Monday, 28 May 2007

Transhumance in St-Remy-de-Provence

May 28th is the day of the annual Transhumance Festival in St-Remy-de-Provence. This festival celebrates the hundreds of years old tradition of driving sheep from Provence where they've over-wintered, to the Southern Alps where they'll spend the summer. This happens because summer in Provence is too harsh for sheep - the grass becoming dead and dry in the heat - and the winter is too harsh in the Alps - the grass getting covered in snow.

Nowadays the sheep are transported by lorry, but in the past the shepherds would drive them along ancient drovers roads to and from the mountains over a period of several weeks. They always left at the end of May to return by the end of October. Traditionally they would gather in such towns as St-Remy in order to travel together and thus better protect their flocks from rustlers and wolves. Thus each May 28 this spectacle is re-enacted. About a thousand sheep and accompanying goats are driven along the main ring around the centre of St-Remy by people dressed in traditional costume, many of whom are still working shepherds or involved in sheep farming in some way.

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