TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. September 2010

Sektion 1.6. The Effects of Natural and Cultural Values on Tourism
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Turhan Çetin (Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

An Example to the Cultural Activities in the Eastern Black Sea Coastal Mountains:
Yayla (Mountain Pastures-Transhumans) Festivals

Mehmet Zaman (Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey) [BIO]




The Eastern Black Sea Part, the eastern part of Black Sea Region, is located between the River Melet, which flows into the sea in the east of Ordu, and Georgia border. And the transhumance activities are common on the coastal mountains of this part.

Mountain pasture festivals are an important component in transhumance culture. Festivals that have interesting features, organized once in a year in definite mountain pastures by the people of the region, are traditional outdoor entertainments for delight and relaxing that include first of all horon, various folk dances, competitions and sport contests. These festivals are generally named as şenlik (festival), but they are called in some counties of Trabzon (Tonya, Vakfıkebir, Şalpazarı, Beşikdüzü, Akçaabat) and in some mountain pastures of Gümüşhane as Dernek, Çürük Ortası, Otçular and in pastures of Rize they are named as Vartivor (Vartavor) or Hodoç which is known as Yayla Ortası and mean rose festival or herbage festival. And the participants of the festival are called Şenlikçi, Dernekçi, and Vartivorcu.

It is not known exactly how long these festivals, which are held traditionally in some mountain pastures of the Eastern Part of Black Sea Region, have been organized. But, a historian named Alparslan of Tirebolu, while talking about these festivals, expresses that they have been organized for 4-5 centuries and some of the people of the district that live on stockbreeding and farming go to the mountain pastures in summer and some of them stay in the villages for agricultural activities (Alparslan, 1915, 125-126).

These festivals that the people of the district participate in a joyful harmony are accepted as the time of relaxing and forgetting the problems of the past year (Zaman, 2000, 292).

The festivals that have been held since centuries are the densely crowded entertainments of the mountain pastures where they are organized. Although it is running low, people, who go to the pastures on foot to take part in the festivals, get ready one day before the festivals and go to the pastures in groups with road games as in previous years. They go the mountain pastures dancing with folksongs accompanied by the kemençe (fiddle), tulum (bagpipe), the drum and horn all along the way. Şenlikçiler are welcomed with a great delight and excitement by the transhumants and the outdoor diversions go on till late hours. However, most of the people (şenlikçi) do not go to the mountain pastures on foot but in their cars as a result of the developing ways and the increasing number of contemporary vehicles. Consequently, the traditional participation in the festivals has losing its specialty each passing year.

In the mountain pasture festivals in the Eastern Black Sea Part, various folkdances are accompanied by different musical instrument, played for instance in Giresun, Ordu, and Trabzon  kemençe (fiddle), drum and horn are popular, and in Rize and Artvin tulum (bagpipe) is chosen. Also; in Şavşat/Artvin accordion, drum and horn are played (Sümerkan, 1997, 63).

Lots of festivals are held in different times through out the  trashumance season in the mountain pastures in Eastern Black Sea. The most important of these are Otçular, Karadağ, Izmiş, Çambaşı, Bektaş, Kümbet, Honeftera, Sisdağı, Sivri, Kafkasör and Kazıkbeli.


1. Introduction

The Eastern Black Sea Area is situated in the eastern part of the Black Sea Region, one of the seven geographical regions in Turkey. The related geographical area is bordered by the Georgian border in the east and extends to the Melet River, which flows into the sea and is located in the east of Ordu, in the west. The border which separates the area from the Eastern Anatolian Region and the Inner Anatolian Region passes over the slopes of such mountains as Mount Tekeli, Mount Köse, Kızıldağ, Çimen, Kop, Mescit and Yalnızçam Mountains, which make the inner rows of the Eastern Black Sea Mountains (Figure 1).



Figure 1: Location Map


The Eastern Black Sea Region is not homogeneous geographically and is divided into such four sub-parts as Coast part, Coastal Mountains Part, Upper Kelkit-Çoruh Cleft Part, and Inner Rows Part. Among these, Coast Part, which covers the north of the Eastern Black Sea Mountains, is also divided into two parts: Coastal Part Coast Lane and Mountain Forests Line (Yücel, 1987, 12-25).

