. . so goes the old saying, or words to that effect!
J and I have always had a thing about trees and forests – we just love to wander through them admiring the natives of every ethnicity, eccentricity and tribal affinity. We’ve wandered the Bluebell Woods of England, the Cloud Forests of Venezuela and the beautiful mixed forests of Turkey’s Black Sea region. We love them all ! So it was that we found ourselves taking a back road over the Kozak Plateau on our way to visit the fabulous archaeological sites in and around the town of Bergama.
The Maya Tepesi (hill) rises from sea-level to around 1340mts and the plateau, in reality a great basin, lies at an average of around 500mts. The terrain is undulating granite and is covered by a vast forest of Pinus pinea or Umbrella/Stone/Fıstık (nut) Pines amounting to some 16000 hectares out of a total of 43000 hectares for the whole of Turkey. Kozak, which means cone in Turkish, is the largest single Stone Pine forest in the country. Within the area of the plateau there are eight village communities that derive their income primarily from the autumn harvesting of pine nuts.
Kozak Stone Pine Forest
Kozak women harvest pine nuts (http://heatheronhertravels.com)
Pine nuts were being gathered as a rich source of food long before Homo capitaliticus wandered onto the scene and started to screw things up. The harvesting is by hand and is very labour intensive, which accounts for the high price in the shops.
All this is well and good, but it is unlikely that you are ever going to ‘harvest’ your nuts other than from the kuruyemişçi (dry food merchant), so let’s move on. The contrast between the flat, low level plain covered by countless olive gardens as far as the eye can see and the higher elevations with its granite boulder strewn pine forests could not be greater. The views as you drive through or wander the forest paths are splendid – there is something about the shape of Stone Pines which creates a light and shadow effect that is almost unique and truly pleasing on the eye. Some of the elders (specimens) are so magnificent they just have to be hugged!
Lesvos from Kozak
You are drawn gently from ridge to ridge and valley to valley across countless ‘pin cushions’ that really are the proverbial ‘Forty Shades Of Green’. There are points where you can see for miles over the undulating forest with the occasional minaret breaking through the canopy or make out the Greek island of Lesvos to the West. Much of the forest is easily accessible for wandering, exploring and serious nature watching. J and I happened through at what is probably the worst time of the year for natural variety; one thing is for sure, we’ll be back in early 2013 when the rains have refreshed the land and Toprak Ana (Mother Earth) is, once again, decked out in her finest.
harvested pine cones drying in the autumn sun Kozak
Kozak pine nuts in the raw
. . and for those of you wondering what happened to the bluebell wood . .
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü