This mountainous region of the country has a temperate climate all the year round with frequent rainfall. The plateaux lie in the foothills of these high mountains. In between the forests, where a large variety of trees and flowers are to be found, are the plateaux with their nomad encampments. The most renowned of these plateaux are Erikbeli, Derinoba, Karadağ and Sultan Murat.
The villages in the area were first established in the valleys of streams flowing seawards from the mountains. The villagers raise agricultural crops which vary according to location, the main ones being tea, hazelnuts and maize. They also earn a living with livestock breeding. The winter months are spent resting in the villages, doing seasonal jobs and handicrafts. When spring comes cultivated fields are dug over and sowing takes place in May. Families who have arable fields migrate to their houses there and stay for up to a month, taking their livestock with them. Then there is a general migration to the mountain plateaux between the beginning of June and the end of September.Upon their return from the plateaux these families return to the land in the “mezra”, where they stay for one or two months. Once snow starts to fall and the weather becomes really cold, everybody returns to their village.
This land is located in a “mezra”, or hamlet some distance from the village. The mountain plateaux are completely deserted in winter. In spring, when the snow begins to melt, the menfolk go up to the plateaux to see whether any damage to the house has been caused by wind and snow and do any necessary repairs. They also take advantage of this visit to mend the fences surrounding their pastures. Meanwhile in the villages preparations for the migration to the plateaux begins. Any items required are purchased, the cowbells repaired if necessary and the cows’ headdresses made and dyed. The day for migration is decided by all the villagers because they will all take their livestock to graze the fresh grass of the pastures. Generally speaking, if the crops have been sown and the weather is suitable the great migration to the plateaux takes place in the first week of June.
It is the eldest of the family or the mother’s eldest son who first leaves the house with a prayer on his lips. The mules and donkeys are loaded and the adults carry bundles and baskets on their shoulders.All these little processions meet and assemble on the road leading out of the village, and together they set out for the mountains.
I’ll be off to the pastures
Setting off along the roads
You can come and find me
By asking where my house is
This migration is accompanied by music.When the column pauses to rest, songs are sung and round dances danced to the accompaniment of the rebec, drum and zurna. The population of villages whose plateau is distant rest in large tents or in their houses at the “mezra” along the way. There is more entertainment in the evenings. Many villages in the Şalpazar district of the Trabzon province still migrate en masse to the plateaux, with big celebrations along the way.
The plateaux are verdant, with innumerable varieties of flowers; the air is filled with butterflies and the chattering of mountain streams.They are surrounded by forests of oak, pine and other species. The birdsong in the forests and on the pastures, the melodious ringing of the cowbells mingling with the bleating of goats and sheep are deeply moving. The indescribable beauty of the plateaux changes with every passing hour of the day and the local people express this beauty in hundreds of folk songs.
The word “yayla” (plateau or mountain pasture) is one which includes everything – the forests, pastures and encampment. Life on the plateaux means that certain things have to be done. The women undertake the domestic tasks, feed the livestock and look after and milk the cows. The men cut firewood for the winter and do other jobs relating to the forests.The children are given jobs according to their ages, but most of them graze the livestock. Certain crops are sown on the plateaux, for example barley, rye, potatoes and other vegetables such as cabbage and onion. From the milk produced by the cows cheese, butter and skim milk cheese are made. Some families even take their beehives and chickens up to the plateaux. Some of the products are sold, some consumed and some put aside for the winter.Together with economic activities of this kind, hay and firewood are prepared for the winter.
The mountainous nature of the area and frequent rainfall make life on the plateaux difficult. In the Salname (Year Book) issued by the Governor’s Office in 1905, the following comments are made.
“The plateaux to which the population of the coastal regions migrate in summer stretch away, one behind the other.Wherever you cast your eyes the nature of the terrain is so rough that you immediately realise just how agile and mobile the people who live here have to be… Sometimes dense mist makes the beauty of nature displayed before your eyes a moment ago completely invisible…”
However, in spite of the conditions prevailing in their geography the mountain plateaux have always been loved for their cool air, icy streams and green grass.
The mountain plateau houses of Trabzon are small, with a few rooms inside.In fact, they are a scaled-down copy of the houses in the villages and are made of wood and stone. Earth is used for the roof on plateaux further inland which have less forest and wood is used in the remaining areas. The scarcity of timber in recent years has led to the use of bricks, tiles and sheet metal.