The most significant feature distinguishing the Eastern Black Sea Area from other parts of the Black Sea Region is that the Eastern Black Sea Mountains rise within a short distance from the sea and reach 3000 metres. Located 50-60 km or even in a nearer distance from the coast, these mountains’ height increases as they extend from the west to the east and reach about 4000 metres on Rize Mountains, especially at Mount Kaçkar (3932 m) and Mount Verçenik (3709 m) peaks.

The most peculiar geographical characteristic of the Coast Part, which is the northern part of the coastal mountains, is that the yearly precipitation is over 1000 mm, even over 2000 mm. in Rize, and is regular as far as seasons are concerned. In addition, yearly temperature is high. As a result, there exist thick forests in areas where they are not destroyed to obtain places for settlement and agriculture.

The northern slopes of the coastal mountains are deeply breached by rivers and have a sloping and uneven topography. This has led to the emergence of a scattered form of settlement. Moreover, this very line which widens and narrows depending on the position of mountains and valleys has valley bases and slope flats suitable for agriculture and is not only very small but also divided.

The fact that nut, tea, tobacco, corn, various kinds of vegetable and fruits are grown in limited agricultural fields generally made available as a result of the destruction of forests have led people to settle near the coast and other places where altitude is not over 500 metres. Therefore, these places are some of the few both in the Eastern Black Sea Region and in Turkey where the number of settlement and density of population are very high. The population of the region was 2670318 people in 2000 and 72.6 per cent of this population lived in the northern parts of the Northern Anatolia Mountains and near the coast line while only 27.4 per cent of it lived in the inner parts of the region. The population density was higher near the coast and in the places with less than 500 metres of altitude; it was getting lower in the places where altitude was over 1000 metres. The number of the unpopulated areas increased in the places with an altitude of 1300 metres and there were totally unpopulated places when the altitude was over 1500 metres. The places with an altitude of over 1500 metres had temporary forms of settlements like hamlets and high pastures.

As for the high pastures where high pasture festivals have been organized for centuries, they are places of temporary settlement frequented by visitors from the late May and early June onwards and by the rural people to get extra earning, carry out animal husbandry and have a rest during summer. Some of such areas have additionally been utilised as places of high pasture mountain tourism for 20-25 years. In other words, these are the places used by urban population for recreational activities.


2. Historical Development of Transhumance and High Pasture (Yayla) Festivals

Relief, altitude and climate play an important role in the formation of rural settlements, increase or decrease of population and economic activities in Turkey. More than half of the Anatolia has an altitude of over 1000 metres. Altitude is effective in the dispersion of cities and villages and people of Anatolia carry out social and economic activities in high places separated from one another at short distances and plateaus. Frequent changes in altitude result in different dispersion of the elements of climate and thus of growing periods of vegetation. In general terms, this situation prepares an environment for nomadic life based on animal husbandry, semi-nomadic life in the steppes and transhumance as necessitated by animal husbandry in villages. In addition, social and economic agents must be considered (Emiroğlu, 1977,, 24). The transhumance in the Eastern Black Sea Region has been handled within such a frame. Nevertheless, settlement history in the region as well as in Anatolia and economic factors must be focused on better while examining the situation.

There are findings that could be used as evidence of the existence of human life in Anatolia in the prehistoric periods. Such Neolithic settlements as Çatalhöyük and Hacılar depict the existence of organized human groups that dealt with agriculture and lived in villages in Anatolia, which entered the Neolithic period earlier and which is one of the earliest with respect to the start of agriculture. Recent excavations and findings in the Middle East, one of the places where agriculture was firstly seen, seem to have proved the accuracy of the thesis about prehistoric settlements. The view that agriculture has facilitated sedentary life has become stronger (Güvenç, 1996, 190).

