Transhumance St Etienne-de-Tinée
Transhumance Montauroux | Transhumance St Etienne |
Saint Etienne-de-Tinée is a small mountain town, high up the Tinée river valley about 90 km north of Nice. The annual June Fete de la Transhumance of Saint Etienne-de-Tinée draws visitors from afar - not surprising since so few people live in the mountains, and the summer season for Auron and other nearby ski stations doesn't start until July.
The festivities take place in the center of town. The main square and many of the adjacent old streets are full of stands selling local products, especially traditional things to eat. Some of the stands have people in period costumes showing how traditional dishes were made, while making them "sur-place" for sale to the visitors.
The period dress is part of the Metiers d'Antan, or Metiers d'autrefois theme of Saint Etienne's Fete de la Transhumance - a display of the old trades of yesteryear common to the town and the region. From wood cutters to cobblers to yarn spinners, the tradesmen and tradeswomen (or artisans) dress in traditional costume and use the original tools and equipment to show how the work was once done. We noticed, too, that in many cases, the artisans themselves were "original equipment": some of them were easily in their 70s or 80s (the cobbler may have been beyond even that), and they used the tools as if it were as easy as breathing.
The high point of the transhumance festival here in Saint Etienne-de-Tinée is the passage des troupeaux - driving the flocks of sheep through the narrow town streets to the holding pens in the center. This is a very picturesque affair and very popular with the visitors, including us.
Shepherds Rule. We observed the same thing at this transhumance festival that we saw at the transhumance festival of Montauroux: festival organizers and other officials lay down rules and guidelines, such as the precise route the flock is to take through the town streets, but the shephard makes the final decision, on the run as it where, of the actual route and anything else to do with his sheep.
We didn't see any sheepdog demonstrations in Saint Etienne-de-Tinée, but there was sheep sheering. The dogs were there, of course, helping to guide the flocks through the streets and control them in the holding pens.
Saint Etienne has some nice museums, open for the festival, and fiting in exactly with the trades of yesteryear theme. We saw, briefly, a complete school room set up as it would have been many, many years ago, with all original desks, benchs and accessories.