The plateau houses are, like the houses in the villages, two-storeyed. Half of the ground floor is used to accommodate livestock and the walls are of stone.The whole of the first floor is living accommodation. There are differences in the architecture of these houses in the east and west of the province.
In the houses on the Akçaabat, Vakıfbekir and Tonya plateaux there are two doors, one on either side, leading into the kitchen.Here the floor is of earth with a stove in the middle. Next to the stove is a raised platform with a divan on it where the aged can lie. The kitchen is a place where meals are cooked, jobs are done and where people sit. In one corner of the kitchen is a cupboard and shelf where pots and pans and a water tank are kept. Access to the stable below is via a trapdoor. Between the kitchen and larder is a raised wooden platform. The young couple of the family sleep in the larder, where milk and cheese are also kept.
In the plateau houses in the east of the province there is a space referred to as “otana”, a small entrance hall which gives access to the kitchen, and from there entrance to the larder or room is direct. Part of the kitchen floor is earth and part of wood.Sometimes there are as many as two rooms opening into the kitchen,
where the stove and water tank are. These rooms are used for the storage of milk and cheese.
Each house has a certain area of fenced pasture allotted to it. There is a small garden in a part of the pasture nearest the house where vegetables such as onions and cabbages are grown. Households which own sheep also have a sheepfold near the house. Cows and sheep are grazed in areas further from the house. There are also a few buildings such as a mosque, caf, bakery and shop up on the plateaux to serve the basic needs of the people who are spending the summer there. A market is held on Fridays in the bigger encampments and people come from neighbouring encamp-ments to do their weekly shopping.
Among the jobs that are done together on the mountain pastures is haymaking. When work in the fields comes to an end in the villages all the adults and young couples start to mow the hay on the mountain pastures, for this must be done while the weather is still fine.More and more people come to the encampments while this is taking place. The young people who have spent the day mowing hay spend most of the night enjoying themselves.
The great traditional gatherings up on the plateaux, known as “dernek”, still take place.They first started centuries ago and have become quite legendary. I should like to dwell briefly on these festivities, which now tend to consist of entertainment.
1- Kadırga-Otçular Week This takes place on the sloping pastures at Kadırga, on the boundaries of the Akçaabat, Tonya, Maçka and Torul districts. Next to the little shops and stalls surrounding the area where the festivities take place is a biggish area set aside for worship in the open air. The little shops of Kadırga are open from May onwards.
The festivities at Kadırga take place on the third Friday of July. Large groups of people set out from the surrounding villages and encampments to join in the entertainment and celebrations. They arriv dressed in traditional costumes, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of the rebec, drum and zurna. The men lead, followed by the women.The procession and dancing are directed by men either on foot or on horseback. They enter the Kadırga plateau in groups to perform a round dance together, then break up into smaller groups; thus the entire plateau is full of dancing rings of people. This is followed by a feast. The shopping is done in the evening and they then return to their villages or encampments, singing and chatting.
2- The Hıdırnebi-Karadağ festivities These take place in the Hıdırnebi Mountains of the Akçaabat district on 20 July each year (according to the old calender this would be the seventh day of the Month of the Sicle). The festivities are attended by groups of people from the Akçaabat, Tonya and Vakıfbekir encampments. Hıdır or Hızırnebi must be the site of a saint’s tomb. The festivities are much the same as those at Kadırga, with a feast, singing and dancing.
3- The Sis Dağı (lit “foggy mountain”) festivities Held at the end of July or beginning of August and organised by the villages around Şalpazarı in the Vakıfbekir district of the province, these festivities take place in the encampment on Sis Dağı. Many visitors from the Beşikdüzü, Şalpazarı, Eynesil, rele and Tonya encampments also attend.
Oh, Sis Dağı, Sis Dağı
You could not melt your snows
Let this year, too, pass like that
Oh, worry of my heart
4- The Yayla Ortası festivities
This event is held on 20 July on the Sultanmurat Plateau of the çaykara district and is attended by people from Of and Sürmene as well.
Apart from the events mentioned above, gatherings such as the Honefter, Karaptal and İzmis (Sivri Tepesi) festivities are also held.
A ceremony to commemorate those who died in the First World War is held on the Sultanmurat Plateau at çaykara on 23 June every year, and this is also attended by members of the public.