It is reported that agriculture was generally dealt with in places nearer to coast and animal husbandry in inner regions in Anatolia during the Hellenistic Age, and that agricultural economy continued to develop. During the same age, those living in today’s Eastern Black Sea Area near the coast carried out agricultural activities in most of the narrow coast line. Fishing was a significant way of making a living for those at sea. As for the people in the inner parts, they earned a living through animal husbandry, forestry and mining. It is known that those who lived in mountainous areas maintained their lives by eating wild animals’ meat, honey and walnut, and earned a living by robbing the travellers around (Strabon, 1993, 22).

Located in an area where economic and commercial life developed highly during the Antique Age and the Middle Ages, Anatolia ceased to benefit from that around the years when nomadic Turkish tribes began to come to Anatolia, which caused Anatolia to decay. Although some of the Turkish tribes settled in devastated and unsafe cities of the Byzantium Empire, most of them continued their nomadic way of living. Before the arrival of these tribes, there was no nomadism in Anatolia. Animal husbandry was a feature of sedentary life. It is sounder to consider the maintenance of the Central Asia type life style by the Turks in Anatolia a consequence of the period of transition and adaptation that covered the socioeconomic decay of Anatolia than a peculiarity of natural conditions and racial characteristics. The reason for this is that nomadic Turkish tribes got accustomed to sedentary life in time though differently (Emiroğlu, 1977, 25).

It would be appropriate to divide the life style of the Turkish villagers in Anatolia in the 13th century into two main streams as nomadic in the southern and south-eastern parts and sedentary in Central Anatolia, Sivas and Amasya although there existed an urban life as well. It is obvious that the high pastures were populated by the Turkmen at the time since high pasture type animal husbandry was an economic model peculiar to the Turks and geographical attributes of Anatolia made such a model available. Anatolia is a suitable place for both nomadic life based on animal husbandry and the sedentary one with its natural and socio-geographical characteristics. However, it is known to us that the nomadic life in Anatolia does not date back to very early times. It is indicated that there were no people leading a nomadic life during the Classical Antique Age and the Byzantium period (Planhol, 1959, 525).

It is argued that nomadic life actually began in Anatolia especially after the Malazgirt War in 1071 with the continual Oğuz-Turkmen mass migrations from the Central Asia towards Anatolia for two hundred years (Şahin, 1997, s46). It is clear that animal husbandry-centred economy of the nomadic Turkish tribes which were organized on this basis affected the economy of the villages and the surrounding towns and cities for a long time (Emiroğlu, 1977, 25).

During the Ottoman period, there were many Turkish settlements in the Eastern Black Sea Region both before and after the conquest of Trabzon. It is a fact that the nomadic Turks, named Turkmens or Yörüks, settled in the northern and southern parts of Anatolia, which were very suitable for their own life styles, and in the inner skirts of the Karadeniz and Toros mountains. There are a number of places of settlement bearing the names of Turkish tribes and communities between 1486 and 1583. Among them are Bahçecik, Yarımca, Sakarsuyu, Yarakar (Yüregir), Hasan Yurdu, Arpulu, Hartokop, Guzari, Şemseddin, Virane, İlana, Şinik, Şova,  Akçakale, İli, Çal, Çukurköyü, Karaağaç, Karaman, Komyatağı, Akçakale, Uz, Balaban, Paçon (Bacon), Uzuntarla, Eğridere, İşkane, Hopa, Borçha (Borçka), Çat, Demirözü, Akçekale, Üç kilise, Kançatağı, Kızık, Erenlü, Uluköy, Turna, Yediharman, Pir Ahmet ve Elmascık, which are only some of the tens of such settlements (Bostan, 2002, 341-346). Among these, those belonging to the Çepnis and the Kipcaks were probably exceeding the others.

That these tribes with a nomadic culture led to the emergence of transhumance activities in the region is highly probable. The reason for this is the fact that these activities are an extension of nomadic culture. Indeed, the Turks led a nomadic life based on steppe characteristics and animal husbandry economy for years. When they migrated to the related region, they maintained transhumance activities. As mentioned above, there was no nomadism in Anatolia, which was situated in an area developed in economy and trade, in the Antique Age and the Middle Ages. And animal husbandry was a feature associated with sedentary life. Similarly, the communities in the Eastern Black Sea Region were dealing with agriculture, trade, fishing and mining in addition to animal husbandry at the time.

