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EĞİRDİR

Queen of the Lake District                         Population: 17,500

Egiridir1Market day: Thursday

In October the countryside around Eğirdir in the Turkish Lake District bursts into colour as the woodlands take on their fall hues of red, orange, yellow and brown. Beside the road sit matching piles of yellow, green and red apples because the lakes are Turkey’s apple orchard and autumn the time of year when the fruit is picked.

So glorious is the scenery that you could be forgiven for assuming that tourists would flock here by the coach-load. But tourism can be the strangest thing and here in the lakes it’s mainly the locals who reap the benefit of the month-long slalom from autumn into winter.

The small town of Eğirdir is the tourist heart of the Lake District and, as you approach it and glimpse the brilliant blue of the lake with Sivri Dağı (Pointed Mountain, 1749m) soaring above it, it’s easy to imagine yourself on the South Island of New Zealand, where tiny Queenstown has converted the lure of water sports into a million-dollar industry.

But here, where you might expect to find a similar line-up of excursion boats and tour companies offering a myrad different ways to celebrate the scenery, the only vessels on offer are those of the pension owners and the odd friendly fisherman who baits tourists as a sideline from his day job.

Why such a lacklustre approach to tourism? To be fair, the weather is not always kind to Eğiridir, with body-buffeting winds and clothes-soaking rain fairly common.

The other problem is that the town is uncomfortably situated midway between the tourism honeypots of Cappadocia and Ephesus. For too many visitors it’s a handy place to stop for a night en route to the better known sites, leaving Eğiridir trapped in one of those Catch 22 situations: without more tourists it’s hard to justify the outlay necessary to create a better infrastrucure – but without better infrastructure there’s little to persuade people to linger.

What’s there to do while in Eğirdir? Well, you should certainly aim to take a boattrip on the lake.

Otherwise, this is really walking country, where many of the pensions are busy with climbers and hikers who think nothing of striding up Sivri Dağı before breakfast.  Pension owners can organize transport to nearby Lake Kovada National Park and the glorious Çandır Canyon

Today Eğiridir is probably as well known as a commando training centre as it is as a tourism centre. You'll see the barracks on the hillside to the left of the road as you drive out of town towards Isparta.

Don't leave town without trying:

  • pide topped with sugar, a local delicacy

Around town

The lake itself is the centre of everything. Jutting into it is a causeway that links tiny Can Ada (Soul Island) and much bigger Yeşilada (Green Island) to the mainland.egiridir2Picturesque interior of Yeşilada

Until the 1923 population exchange Yeşilada was where the local Greeks lived but unfortunately almost all their picturesque wooden and stone houses were torn down in the 1960s to be replaced with featureless pension blocks; those few that survived are virtually invisible behind a ring-fence of concrete. This is a great shame because it means that the island is much more appealing from afar that when you actually get to it.

The one specific attraction is the 19th-century Greek church of Aya Stefanos (St Stephen's) although its doors are kept locked.

But if you’re looking for a quiet place to rest for a few days the lake views on all sides go a long way to compensate for the loss of the built heritage, as does the small size of the island – you can walk right round it in about half an hour.

Such historic sights as Eğirdir has are mainly congregated immediately inland from the bus station where they form three sides of a quadrangle.

Here you’ll find the Hızır Bey Cami which dates back to 1308 and has a curious walk-through minaret, and right beside it the Dündar Bey Medresesi whose elaborate portal started life as part of the local  caravanserai before being brought here after a fire during the reign of Felekeddin Dündar Bey, one of the Hamidoğlu dynasty who ruled this part of Anataolia after the collapse of the Selçuk Sultanate of Rum. This has since reverted to something like its original purpose and now houses a small shopping mall. Look carefully at the support columns around the cloister and you'll see that most still retain their fine Selçuk capitals, some carved with birds.

egirdir3Minaret of Hızır Bey CamiThe nearby hamam may be old but has little else to recommend it  but a short walk along the lakeshore brings you to the remains of one of those castles whose  foundation-stones were laid way back in the mists of time (in this case conceivably when King Croesus was ruling over Lydia in the 5th century BC). It has since been built over and over by every successive group of potentates to hold sway locally, which means the Byzantines, the Selçuks, the Hamidoğlus and the Ottomans.

