Isparta province’s township of Eğirdir is the ‘queen of lakes’, where two islands, joined together like brothers, stand like a couple baskets of apples at nature’s feast.
O ne day when wind, sun and clouds are all on duty together, a traveler should sit down on a hill over looking Lake Eğirdir and, taking bread and cheese from his rucksack, take a ‘lesson in color’ until he has eaten his fill. He will watch with amazement how blue first darkens then lightens up again, how it tries to turn itself into green, and how green itself swoons and becomes blue. For the lake waters are like a canvas on which the pigments are constantly being mixed. The people of Eğirdir, who claim that the lake changes color seven times in a day, say this not in exaggeration but to define the beauty of the body of water that is their source of life.
SURROUNDED BY ISLANDS, FORESTS AND LAKES
Süleyman Şükrü Karçınzade, who was born in Eğirdir in 1865, wrote: “The island of Can Ada, 100 meters from the peninsula, is not suitable for settlement. Nis Ada, on the other hand, another island just beyond Can, has a Muslim quarter and a non-Muslim quarter with 7-8 households.” The islands described by Karçınzade are joined to the mainland by a road built on landfill in the last century and are the heart of Eğirdir township. Hikers and joggers, fishermen, and people who just want to take the wife and kids to the tea garden gather here today. Marble statues carved at the International Stone Sculpture symposia adorn the parks. But another lake awaits visitors at Eğirdir when autumn’s falling leaves replace the summertime crowds at blue-flagged Altınkum Beach and Bedre Cove, the sailing enthusiasts in search of wind and the paragliding buffs who float up from the hills on hot currents of air to enjoy a lake view from the sky. Lake Kovada, one of the places where autumn is most beautiful in Turkey, transforms the yellowing plane trees that surround it like a necklace into the notes of an extraordinarily beautiful autumn melody. When you stroll around this lake, 30 km south of Eğirdir, wild geese, grey herons and wild ducks, startled by your voice, will fly up from under the trees and head for the opposite shore. Lake Kovada is 20.6 km in circumference. The short road that starts from the tiny rest stop run by the Department of National Parks is a 350 m hiking trail. The longer road, which runs from the same point up to the observation tower, is 2800 meters. If you like, you can also camp on the lake shore and take ever longer hikes. The Kasnak Oak Forest, accessible via the village of Yukarıgökdere, is a joy to hikers and nature lovers in autumn. Be sure to greet the squirrels for me when you go there!
One of the locals’ biggest pet peeves is that their township is often referred to as ‘Eğridir’, transposing the ‘r’ and ‘i’ (the word ‘eğri’ means ‘crooked’). Weary though they are of correcting the mistake, they are nevertheless eager tell you the story of how the name ‘Eğirdir’ originated: “There are still a lot of apple orchards in Eğirdir today, but in the old days there were vineyards galore. And no sign of a lake. One day in spring, it started to rain. It came down for days. When it stopped, an old woman stepped outside her door and started spinning wool. But when people saw the flood waters rushing down from the mountains into the plains, they began seeking places of refuge. And they called out to the old woman, ‘Granny, granny! The earth is flooded, the sky is clouded over, a deluge is coming. Stop your spinning and save yourself!’ But the old woman, perhaps because she was hard of hearing, perhaps because she didn’t believe them, perhaps out of stubbornness, who knows, perhaps simply because she was weary with old age, did not budge. Those who called out got impatient with her, saying, ‘Do whatever you want then! Just stay there and keep on spinning! (literally, ‘Eğir dur!)’ as they dashed off to the hills. The plain was soon overrun with the floodwaters and a huge lake formed. And in time the local people came to call the lake ‘Eğirdir’ in memory of that old woman.”
Among the tales they relate are also stories told by travelers, holy men and caravans crossing to the other side of the lake. But history goes beyond such stories to find a basis in fact. The people of Eğirdir, like the people of Isparta, were caught up in great excitement on the morning of
6 March 1930, awaiting the arrival of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk, who had earlier promised to come to Isparta and have a bowl of soup there, set out that morning from Izmir with his entourage, arriving first at Eğirdir, where he stayed the night and expressed his delight with Can Island. So the people of Isparta later made a gift of the island to Atatürk, granting him the title deed.
A 600-YEAR-OLD TRADITION
We know from the graves and other remains extracted from mounds in the vicinity that Eğirdir was an area of settlement between 8000 and 5500 B.C. These remains include those of Prostanna on Eğirdir Sivrisi, of Parlais at Barla and of Malos at Sanidris. The township, which came under the control of the Anatolian Seljuks in 1204, was used for a while as a summer resort, eventually becoming a key point along the trade route that started from Antalya harbor. Originally built as a khan in the time of the Seljuk Sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev in 1237, the Dündar Bey Medrese was later converted into a religious college.
There is a tradition to which Eğirdir has been home for 600 years, namely Pınar Pazarı, literally a fair that commences in September and can continue for as long as three months: Pınar Pazarı, which is set up only on Sundays. A Culture and Tourism Festival is also held at Eğirdir in September. An observation deck 7 km from the city center in the village of Akpınar will provide you with a living map. Picnickers gather at the recreational area in the center and meet at Çamyol, a picnic ground in the forest 15 km along the road to Sütçüler. The area known as Bülbül on the lake shore is another of the most beautiful spots in Eğirdir, where a wide circle inscribed by willow trees within the lake teems with water birds, reed beds and water lilies.
One autumn morning as day is dawning, set out along the canal that runs from Eğirdir to Lake Kovada. Alongside the bright yellow poplars, in the mist that envelops the road like a while veil, you will feel as if you are strolling through one of the most beautiful mornings in the world. I ask you, isn’t it worth going to Eğirdir just for that feeling?