So most of the Turks who migrated in great masses from Central Asia to Anatolia after the Malazgirt War formed sedentary forms of life. As for the rest, they were the Turkmen and the Oğuz (Sümer, 1992-242-243). The Turkmen, who dealt more with animal husbandry, moved in a mobile manner between their winter and summer settlements so that they could maintain their lives. They were also called nomadic (konargöçer) because of their life styles (Şahin, 1997, 111).

Therefore, for the Turks, transhumance and the life style associated with it are not only a style of living transferred from Central Asia and maintained so far but also one of the main factors in the formation and development of the corner stones of Turkish culture.

However, the nomadic tribes migrating to the Eastern Black Sea Region from the late 11th century onwards also got accustomed to leading a sedentary form of life on account of the geographical characteristics of the region, which is mountainous and uneven. Such a geography was not very convenient for sole nomadic life. This must have played a significant role in the adoption of sedentary life by the Çepnis, the Kıpcaks and other tribes. Still, it is doubtless that the tribes that migrated to the region brought with themselves transhumance activities and its culture, winter-summer residence movements and the cultural aspects of them. That is why it is very difficult to argue that traditional life style of these migrating tribes ceased to exist following the migrations. The fact that we have the record of 26 summer settlements like Uluköy, Harıd, Akçal, Gönderi, Köy-yeri, Dumluköy, Söğüdönü, Elmacık, Döşek and Akdaş in Çepni, Giresun in 1515 proves the existence of transhumance activities in progress at the time (Şahin, 1997, 111-114).

The existence of 26 transhumance settlements in 1515 in the related region where there are hundreds of them today demonstrates that there was transhumance in the region at the time. In other words, these activities were started by the Turkish tribes and most of them have had a history of several centuries.

As can be understood from the historical evidence, there was no transhumance in Anatolia and particularly in the Eastern Black Sea Region before the arrival of the Turks. The reason for this is that there are no historical records that could be used to prove there was. Historical evidence suggests that the mountains in both Anatolia and the Black Sea Region were not safe to climb at the time. Indeed even the villages and the cities were not safe enough, which shows that the high mountainous regions could not be used as places of temporary settlement. Therefore, today’s transhumance activities are an extension of Turkish nomadic culture. It is not possible that they stem from Byzantium or Georgian culture since the people of these two cultures dealt more with trade and agriculture instead of animal husbandry. That these people learnt transhumance from the Turks is highly probable. It is a well-known fact that the Turks have maintained transhumance tradition since the beginning of their history. High pasture, which means wide grazing land in Central Asian culture, has been used with the same meaning in Anatolia and high plateaus and mountains have enabled the continuation of the related tradition. The Turkish tribes led a nomadic or semi-nomadic life instead of the sedentary one till 1071. After that date, the tribes that migrated to Anatolia from Central Asia mostly adopted sedentary life during the Seljuk, the Ottoman and even the Turkish Republic periods; however, semi-nomadic transhumance tradition has been maintained (Zaman, 2007, 249).

Being an important feature of transhumance activities and culture, high pasture festivals are open air carnivals in which local people from the surrounding high pastures take part, various dances and especially horon are performed, different games and sports activities are organized and people have a rest and enjoy themselves. Although they are mostly called festivals, in some of the towns of Trabzon, they are given such other names as Dernek, Çürük Ortası, Otcular, and in Rize’s high pastures as Yayla Ortası, Vartivor, which means rose festival, and Hodoç. Those who join the festivals are called Şenlikçi, Dernekçi and Vartivorcu.

It is not known for certain since when these traditional festivals have been organized. However, according to a historian named Alparslan of Tirebolu, they were organized for 4-5 centuries and some of the local people went to the high pastures while some of them stayed in the villages to deal with agricultural activities (Alparslan, 1915, 125,126).

