13.07.2017 - 13.07.2017 35 °C
Day 50 Thursday 13 July 2017
Goreme to Egirdir / 447 km
- The power of the Internet is both amazing and concerning. As SG logs on & writes her diary, a pop up advertisement distracts her attention - it is a Muslim dating site. Someone knows we are in Turkey and thinks SG might be interested in finding a Muslim partner. Actually a female partner at that, since there are only photos of women. But same sex relationships are not allowed by the Koran. It's re-assuring that Big Brother doesn't know everything.
- We leave Goreme feeling like we often do - we could have stayed a bit longer. You can have the benefit of our hindsight. Allow at least 3 nights and 2 days sightseeing, more if you actually want to relax!
- Near to the Kelebek entrance is a Nazar tree ( see photo ). We have no idea why this location has been picked. But it is now covered with Nazar charms tied to its branches. The Nazar is the Turkish talisman, an amulet to protect against the evil eye. Usually a dark blue glass or ceramic charm with an eye in the middle. Turks like to have them on display to protect against bad spirits. You will see them hanging in cars, at the entrance to houses, or as jewellery around necks & wrists. We have even seen a dog wearing a collar studded with nazars.
- Our journey continues across the great Anatolian plains. Altitude is consistently around 1000m and temperatures extremely hot.
- No detours are scheduled for today, but a quick look at the Sultanhani Caravanserai is. Located just off the main Aksaray to Konya road, you can miss it. Annoyingly there are signs for miles beforehand, but arrive at the crucial turning & there's nothing!
- It is the largest in Turkey, originally built by the Seljuks in a smaller form in 1229 and then extended to its current impressive size in 1278. There is something fascinating about old Caravanserai - and we have now seen a few in various countries. Evocative of an era of overland travel & transport that actually was far from romantic.
- The Sultanhani establishment is huge - it must have been able to accommodate many travellers & tradesmen at any one time. There is a covered courtyard for use in bad weather and an uncovered one for summer months. In the middle of the outdoor courtyard is a mosque. The eastern entrance gate into the large open area is large & impressively carved in stone. Decorations are reminiscent of Persian influence. If you are driving this route, it's worth taking a look.
- Now it's on to Konya, reputedly the most Islamic city in Turkey. SG is not sure how this statistic is calculated. Mosques per capita? It has a large & very conservative university. And the Mevlana Museum. This is a pilgrimage destination for Muslims. The Mevlana is the former lodge of the whirling dervishes and considered to be a holy place. Celaleddin Rumi ( later known as Mevlana ) is responsible for the Mevlevi Worship ceremony, a ritual dance by men dressed in white robes that represent union with God. Google the word and you will probably recognise the images from magazine articles or TV documentaries. Muslims come to the museum to pray to Rumi, to pay respect to his tomb and admire the artefacts and relics associated with the Mevlevi movement.
- Had SG done better research, we would probably be stopping in Konya too. You can benefit from this hindsight too!
- Such is the efficiency of road planning and infrastructure around Konya, a city of 1.2 million people, we hardly see any of the actual city. We just whizz past.
- We do not expect our first sight of Lake Egirdir. After days of Anatolian plains, suddenly we are blessed with gorgeous lake scenery. It's like being in the Lake District but without crowds. As we drive around a good 75% of the lake to reach the town of Egirdir it is clear that it is hardly urbanised, let alone commercialised.
- The Nis Hotel is in the town centre overlooking the lake. When it was originally built as a large family home in 1905, its back entrance ( now the main access ) was directly on the lake. Land has since been reclaimed and a road built. Sadly this road is fairly busy with long distance traffic heading to Isparta. So if you ever reserve a room here, be sure to ask for one at the back of the house. Rooms with lake views are noisier places if you sleep with the window open. In summer, if the aircon does not work properly, this is exactly what you will have to do.
- Hopefully the owner will take on board our comments about his malfunctioning aircon system. Because apart from this, the hotel is a little gem and the staff charming. It has only been a hotel for 2 years. The restoration work has been meticulous and the soft furnishings and general decor are of a very fine standard. Outside looking towards the lake are two large deck areas where you can have breakfast or enjoy a glass of wine at sunset.
- Egirdir is trying to make a name for itself as a tourist destination. We meet a government official and professional photographer who are both staying at our hotel. They are here to shoot photographs for the next colour brochure.
- Apart from the obvious attractions of the lake, Egirdir is also a great venue for outdoor activities: fishing, hiking, cycling, skiing for example. It lies on the famous 500 km St Paul's trail, an iconic way ( clearly marked ) walked nearly 2000 years ago when St Paul travelled from the coast near Anatalya to Antiocheia in Pisidia ( modern day Yalvac ), only a few kilometers from Egirdir.
- Egirdir is the apple equivalent of Malatya. It is famous for its apple harvest in the autumn.
- It is also only a short distance from Isparta, which is the centre of the rose oil industry. Petal picking happens mid may to end of june, so sadly we've missed that activity. But it is one that tourists can participate in and tours can be arranged.
- Never mind, the hotel sells a selection of rose products: perfumes, cosmetics, household fragrances, jams & Turkish delight - yum!
- Late afternoon we walk into town on the lookout for a suitable place to eat tonight's supper.
- The old madrasa is unfortunately a work in progress and closed to the public. It was originally built in 13C as a Caravanserai and then converted to a place of learning a century later. The mosque opposite is also a conversion - from a Seljuk warehouse (dated 1237) to place of worship in 1308. And that's about all Egirdir has to offer in terms of interesting old buildings.
- It's the gorgeous lake scenery that justifies our overnight stay. See photos. We walk along the man made Egirdir peninsula that leads to what used to be a small island. It takes about 30 mins one way. Since it was completed nearly 60 years ago, some houses, restaurants and bars have been built there. Lucky them. Such views, such tranquility, so few people.
*Fishing is banned at the lake between mid March and mid June. Any fish on the menu during these months will be either out of their freezer or brought in from afar.
- We stop for a drink and plate of Turkish appetisers at a restaurant called the Big Apple. They have fish on the menu but we decide instead to head back to town for kebab & pide. Unwisely as it happens. Despite the bravado of the waiters who cajole us into their restaurant, our local meal disappoints. Elbistan still rules OK!