountains and forests where
      poetical landscapes are to be seen at all times of the year. In the
      district of Seben south of the city of Bolu local villagers continue
      the ancient tradition of spending the summer months on the high
      mountain pastures known as yayla.

      In early spring the pastures are deserted, but as the sun begins to
      warm the earth the silence is gradually broken. Mountain hyacinths
      push through the soil to paint purple patches on the landscape. The
      buzzing of bees fills the air, woodpeckers bang noisily on the tree
      trunks, and migrating birds wing their way through the sky, all
      declaring that winter is now really over. Soon the swathes of
      hyacinths make way for yellow flowers, and robins, nightjars, and the
      rare black storks appear in the woods of ash, beech, Scots pine, oak,
      alder and fir. This is the moment when trucks set out from the
      direction of Bolu, climbing the steep mountain road to the Seben
      pastures that lie at an average altitude of 1400 metres. They are
      carrying neither sand, nor logs nor cement. Instead the astonished
      faces of cows and water buffalos look out over the sides of the
      trucks. The annual migration to the mountains has begun.

      As soon as they arrive the people go to drink at the fountains and the
      animals make for their water troughs. They have all missed the
      delicious ice-cold water of the Seben springs, so cold indeed that it
      makes your teeth vibrate like violin strings. The local people
      describe it as 'karpuz catlatan' meaning 'cold enough to crack a water

      Almost every village in Seben has its own yayla, which is named after
      it. They include Dereceoren, Kizik, Karacasu, Solaklar, Alpagut,
      Gokhaliller, Keskinli, Kozyaka, Gerenozu and Bozyer

      Each village decides on a particular day for the journey, and everyone
      goes together. Hardly anyone remains in the winter villages over the
      summer. The mountain huts of the region are made of pine wood, the
      timbers jointed together without any nails. They are raised above the
      ground and entered by tall wooden ladders. The first few days are
      spent repairing the huts. Overturned fences are set to rights, doors
      mended, and tiles blown off by winter gales are replaced. Everyone
      helps their neighbours, and the work is carried out on the common
      ground of the summer village.

      The Seben pastures are mostly located on the edge of the forest or
      surrounded by it. Ruddy shelducks are among the migrating birds that
      come to the lakes in the area every spring

      They are safe from hunters because the people of Seben believe that it
      is unlucky to separate the breeding pairs that go everywhere together.

      As you wander across the pastures you can gather sorrel to nibble, and
      catch the mouthwatering smell of bread baking in open-air ovens inside
      the fenced gardens. Do not worry. The people of Seben are hospitable
      and sure to offer you some fresh hot bread with butter. On the paths
      you are likely to encounter groups of young scouts and guides out
      exploring, and you may hear stories of treasure troves as you drink
      tea sitting around one of the stoves, which are needed even on summer
      nights at this altitude.

      During the mountain festivals the pastures are at their liveliest.
      These events are attended not only by the summer inhabitants of the
      pastures but people attracted from all over Turkey. On these days the
      pastures ring with voices, and food cooked in great cauldrons is
      offered to guests. Foremost among the festivals here is the Kizik
      Yayla Festival, for which over five thousand people gather. The
      entertainment consists of dancing and singing, in which everyone joins

      It is time for me to leave the cheerful crowds behind, but I wait
      until darkness lifts to depart in the half light of dawn with my
      loaded pack, past the carefully piled heaps of logs. A folk song
      expresses my feelings perfectly:

      I took a cherry without planting
      Without bending its branches
      Give me a gift
      Before I leave home

      * Akgun Akova is a photographer and freelance writer
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