Alparslan of Tirebolu also mentions that the villagers who cleared the weed in the fields went to the high pastures in a joyful atmosphere after having finished with their occupation. He reports that young girls wore their newest dresses and young boys took their guns that people went to the high pastures in groups early in the morning playing the kemençe, they sang songs, fired their guns and yelled. To Alparslan, these people organized the best amusement when they arrived at the high pasture in the evening; they enjoyed themselves together with the other people in the festival area the following day and returned to their villages in the same joyful atmosphere. After having returned to their villages, the villagers wore their work clothes again and continued to clear the weed in the nut gardens, Alparslan reports. It is also indicated by Alparslan that this three-day festival had been called Ot Göçü (Weed Migration) for centuries and was one of the most favourite festivals of the Turks (Alparslan, 1915, 125,126).

Today the farmers in the villages go to the high pastures after they have cleared the weed, which is called ikileme, and collected the tea and they join the festivals.


3. Characteristics of The Festivals and Their Geographical Distribution

Having lasted for centuries, the festivals are the most crowded amusements of the high pastures in which they are held (Photograph 1). People who go to the high pastures on foot get ready one day before the festivals and set out in groups. Compared to past, the number of the participants is decreasing, however. They sing songs, perform dances, play the kemençe, the drum, the clarion and bagpipe, fire their guns and ride horses during their travel to the high pastures. The festival organizers called “şenlikçi” are welcomed by those in the high pastures and the organized festivals go on till late at night (Zaman, 2000, 292–295).


Photos 1– 4: Having lasted for centuries, the festivals are the most crowded amusements of the high pastures in which they are held


On the morning of the festival, young girls and women who will join the festival wear eye-catching local dresses of various bright colours and make horon circles with men (Photograph 2). People enter the festival area in accordance with an order. Men go first and are followed by women, hand-in-hand, and arm-in-arm in a row. The one in the front, who is the head, is generally on horse. People follow him and enter the festival area firing their guns and performing horon (Photograph 3). The old comers and the newcomers come together in the big horon circle in the middle of the area. Separate groups keep going accompanied by way-openers with canes so that the groups could enter the festival area in a most orderly and most magnificent manner. All groups enter the festival area similarly. After that, people perform horon in horon circles of sometimes 150-200, sometimes more people, which turns the festival area into a fair (Köse, 2001, 139,140). Those who do not join the horon watch the performers surrounding them.


Young girls joining the festival Young girls joining the festival
Young girls joining the festival Young girls joining the festival

Photos 5–8: Young girls joining the festival wear local dresses of various bright colours like yellow, red, blue, orange, green and white


The most significant change in these festivals which have shifted drastically in time is that the traditional migration to the high pastures on foot has been replaced by travel by motor cars in recent years . Therefore, travel amusements that used to last for hours and be a historical end sociological fact have mostly disappeared. Today unfortunately only a few people of advanced age continue to migrate to the high pastures on foot in a nostalgic manner. However, the only thing that has remained unchanged before, during and after the festival is the songs sung non-stop accompanied by the kemençe, the drum, the clarion and the bagpipe, the horon performed with participation of hundreds of people, and the enthusiasm of both local people and outsiders for joining the festival.

It is not only the local people who join the festivals. The people who once used to to live in the region but later migrated to other cities also make a great effort to join the festivals and even organize their work and vacation in order to be able to join them. Even those living abroad do so. Some of these people are hosted by their relatives and friends in the high pastures a few days before the festivals begin.



Photo 9: Hundreds of people in their local dresses perform horon in wide circles during the festival


The festival area is generally near the market-place as in Ayder, Kadırga, Çambaşı, Kazıkbeli, Karadağ and Bektaş, or in the centre of the high pasture. But sometimes the festivals are held in a far-away, wide and empty meadow as in Izmiş, Honeftera, Hıdırnebi and Sivri (Photopraph 4). The festivals are organized in the same place every year. Some high pastures lack a market-place; however there appear small tent-like shops and stands even when this is the case. In these orderly-founded shops, dresses, food and the produce of the high pasture are sold to the people around (Köse, 2001, 139). The festival area is at the same time a kind of market-place where all needs could be satisfied. It is not only the place where the high pasture dwellers sell such animal products as butter, cheese, curd and products of handwork but also other needs relating  accommodation, dress, food and kitchen utensils could be met.




