Emerald green hills and valleys awaited us in the Eastern Black Sea mountains. Heading eastwards from the city of Trabzon on the Rize road, we turned right at Iyidere Bridge, and from now on our way passed through a wild, magical landscape painted on a green canvas. Lifting our heads we caught sight of wooden houses on the mountainsides and hilltops, winding paths, people disappearing amongst the pines and alders, the glistening blue of mountain streams, and bright patches of mauve Rhododendron ponticum. We had decided to escape the crowded city for a few days and go to Çamlik (also known as Pusula), a yayla or high pasture near Ikizdere in the Eastern Black Sea region. In this peaceful and beautiful place the air is invigorating and the water delicious. The people of the town of Ikizdere and its surrounding villages still continue the traditional custom of spending the summer months in the mountains. Even those who have moved away from the region or are living abroad return to spend their holidays on Çamlik Yayla. We first climbed the steep road to the village of Çamlik, and from there over a hill and down into a valley through which a stream ran. As we walked we breathed in the pine scented air. When we stopped to rest we realised that as we proceeded Çamlik seemed to get further rather than nearer, and our guide told us that it was a mistake to look up at the faroff yayla as we walked. We followed the winding path through sun-rinsed pines and clumps of yellow Rhododendron luteum. The path turned this way and that until we completely lost our sense of direction. As we rose higher, the vegetation began to change gradually. The rich scent of trees and flowers in the forest was intoxicating, and tiny waterfalls sang to us as we passed. Every half hour we stopped to rest at a wayside fountain, but still our tired feet started to drag as we followed our guide ever upwards to Çamlik Yayla, which lies at an altitude of nearly 2000 metres.
Finally we emerged from the forest onto green pasture, and soon the mountain huts came into sight.We had been walking for two hours, but the magnificent view when we arrived more than rewarded us for the effort. Green, dark blue and white were the main colours of the landscape here, high in the mountains, the wooden mountain huts in the architectural style typical of the region forming occasional patches of brown.Our lungs, accustomed to the stifling air of the city, were at first surprised by the fresh mountain air, but soon became used to it, and a sense of relaxation settled over us in the peaceful silence of this remote spot. We had not eaten since early that morning, and we sat down hungrily to a second breakfast of cheese, thick cream and milk produced here on the yayla. When we finished breakfast and went out of the hut, we found ourselves surrounded by cloud fields. At this high altitude the weather was unpredictable, and we seemed to experience the four seasons in a single day. A sudden heavy shower of rain would be succeeded by bright sunshine, and then the ground would be hidden beneath a covering of milky white mist. We were lost for a brief time until the mist dispersed as suddenly as it had come, revealing a myriad
tones of green, brightly coloured flowers, and the huge mountain of Ovit Dag looming on the other side of the valley. Animals grazed on the higher parts of the pasture, while the women sat in the meadows busy with their brightly coloured embroidery. We lay down on the soft natural carpet and dozed for while to the soothing sounds of insects, bird song and rustling leaves. That afternoon we walked downhill to the forest, where the beekeepers had brought their hives for the summer months. Four beekeepers invited us to take tea with them in their hut, and offered us some of their wonderful honey. Back on the yayla we watched the people going about their work. They carry only a minimum of baggage with them for the summer sojourn, since after two months they move with their herds to the fresh pastures of another yayla.
Towards evening the animals were led down from the pastures and shut up for the night in byres. For the first time there was a bustle of activity as everyone came out to help. After a delicious supper
of omelette and tea made with spring water, the evening was spent in conversation around the wood fire. We would have loved to stay longer, enjoying the peaceful round of life in the mountains, but unfortunately we had to leave the following day. It was raining as we regretfully said our farewells to the green mountains which had calmed our spirits, and to the people of Ikizdere who had so hospitably welcomed us to share their traditional pastoral life.