Today there’s a tiny shrine to an Islamic saint tucked into one side of the wall and a restored Ottoman house that is theoretiically open to the public on the other (it's usually locked).

If you follow the shore road at the back of the castle you'll be able to see how walls once ran right around the peninsula; today some houses are built right onto the remains of the walls as in Sinop on the Black şea and in Balat in İstanbul.

Otherwise, on the western outskirts of town stand the scant remains of the Keyhüsrev Kervansarayı, built in 1237 during the reign of the Selçuk Sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev but destroyed by fire in 1301 after which its portal was moved into the town centre to become the entrance to the Dundar Bey Medresesi.

On the opposite side of town stands the kümbet (tomb) of İsa Bin Musa, erected in 1358.

St Paul's Trail

The waymarked long-distance St Paul's Trail passes through Eğirdir which makes a good base both for those who're walking the whole route and those hoping to walk short stretches of it. The Lale Hostel is well-known as a source of information for trekkers.

Sleeping

Your biggest decision will probably be whether to stay on the island (atmospheric but a bit isolated especially in poor weather) or on the mainland (less atmospheric but often great views).

Ali’s Pension 

Tel: 0246-311 2547

Charly's Pension

Fulya Pension

Göl Pension

Tel: 0246-311 2370

Hotel Altıngöl

Tel: 0246-311 3961

Lale Pension 

Transport info

Eğirdir's aged otogar is right in the town centre although some through buses will drop you on the street corner outside. On my most recent visit it appeared to have given up all pretence at offering a service to travellers with offices unstaffed and no timetables available. 

There are regular bus services from İstanbul to Isparta with onward connections to Eğirdir (34km).

Buses also connect Eğirdir with Pamukkale, Konya, Nevşehir (for Cappadocia) and Antalya. One direct bus a day at 12.30pm runs to Afyon.

Half-hourly minibuses connect Eğirdir with Isparta although most neither transit the otogar nor the town centre. Instead the trundle past Isparts railway station and terminate at the Köy Garaj for local bus services including the one to Ağlasun for Sagalassos. Minibuses also run to Yalvaç via Yeşilköy and to Pınar Pazarı.

Day trip destinations

Adada

Barla

Beyşehir

Burdur

Çandır Kanyon National Park

Isparta

Lake Kovada National Park

Pınar Pazarı

Sagalassos (via Ağlasun)

Yalvaç

Zindan Mağarası

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-319562-three-great-lake-towns-exploring-burdur-egirdir-and-isparta.html

Read more about Eğirdir: http://www.turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/65-making-helva-at-the-medrese.html

Read about sugared pide in Eğirdir: http://www.turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/66-the-sweet-taste-of-e%C4%9Firdir.html

Read about the Ertokuş caravanserai: http://turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/68-not-the-way-to-do-it.html

This article first appeared in Time Out İstanbul in Englishegirdir5Capital of Dundar Bey Medresesi

THE LAKES GIVE UP THEIR SECRETS

Yellow, gold, russet, red, crimson, orange and brown. As summer segues seamlessly into autumn, so the woodlands put on one last show-stopping display of finery, flourishing their richest and most memorable hues in a vain last-ditch attempt to keep winter at bay. This should be the signal for leaf-peepers by the coachload to put in an appearance, but instead they’re conspicuous by their absence. Because this is not New England in the fall. Rather, it’s the Turkish Lake District in sonbahar (autumn), a secret known only to the lucky few.

‘I just don’t get it,’ a friend said as we headed towards Lake Eğirdir, the second largest of a group of lakes in Western Anatolia. ‘It reminds me of Queenstown, but there’s nobody here.’ Queenstown, for those who haven’t had the privilege, is a small lakeside town ringed with mountains on the South Island of New Zealand, which has made a name for itself as a centre for adventure holidays. Eğirdir, on the other hand, is a small lakeside town ringed with mountains that has never quite managed to cash in on its location. True, a few fishermen make a supplementary income taking people out in their boats, and, true, the town is well known to hardy outdoor types who trek through on the St Paul’s Trail or come here to scale Mt Sivri (1749m), but that’s about as far as it goes. For most people Eğirdir is a one-night stop-over as they rush between Cappadocia and Pamukkale, or Cappadocia and the coast. They don’t know what they’re missing.