Photos 10+11: Festivals are organized either inside (Kadırga Otçular Festivals) settlement areas or outside (İzmiş Festivals) them


Many festivals are held in high pastures of the Eastern Black Sea Region. Trabzon comes first in terms of the number of festivals, which are similar to each other, among the cities. It is followed by Giresun, Gümüşhane, Ordu, Rize and Artvin respectively (Table,1).


Table 1. Important high pasture festivals organized in the Eastern Black Sea Region and their dates

Name of Festival
Place of Festival Date
Mesebet  Festival
Mesebet Tepe / Akçaabat / TRABZON 21 June
Sultan Murat Ceremony in Memoir of the Martyrs
Sultan Murat Yaylası / Çaykara / TRABZON 23 June
Harmantepe Ceremony in Memoir of the Martyrs 
Harmantepe / Köprübaşı / TRABZON 29 June
Soğuksu Festival
Ocaklı Lişer Yaylası / Maçka / TRABZON 7 July
Hırsafa -Karadağ Festivals 
Çal Yaylası / Düzköy / TRABZON 2nd Saturday of July and Sunday
Karadağ Yayla Festival
Karadağ Yaylası / Vakfıkebir / TRABZON 2nd Saturday of July and Sunday
Hıdırnebi Festival
Hıdırnebi Yaylası / Akçaabat / TRABZON 20 July
Kadırga-Otçular Festivals
Kadırga Yaylası  / Maçka, Tonya  / TRABZON ve  Kürtün  / GÜMÜŞHANE Sınırı 3rd Friday of July
Alaca Yayla Festival
Alaca Yaylası / Şalpazarı / TRABZON 3rd Sunday of July
Sanasitka  Festival
Ormanüstü Köyü / Maçka / TRABZON 3rd week of July
Taşköprü Culture ve Yayla Festival
Taşköprü Yay./ Taşköprü / TRABZON 3rd Sunday of July
Sisdağı Festival
Sisdağı Yay. / Şalpazarı / TRABZON 4th Saturday of July
Kaldırım Festival
Kaldırım Yay. / Çarşıbaşı / TRABZON 4th Saturday of July and Sunday
Ortaalan Festival
Ağırtaş Köyü / Şalpazarı / TRABZON 4th Sunday of July
Kuşmer Yayla Festival
Kuşmer Yay./ Çaykara / TRABZON 30 July
Uzungöl Culture and Tourism Festival
Uzungöl / Çaykara / TRABZON 1-2-3 August
Kamena Festival
Kamena Yay. / Düzköy / TRABZON 1st Sunday of August
Ağa Konağı Festival
Üzümözü Köyü / Şalpazarı / TRABZON 1st week of August
Karabdal Festival
Kayabaşı Yay./ TRABZON 2nd Sunday of August
Taşlı Yayla Festival
Taşlı Yay./ Sürmene / TRABZON 18–21 August
Yayla Ortası Festival
Çaykara Yay./ Çaykara / TRABZON 20 August
Honeftera Festival
Çayırbağı Yay./ Düzköy / TRABZON 20 August
Yılantaş Festival
Yılantaş Yay. / Araklı / TRABZON 25 August–
1 September
Çoban Festival
Alazlı Yay . /Düzköy / TRABZON 27 August
İzmiş Festival
Tonya-Beşikdüzü-Şalpazarı TRABZON Last Sunday of August
Kadıralak Yayla Festival
Kadıralak Yay. / Tonya / TRABZON 1st week of September
Karadağ- Serda Festival
Karadağ Yay./ Düzköy / TRABZON 1st week of September
Sivri Festival
Tonya-Vakfıkebir Sivri Hill 4 September
Karaovacık Yayla Festival
Karaovacık Yay./ Espiye / GİRESUN 9 July
Dikmetaş Yayla Festival
DikmetaşYay ./ Şebinkarahisar / GİRESUN 9 July
Kümbet Yayla Festival
Kümbet Yay ./ Dereli / GİRESUN 15–17 July
Bektaş Yayla Festival
Bektaş Yay. / Dereli / GİRESUN 29–30 July
Kuşdili Festival
Çanakçı / GİRESUN 25 June
Karadeniz Aksu Festival
Giresun Merkez / GİRESUN 20–23 May
Alucra Ekin Festival
Alucra / GİRESUN 23 July
Kafkasör Culture and Art Festival
Kafkasör Mevkii / ARTVİN 17–20 June
Salikvan Yayla Festival
Salikvan Mevkii / Arhavi / ARTVİN 31July
Yeşilce Yayla Festival
Yeşilce Yay. / Mesudiye / ORDU 5 July
Topçam Yayla Festival
Topçam Yay./ Mesudiye / ORDU 6 July
Perşembe Yayla Festival
Perşembe Yay. / Aybastı / ORDU 4th week of July
Düzoba Yayla Festival
Düzoba Yay. / Kumru / ORDU 31 July–1 August
Çambaşı Yayla Festival
Çambaşı Yay. / Kabadüz / ORDU 14–16 July
Ayazma Festival
Torul / GÜMÜŞHANE 20 May
Dörtkonak Köyü Yayla Festival
Gümüşhane Merkez 2nd week of July
Kazıkbeli Yayla Festival
Kazıkbeli Yay. / Kürtün / GÜMÜŞHANE Wednesdays of June–July and August
Güvendi Yayla Festival
Güvendi Yay. / Kürtün / GÜMÜŞHANE 2nd week of August, Friday
Alacapazarı Yayla  Festival
Alacapazarı Yay. / Kürtün / GÜMÜŞHANE June–July–August, Sundays
Zigana Yayla  Festival
Zigana Yay. / Torul / GÜMÜŞHANE 2nd week of July
Alitaş Tuzla Festival
Torul / GÜMÜŞHANE 1st week of Julyı
Çamlıköy Yayla Festival
Çamlıköy Yay. / GÜMÜŞHANE 1 August
Yeşilbük Yayla Festival
Yeşilbük / GÜMÜŞHANE 1 August
Ayder Yayla Festival
Ayder Yay. / Çamlıhemşin / RİZE 31 May–1 June
Han Yayla Festival
Han Yay. / Güneysu / RİZE 15–16 August
Trovit Yayla Festival
Trovit Yay. / Çamlıhemşin / RİZE 18 August
Çağırankaya Yayla Festival
Çağrankaya Yay. / İkizdere / RİZE 15–22 August

