Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Toronto, Canada
Yatağan Sword and Knifesmithing Festival
A fellow collector from Turkey, Sancar Ozer, has posted a very interesting thread on another forum and he's given me permission to copy his post here.
Enjoy, there's lots of pics
This year, for my 30th birthday( the big and scary 3-0), I chose a place I always wanted to go, but never had the time: birthplace of yataghan and the resting place of its legendary inventor Yatağan Baba (Father Yataghan)...
Of course there are many different theories aboout origins of yataghan, yet according to legend this small mountain village of Yatağan in Western Anatolia is the birthplace of the famous blade form. Legend says, in the time of Selçuklu Turkic invasion of Anatolia in early 12th century, a Selçuklu general named Osman (not to be confused with the other Osman who founded Ottoman Empire) invaded a region in western Anatolia and that region was given him as "tımar" (kinda like "fief") by the khan. He settled his clan in that region. Osman was a famous swordsmith as well as soldier and he created this new and unique form of blade.
Because his soubriquet was "Yatağan Baba"(Father Yataghan), the sword and the village he founded were also known as yataghan. Village of Yatağan is still famous for his knifesmiths and swordsmiths; almost all of the population are involved in blacksmithing. There are more than 300 workshops in that small mountain village. They mostly make knives but traditional art of yataghansmithing is also alive. Yataghan Baba's tomb is still there and every year people of the village organize a festival to remember him and celebrate their long tradition of swordsmithing. This festival is also a part of the "yayla" tradition of Turkmen clans that every summer nomadic clans migrate to high plateus to put their cattle and sheeps out to pasture. So all village will be in the "Kefe" plateu, (high in the mountains, with wonderful nature) for camping and celebrating. There will be exhibitions of best works that village knifemakers made that year. There will be a competition for best knife and best yataghan. There will be horse racing, Ottoman military band concerts etc. It will be too much fun!
I'm planning to go a little early to meet local knifesmiths and buy as much blades as I can, and maybe ordering a custom sword. I want to take many pictures and share my experience with you guys.
As I said earlier, Yatağan is a very very old town( almost 900 years old), found by Seljuk commander Osman Bey who was called "Yatağan Baba" (Father Yataghan) because of his talent in yataghansmithing. Legend says he invented yataghan type blades. Until this day, main profession of this small mountain village is only bladesmithing. There are more than 300 knifesmith workshops in the village. İn the old days, main interest was yataghan smithing but in mid-20th century, all kind of swordsmithing was banned by goverment and today most of the workshops make top quality kitchen, utility and farming knives, pocket knives, hunting knives etc. But nowadays public interest of traditional yataghan encouraged Yatağan bladesmiths to return to their traditional ways.
People of that area come mostly from Yörük(semi-nomadic) Turkomen tribes. So old nomadic traditions like travelling to high plateus for summer and living in tents is kept alive. Every year all village migrates to Kefe highlands which is at altitude of 1500 metres. And this migration was to celebrated with a festival, and this festival became the annual "Yatağan Town Knife and Yataghansmithing Festival" in the modern days.
Kefe has a beatiful nature and weather. Air is so clean people from big cities can get oxygen poisining in some areas(this is not a joke, they warned me about this when I got there) I took many photos of the magnificent naure and mountains but pictures do not do it justice.
People are extremely helpful and hospitable. I had some local knifesmith friends from the village and they arranged my stay but any outsider who comes to festival is warmly welcomed with great hospitality. Town's mayor welcomed me and my other sword collector and bladesmith friends from İstanbul as honour guests of the festival. Town's facilities and means are limited but they are trying so hard to resurrect and continue the tradition of yataghansmithing. Mayor wants to organize an international symposium about yataghan type blades andswordsmithing in town and create a teaching institute to educate youngsters in the art of bladesmithing with a more scientific manner. Till now all knifesmithing tradition is passed through from father to son, master to apprentice.
I lived in my tent in Kefe highlands with almost all of the village population. You can bring your own tent or rent one for a really minimal fee. Electricity is provided to every tent. Fcilities like three restaurants, a coffe house, modern restrooms, bathrooms, showers and a grocery store makes staying there very comfortable. And with the additioanl shops opend in festival times, you can find almost anything you want.
While I was there I visited most of the knifesmithing workshops. Like I said, most smiths make modern knives for different uses, but traditional blades, like "bıçak"s, "kama"s, "hançer"s, "saldırma"s, "yataghan"s and even "kılıç"s are also made. Most of the local smiths are really talented craftsmen but their education of knifesmithing come from oral tradition and master-appentice style education. They want to(and trying to) inform themselves about modern technique and science of bladesmithing, as well as learning more about history of Turkish swordsmithing. They asked me millions of questions and in return thought me a lot about the traditional technique. Internet is new to those areas but several knifesmiths created simple websites to present their work.
Here are some examples(websites are in Turkish but pictures will give you an idea):
At festival time,an open bazaar and exhibition area is established at Kefe and all of the local smiths presents their best works throughout that year. A competition for best knife, best pocket knife, best gardening knife, best hunting knife and best yataghan is also organised.
İn the course of my vacation at Kefe, I shopped for knives, visited local workshops, walked to mountains, ate great lamp kebaps, and talked a lot about swords, yataghans and knives. It was a great pleasure for me to be surrounded by some many people who shared the same interest. We sometimes talked all day in to the night. I did not have any time to join most of the activities like movie nights, musicconcerts, trekking competitions, off road rallies etc. I also couldn't take as many (good) photos as I wanted. I will post most of them here but like I said pictures don't do justice. If you come to Turkey in summer, forget about Mediterennan seaside and go see Yatağan village in the mountains!
For anyone who is interested to visit Yatağan, here is some additional information:
Here's the map location of the village:
Don't forget there are two places called Yatağan very close to each other so make sure you are going to Yatağan, Serinhisar county, Denizli province.
You can fly to Denizli province from İstanbul and take a bus to Yatağan from Denizli.
Yatagan Knifesmithing Festival is organised annualy at the first week of August. Official events take place for 3-4 days, but "Yayla" will already be full with people weeks before and after. You might want to make a reservation for a tent, if you'll not bring your own. But generally there are enough places for everyone. Camping area and facilities are open through all year.
People are friendly and hospitable, officials will help you as much as they can; but keep in mind that this is not a touristic seaside town like Bodrum, but a mountain village; so I doubt if anyone speaks English.
Here's the Municipality's website:
http://www.yatagan.bel.tr/ (check out the logo of city hall -two yataghans and an anvil- )
And another website with pictures of latest festival and Kefe haghlands.
Websites are in Turkish but I hope they'll give you an idea.
Last edited by Emanuel : 27th September 2010 at 04:31 PM.