 The Yöruk markets

It’s not just the spectacular beauty of the autumnal landscape that makes Eğirdir the place to be in October. This is also the time of year when the abundant apple crop is harvested and huge mounds of fruit pile up by the roadside splashing yet more yellow and red into the scenery.

More importantly, this is also the time of year when an extraordinary market takes place on the outskirts of nearby Pınar Pazarı village. Every year for ten weekends from the end of July to the middle of October local villagers converge on the market to offload their apples and goats, and buy in supplies for the winter. In the past, the last weekend of the ten used to be particularly special because the Saturday would be reserved just for Yörük (nomad) women who would come here to arrange marriages for their children. The next day the sequence of markets would be wound up with an outbreak of celebrations. Even today, that last Sunday is marked by the wholesale slaughter of goats to supply meat for grab-and-go kebabs. It’s a remarkable scene to witness, although not perhaps for the faint of heart.

Yeşilada

Eğirdir itself is a largely modern town with a handful of 13th-century buildings shoehorned onto the median strip facing the bus station. The prettiest part is Yeşilada (Green Island), which is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Unfortunately most of the old houses which pre-dated the Turco-Greek population exchange of 1923 have been pulled down in favour of modern pensions and hotels. The pleasure of a stay here lies not so much in appreciating the architecture as in the joy of being surrounded by water and being able to watch the sun rise and set into the lake.

Barla

For something even more picturesque you could hire a bike and cycle to Barla, a pretty little village of crumbling wooden houses on the western shore of Lake Eğirdir. Most of the houses are empty for much of the year, only springing to life for the three months of summer when villagers who have made new lives elsewhere return to visit their families. There’s little specific to see here, although you can visit a few rooms attached to a gnarled old tree where the religious leader Said Nursi (1878-1960) spent many years thinking and writing. In a sad example of how followers rarely really understand their leaders, his latterday disciples have built a tower-like concrete chapel in the village in supposed memory of their nature-loving master. It’s an absolute eye-sore, especially in such a pretty setting.

The national parks

During the school holidays the Çandır Kanyon, to the south of Eğirdir and otherwise known as the Yazılı Kanyon National Park, is often heaving with picnicking families. Come mid-September, however, and it slumps back into its habitual solitude, and makes a great place to come for a quiet stroll amid the pines. There’s not much to do here apart from admire the walls of the gorge and look for elderly inscriptions on the rock which are increasingly overlaid with modern tagging, but when you’re through with that you can go for a walk in the lakeside Kovada Gölü National Park, or in the Kasnak Forest, both of them readily accessible on day trips.

History in spades

There are plenty of things to see around Eğirdir that you don’t require Olympic levels of fitness to enjoy. You could, for example, take a bus to Yalvaç to explore the ruins of Antiocheia-in-Pisidia, one of the towns visited by St Paul in his quest to spread Christianity through Anatolia. Or you could head for Ağlasun to visit the sprawling site of ancient Sagalassos, a vast Roman ruin with the remains of multiple temples, agoras (market-places) and nymphaea (fountains). Also worth a quick look are the scattered ruins of Adada, another Roman town, half-hidden amongst the trees in the mountains near Sütcüler. Or you could take the bus to Beyşehir where the late 13th-century Eşrefoğlu Cami sits right beside the Lake District’s largest lake, its austere exterior concealing the fact that 42 beautiful wooden pillars still support the roof inside.

Snow time

Can’t get away for the leaf peeping? The good news is that it’s only months until the ski resort on Mt Davraz near Isparta, the local provincial capital, will be opening for the season…

Word to the wise

Lakeland weather can be changeable, and strong winds are frequent. Pack plenty of warm clothes!

 

 

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