Source: Data of Provincial Tourism Offices and questionnaire results


Having a number of common features and being of a traditional nature, the festivals are held on the same dates every year. However, it is observed that the festivals were cancelled in some years when there were disasters either in the cities where they are organised or in other parts of Turkey. For example, the festival of İzmiş, Sivri, Karadağ, Serda, and Kadıralak were cancelled after the flood in Trabzon and Giresun in 1990 and after the Marmara Earthquake, which happened on 17th August, 1999 and deeply upset the Turkish people. Similarly, the people of Beşikdüzü, Vakfıkebir, Tonya and Şalpazarı did not want to join the Kadırga-Otçular festivals, known by the public as the 7th May, after the accident at sea in which 37 people were killed in Beşikdüzü, Trabzon in 2000 and the mentioned festivals were cancelled. In addition, the festivals are postponed for a few days when they coincide with religious bayrams (Zaman, 2001, 208).

As mentioned earlier, the high pasture festivals are open air carnivals that have continued for centuries. They are formed and organized in accordance with the traditions and are disciplined by the experienced old people of each nomad group. However, after 1987 and 1990, some high pasture areas were announced to be touristic centres and opened to tourism, and thus the festivals to be held in these places have been organized by local governments since then.

Another significant characteristic of the high pasture festivals is related to their duration and distributed dates (Table 1). It is observed that the festivals are held from the beginning of June till early September. As far as the dates of the festivals are concerned, it is noticed that the festival days of the nearby high pastures do not coincide with each other and that they follow one another. As for the length of the festivals, it varies between one day to seven days. For example, the Mount Sis Festivals, which have been organized since 1819, last one day while the Yayla Ortası Festival held in the high pastures in the east of Trabzon, The Vartavor Festivals held in and around Rize, and the Çürük Ayı Festivals in rural areas of the Eastern Black Sea Region continue for several days during late July (Ersoy, 1994, 111,112).

