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Case Study II: The Kackar Yayla

It appears that the region offers opportunities for establishing sustainable oriented tourism, and ecotourism activities might even be possible. While the Ayder case shows how intensive forms of tourism reply on the exploitation of the environment, the next case study shows how the Yayla within the Kackar National Park might have the potential for sustainable, nature-based, rural tourism. This area has more than 10 Yayla(s), the most attractive of which are Vercenek, Yukari Kavran, Semistal, Sal, Pokot, and Polovit.

Kackar National Park is slightly different than many other protected areas in the region, particularly as there are settlements within the border of the park. These eight villages, two closely related provinces (Ardesen and Camlihemsin), and over 10 Yayla(s) offer a large number of environmental attractions for visitors, including areas of splendid scenery (Figs. 5.5, 5.6). In addition, a high mountain area of rich pastures makes an important contribution to the local economy. However, national park regulations can be somewhat challenging for the locals, who reap great benefits from nature (e.g. through fishing, farming, grazing, and recreation) while seeking to protect the environment and local culture against degradation. This is in contrast to the case of Ayder, which appears to be devoid of the protectionist spirit we see in the national park.

Unlike the Ayder case, which is an example of ‘mass’ tourism in the region, in the Kacka Mountains and in other Yayla, there are greener forms of tourism which are more positive for such regional mountain environments (Figs. 5.7, 5.8). It is therefore reasonable to expect that the region should have been protected using similar sustainability principles. However, the local authority was somewhat excluded from the central government’s planning process for improving the quality and quantity of tourism in the region, which did not consider sustainability in its development process. This is probably a result of Turkey’s status as an industrialising and developing country in need of ‘quick-fix’ solutions to unemployment and migration problems in the region.

The so-called Green Way project, which is just a small part of the Tourism Master Plan of Black Sea region, was principally initiated by the central government’s investment authority in order to encourage Yayla tourism, which in turn might encourage big companies to make investments in the region (Figs. 5.9, 5.10). More positively, this also has the potential to open up competition between locals and out-of-region companies. Additionally, the project aims to construct a road from the west to the east, establishing a road network between the Black Sea region Yayla(s). However, having observed the case of Ayder, local people were somewhat concerned about the future of the region and the sustainable development of its tourism. In this manner, environmental activists’ protesting of the so-called

Fig. 5.5 A view from an entertainment area of Yukari Kavron Yayla

A view from Cat Yayla

Fig. 5.6 A view from Cat Yayla

A view from Pokot Yayla

Fig. 5.7 A view from Pokot Yayla

A view from Polovit Yayla

Fig. 5.8 A view from Polovit Yayla

Green Way project suggests that locals are more conscious of potential problems that could be caused by the road. Ironically, there is the issue that the current poor-quality road network of the Yayla hinders the journeys of local people. Nonetheless, some might think that the region needs jobs and investment for

Fig. 5.9 A view from the Green Way Construction in Yukari Kavron Yayla

A view from the Green Way Construction in Samistal Yayla

Fig. 5.10 A view from the Green Way Construction in Samistal Yayla

tourism development while offering high-quality services to tourists who are keen to enjoy nature-based activities. In this manner, there are only a few ventures which are offering services to tourists in the Yayla (e.g. the Yaylas’ bed capacity is only around 150). Nevertheless, the local community is acting with conservative principles by aiming to protect the Yayla from becoming a ‘mass’ tourism destination.

Thus, the current type of tourism in the Yayla helps to preserve the natural ecosystem and the unspoiled environment, which are particularly of interest for many tourists who appreciate the striking environment and mild climate. Nevertheless, this region’s attractions are not confined to nature and the landscape, as the Yayla’s sociocultural characteristics are also of note. As identified earlier in this chapter, livestock thrives in this mountain environment, and the local community has flourishing recreational activities: the fact that many different cultural activities have survived has become an intrinsic virtue of Yayla tourism. Iconic cultural activities in the Yayla include a folk dance, local dress, and distinctive Yayla houses (wood-and-stone-mixed buildings). The folk dance referred to is called the ‘Horon’, which is accompanied by music played on the Turkish Bagpipe (‘Tulum’). These surviving regional cultural traditions can be seen as similar to those surviving in the UK, where local cultural practices became symbols of freedom against the king of England.

The Green road project was initially partly accepted by those local communities who live in the region temporarily during the Yayla season which is mainly between mid-May and mid-October. (Admittedly, tourism-based ‘Yaylaness ’ is no longer confined to this fixed term.) Yayla tourism in the region involves many different activities, the most sustainable of which appear to be hiking and climbing, as well as experiencing the local culture of the east Black Sea people (referred to as ‘Laz’ in Turkish) by, for instance, dancing the Horon to the Turkish Bagpipe, or eating breakfast food (in Turkish; Mihlama) with locally grown organic tea (‘Hemsin Tea’). The Mihlama is a vital local product, not least because livestock are kept at the Yayla and the production of dairy products such as cheese, butter, and ‘kaymak’ are part of the local cultures’ farming activities. It appears that starting the day with organic food and hiking into the highlands are commonplace activities for the Yayla tourist.

In order to be able to perform such activities, many tourists arrive by car to a hub Yayla (e.g. Yukari Kavran and Cat). While more comfortable hotels are located at the Ayder Yayla, many tourists participating in greener tourist activities prefer to stay in the lowlands, which allows them to walk towards the highlands, visit a neighbouring Yayla (for instance from Yukari Kavran to Samistal), and take in glacial lakes. While many tourists enjoy visiting the Yayla, daily life continues. For instance, many locals who have a second home in the Yayla (some of whom are retired people who still live in big towns such as Ankara, Izmir, and Istanbul) grow their own winter commodities and seek the experience of producing organic food. There are, however, a few boutique hotels and pensions, and, occasionally, cafes, that used to be family homes. These buildings maintain their original shape but have been remodelled for these small-scale commercial ventures. However, compared to Ayder, there are very few such ventures, and their impact on the natural environment is more benign, and they give the impression of staying in an original Yayla home. Nevertheless, this type of accommodation is relatively low compared to the demands of tourists.

Taken as a whole, tourist activities in the Kackar National Park’s remaining Yayla seem to be more sustainable, although it is rather a ‘niche’ market compared to the wider region. Unlike the Ayder Yayla, the locals are still around and running small businesses to support their income, as well as marketing their cultural goods (mainly dairy products). In this manner, this part of the national park offers many opportunities for ecotourists and agritourists alike. Although the more easily reachable Yayla are still under threat of turning into sites of mass tourism, the effect of national park regulation, which is widely perceived to be in need of reform, is that this threat has somewhat diminished. Nevertheless, it is not easy to reconcile the need for tourism development with concerns for nature and the environment. Younger people in the region see that they can use their family heritage as a business opportunity. As there is still the need for more places where tourists can stay, the fact that there are still some family houses (locally known as ‘Konak’ or

Fig. 5.11 A view from the palaces (‘Konak’) in Camlihemsin province

A view from the palaces (‘Konak’) in Camlihemsin province

Fig. 5.12 A view from the palaces (‘Konak’) in Camlihemsin province

‘palaces’) not in use means that there will be future opportunities to turn them into hotels (Figs. 5.11, 5.12).

 
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