Not long after leaving Sebinkarahisar the road entered a valley and the ascent to the pass began. It was a stunning ascent that led into austere rounded mountains above the tree-line. The slopes of the mountains were covered with short grass that was only just beginning to grow after the winter. At the pass itself snow was above and below the road. It was too early in the year to find shepherds caring for their flocks of sheep and goats at such a height above sea level.
Not much later we arrived at Tamdere and I could not believe how interesting the settlement looked. Although still very high in the mountains, Tamdere is lived in permanently. The village straddles both sides of a river with a lot of cold water that crashes against the rocks. A very small commercial district has a simple lokanta on the main road, a bakery, a tea house, a second lokanta and two or three poorly stocked shops, and a sign points along a dirt road over the river to the last building in the village, a place that provides tea and simple snacks to visitors. Old houses, new houses and small apartment blocks are somewhat randomly distributed on the slopes either side of the river and some of the old buildings are timber-framed and spread over two storeys. Other old buildings spread over one floor and combine a simple house with storage space for animals and/or farm produce. People living in the old buildings improvise with great skill and a total commitment to recycling things that are useful. Wood, breeze blocks, corrugated iron, flat sheets of metal, tarpaulin and heavy duty plastic sheeting are used to repair roofs and/or holes in walls. Firewood is piled against an external wall of many a house or business premise to provide heat or fuel for cooking purposes. A small barn-like mosque with a single minaret in the Ottoman style stands beside the river, as does a small building made from breeze blocks with a corrugated iron roof which looks suspiciously like abandoned toilets. If the building had been toilets, the human waste must have gone directly into the river. But no more, thankfully. Everyone in the village now has inside toilets.
Trees on the far side of the river from the road to Giresun were in blossom and flocks of sheep nibbled at pasture enclosed within fences and dry stone walls.
Wholly unexpectedly, Tamdere proved one of the trip’s highlights, and it impressed itself even more forcefully as a highlight when it became apparent how friendly everyone is and that two dirt roads lead further into the mountains to yaylas, or upland pastures with settlements lived in only during the warmest months of the year. The roads lead up a valley, one on either side of a stream that joins the river in Tamdere itself, and I was delighted to learn that Yaprakli, the yayla accessed along the road on the south side of the stream, was less than 2 kilometres away. I crossed the stream on a narrow footbridge and walked a short distance to where the roads to the two yaylas split. I followed the road to the left. It took me across the stream again, turned to the right and, while remaining quite close to the stream, ascended the valley wall so the stream was always below me. The road and the stream meander gently and I passed banks of moss and grass where lots of primroses thrive. A few cattle grazed on a slope more gently inclined than most, and, when I turned to see how far I had come from Tamdere, the village looked sublimely attractive in its mountainous but very green surroundings. By now I could see some of the houses of the yayla ahead. The road continued through the settlement, no doubt to pasture even higher in the mountains.
When I arrived in Yaprakli most houses were empty; it was too early in May for people to have arrived with their flocks of sheep and goats. About twenty-five or thirty houses lay scattered either side of the road, some below it and some above. Most houses were new or relatively new and, inevitably, all had been conceived on a modest scale. This said, some old stone houses existed, as did barns and sheds to store food and farm implements, and some of the more recently built houses had brightly painted walls. Only four or five houses spread over more than one floor. Almost every building had a corrugated iron roof. I was impressed that some small fields and gardens had been created on the slopes. A few women, who, along with their husbands, had already moved into their houses, prepared the soil and planted seeds or seedlings. One of the largest houses had a garden with trees in it and at least one tree was in blossom. Dry stone walls enclosed patches of land around the old houses, but new houses made do with fences. Water tumbled across the road at two or three places. The water derived from patches of snow that still clung to the slopes above the settlement.
I walked back to Tamdere intent on two things: taking more photos of the excellent vernacular architecture and getting something unusual to eat in one of the two lokantas. I called at the bakery to buy two roughly shaped simit still warm from the wood-burning oven, but the baker would not take any money for them. I chatted with the baker and a male customer for a while, then walked to the south end of the village just below the road to Sebinkarahisar where another man engaged me in conversation and explained about the timber-framed houses with their in-fills of stone. But I was at least as interested in the houses and other buildings that had ground floors made primarily of rubble stone on top of which a timber-framed storey had been added with walls made with planks. Of course, corrugated iron and flat sheets of metal patched many a hole in such wooden walls nowadays, but the structures still looked very photogenic. Wattle and daub had been used as an in-fill for some second storeys, but benign neglect left the structures in a very sorry state.
As a van belonging to the CHP drove around the few streets of the village with music wailing from its loudspeakers, I chatted with a family group that had driven from Giresun to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful views in the mountains. I then retired to the lokanta on the road between Giresun and Sebinkarahisar because, being on the main road, it was more likely to have something to eat. I went inside and was invited to inspect the three pots in the kitchen. When the lid of the third pot was removed and I saw neck of mutton in a lovely broth with potatoes floating in it I said to the owner, “Yes please. Excellent.” And excellent it was. It came with a basket of bread from the nearby bakery and slices of lemon, and I drank water and ayran. A man came in from outside to give me two nectarines and, a little later, a second man put in front of me a plate of salad, slices of mild white cheese he had made himself and a thick slice of white bread made with unbleached flour. The bread had been sliced from a round loaf well over 30 centimetres wide and about 8 centimetres thick. What I had thought would be quite a modest meal turned out to be a feast, and one comprising of food a little less ordinary.
When I went to pay the bill, a very modest 8TL, the owner of the lokanta at first refused the money. “For you, no problem.” This was ridiculous. I doubt if he had served more than a dozen people all day. I pressed the money into his hand grateful to have got good food in such a remote spot. Outside, I took a photo of him with the man who had given me the salad, cheese and bread.
I was wondering whether to take a few more photos of the village when up the hill from Giresun a minibus pulled over to drop someone off. I confirmed with the driver that the minibus was going to Sebinkarahisar, then jumped aboard. It was not the regular minibus service from Giresun, but one to Sebinkarahisar from a settlement somewhere south of Giresun. I parted with 8TL grateful for the transport.