The one-day festivals end towards evening of the same day and some of the groups return to the surrounding high pastures while some to their permanent residence. The people do not leave the festival area in the same organized manner as they did while entering. The festival areas empty slowly as the evening falls. People return to their villages and encampments singing songs and playing various musical instruments. What is left behind is the memories and songs sung in a nostalgic manner (Köse, 2001, 141). In the festivals that last several days, the schedule is followed and amusements, various competitions, sports games and bullfights are organized. For instance, during the Ayder, Kafkasör and Yusufeli-Baral festivals, which last three or four days, various amusements and games are held on the first day and bullfights are organized during the last two days. The sever fight of the bulls specially raised for these fights excite not only the local people but also those coming from different parts of Turkey and abroad (Photograph 5).




Photos 12+13: Bullfights are watched by people with great interest and excitement


4. Problems and Suggestions

Opening the high pastures in the Eastern Black Sea Region to tourism is significant not only in terms of the regional tourism but also of national one. Beneficial utilization of this potential in accordance with the natural, cultural and social sources of the region and its socio-cultural and socio-economic structure will doubtlessly contribute to the development of the region. This will accelerate the development of the region with its own sources and help overall development of Turkey. Nevertheless, measures must be taken to prevent possible damage to nature and people by the desired increase in the number of the tourists. It will be very beneficial to make use of the Eastern Black Sea Region, which has peculiar characteristics different from those of the other regions in Turkey, and the high pastures it has because the attractiveness of such geographical places as sea coasts and antique sites has almost been diminished to tourists. It is certain that traditional high pasture festivals will contribute to this process.

However, while benefiting from the high pastures of the Eastern Black Sea Region in tourism, the mistakes made in our other touristic potentials and sources must not be repeated. Planned and achievable projects for developing high pasture tourism must be prepared by taking socio-economic structure of the region into account. The reason for this is that possible problems which stem from socio-economic and socio-cultural structure could only be solved through providing a useful adaptation. Therefore, some measures must be taken in advance to avoid possible problems in the development of high pasture tourism. Some of these measures must be determined to cover a number of high pasture festivals throughout summer. Following measures could be taken:


5. Conclusion

As it must be clear by now, high pasture festivals are the carnivals during which people of all ages in their local clothes enjoy themselves, performing horon, playing the kemençe, the durm, the clarion and the bagpipe, singing songs, arm in arm, hand in hand till late in the evening in accordance with the traditions, customs and conventions and they reflect the unity among the people of the region (Canalioğlu, 2000, 126). Attended by the local people in a joyful atmosphere, these festivals are regarded as the couple of days when the tiredness of the previous year is freed from and problems are forgotten.

The high pasture festivals have an important function in that they bring together people who cannot see each other because of their jobs and settlements and among whom are brothers, sisters, relatives and fellow townsmen. They provide social unity. Existence of a dense and enthusiastic liveliness during the festivals is meaningful in this aspect. Apparently continuing to exist since centuries, the festivals bring local people together on the basis of commonly-shared cultural values. The fact that such an important function can be realised in high pastures must be related to people’s ability to find the chance of practising traditions without any outer hindrance for centuries and of living in such high places. While the Coast Area villages have a scattered form of settlement, high pastures are the places where numerous quarters and villages are found together and a stronger sense of unity is felt.

In addition, the festivals are important since they are the festivals many young people join. The young people who meet during the performance of horon dance may marry each other later on, which shows another social aspect of the festivals (Ersoy, 1994, 114,115).

In conclusion, high pasture festivals must also be utilised in the process of the implementation of high pasture tourism that is tried to be put into practice in order to contribute to the economy of the region and it is doubtless that they will prove highly beneficial in this process and accelerate it.



1.6. The Effects of Natural and Cultural Values on Tourism

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For quotation purposes:
Mehmet Zaman: An Example to the Cultural Activities in the Eastern Black Sea Coastal Mountains: Yayla (Mountain Pastures-Transhumans) Festivals - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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