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Migration to the High Plateau

The seasonal migration from the valleys to the high plateaus occurs at the end of May and the beginning of June every year, although it occasionally takes place earlier in the year. The return from the high plateau is a much slower process. It starts in mid-August when the temperatures start to cool, while the coastal areas are still scorching from the heat. Occasionally necessary stopovers have to be made at places which are warmer than the higher elevations, but still cooler than the coast. Sometimes these stops can last for months. The relocation in the meadows may even be repeated several times during the migration. As the area of temporary accommodation starts to cool the migration to lower elevations continues until the coast is reached.

The villages that are situated between the coast and high plateaus were mostly established in meadows that served as temporary lodgings during the autumn months. These temporary stopovers are known as “güzlek” in Turkish. These güzleks have transformed into villages over time. Some villages in the coastal areas and meadows bear the same name, since the same nomadic tribes either settled down at the coast or in the meadows. These are mostly situated to the west of Antalya and are known by the names of their tribes and locations: Bayındır (Alm Bayındır), Sahil Bayındır (Coastal Bayındır). Yayla Göçerler (Alm Göçerler), Sahil Göçerler (Coastal Göçerler), Yayla Barak (Alm Barak), Sahil Barak (Coastal Barak).

These villages can be easily reached from the tourist hotspots of Alanya, Manavgat/Side, Belek, Antalya, Kemer-Tekirova, Finike, and Kaş and receive an influx of tourists during the summer months who want to experience an authentic village atmosphere. There is a tradition in the seasonal migration to the high plateau which has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. The villages closest to the coast migrate to the remotest plateaus, while the farest villages settle down in the nearest plateaus. That is why the migration of some villages lasts for days, while other villages reach their destination and put up their outposts within a few hours. When the time for migration approaches, not only humans, but also animals are prepared for this journey. Although they are guided by the shepherds and are under the protection of guard dogs along the way, the migrants, who include the young and old, women and children, are anxious to reach their destination as quickly as possible in order to set up their tents.

Stone-paved roads built in ancient and later ages and which straddle the valleys of the Taurus and the mountain slopes are used to reach the highlands. These roads fell into disuse with the increase of motor vehicles. Nowadays these roads have been long abandoned, but they bear witness to many incidents that have become legendary. These stories have been passed down from father to son and are as well-known as if they themselves had lived through them. Each bend in the road, the hills and the slopes, the fountains, wells, cisterns, rock formations, trees, and bridges tell stories of those people who died before reaching their destination and who are buried beside them.

There is not a single landmark along the pathway which has not been named. These places are named after events which are important in the life of the nomads. Places where wolves attacked a herd, where a shepherd was killed or where someone’s beloved was abducted by bandits are known by these incidents even after many generations. And there are many such places! The owl perched on a tree; rocks blown by the wind or the donkey that fell to its unfortunate death from the cliffs are referred by names which recall these incidents. The remains of the people who are interred in the tombs at the plateaus are mostly unknown and are only marked with a headstone. Nomads are usually aware that their ancestors lie in these graves, but they won’t be able to point the exact location. After two or three generations even that will be forgotten. One of the most popular stories by people using the mountain roads are those dealing with “highway bandits.” Bandits in the pursuit of money and those who watched over the poor were clearly differentiated. While the first were cursed, the second were remembered with prayers and good wishes.