In Turkey and Turkish culture, we have a tradition of countryside people spending summertime on mountains which is called YAYLA with their cows and sheep etc. Usually, these tablelands are on high altitude (our Yayla is 2700 metre high) very cold and covered with snow most of the year. Some Yayla places have trees which are closer to the sea level than others but some have not (see the picture).
In a good day, you can feel the nature in its pure form, earth breathing, sun with a little breeze feels like heaven on earth. It feels like that for me and many people I took there.
For a good observer, it’s the renewal of life, as well as decay. A contrast continuously at work but always in harmony. Stone walls we built years ago crumble under the harsh and dramatically changing weather conditions. I renew them for another lifetime cherishing what my father did under much harder work conditions and hoping that my children will follow the tradition.
I used to go to our Yayla with my grand mum when I was a very young child. She used to make me drink cream of the milk in the morning, just made from fresh milk. In those times, it was pretty primitive (still is in some respect). We had our hut made of stones collected from the area. Covered the roof with thin .5 to 1cm thick, approximately 1 metre long, 15-20 cm wide wooden boards called HARTAMA. It was a true nature experience. You can’t live more natural and closer to nature than this.
The Writer Jorge Luis Borges says:
A writer—and, I believe, generally all persons—must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
Those days had a lasting effect on my life. I learned how to live minimalistic, eat few things but 100% organically all made in house, have a strong body, steel-like mental strength, survive/live under harsh conditions, develop extra perception, be sensitive to nature and animals to mention just a few.
A week ago (19 June 2020) I was driving there early morning and stopped for a herd of cows to allow them to cross across. An older man approached and asked me ancestry, he then told me “I haven’t seen anybody who can be this close and feel the animals. You talk their language”. I thought it was a real compliment.
In old times, Yayla is done for a reason. To find better grass for animals and make Cheese and Butter for the family to eat during wintertime. Also easy to maintain animals on these mountains because there is no need for anybody to wait for them.
Milk and release them in the morning and they go off on to the mountains, feed themselves and come back in towards evening. Totally natural and organic dairy food is salted and kept in special wooden containers (barrel-like) which last a long time during the winter.
Usually, elderly family members (grand mum and dad etc.) with a younger member of the family (grandchild) stayed in Yayla. Others worked in harvesting whatever they had grown in their land such as Tea Leaves, Hazelnuts, Corn etc.
This tradition is also good for elderly people as they spend their time in a totally clean air, high altitude, eating 100% organic food and being active as well.
In modern times of today, most people don’t bother to go to Yayla as they don’t have animals as it used to be and also not so much interested. Day trips are done to enjoy the scenery, some families still keep the tradition but only for health reasons. Some roads still need to be developed to make it easy to travel.
As our elders passed away so our Yayla tradition in some ways. When I am in Turkey, I make sure to visit Yayla and maintain my little Cloud Cottage. That’s what we call it. My father introduced trees there. It took him 20+ years to find the right ones and grow them. My Cloud Cottage became an iconic landmark there now. Other people there and surrounding places trying to grow trees now as well.
I encourage other people to keep traditions going. Maintain what they have and build new ones if possible.
We can only go there from June to September. Rest of the year it is covered with snow. There is a project to build a skiing resort very close, so I am hoping this will make the road accessible and even if we can not reach there, can still enjoy the surroundings.
29 June 2011, Revised to Version 2 at 29 June 2020