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Article - Photo: AKGÜN AKOVA
In the footsteps of kings
At Çandır 10 km from Sütçüler in south central Turkey, Yazılıkanyon is a Nature Park crisscrossed with bridges, where everyone can enjoy a pleasant and fun-filled hike.
Beside Yılanlı Plain and Lake Kovada, the Anamas Mountain range and Dedegöl Mountain range lock arms at Isparta to draw the boundary of Sütçüler township, which takes its name from the former dairy farmers who have migrated now to the big cities. The traditions of the nomadic ‘Yörüks’ and the impact of the landscape are of course undeniable here. The same landscape that is so pleasingly hospitable to every visitor that sets foot upon it. One to tour the ancient city of Adada, another to join in a bridal procession. Thrusting a bouquet of flowers into the hands of one, hosting a trout dinner for another, and luring yet another into the waters at Yazılıkanyon.
If you are a traveler arriving in Yazılıkanyon, nature will capture your attention first with a kingfisher. This brilliantly colored bird seeks the shadows of fish in the shallow places, and, not finding any, passes on by. Next the Canyon will show you the paving stones of the ancient Royal Road. Stones that harbor a treasure from the past, like a souvenir. A squirrel dives down from a tree, takes one look at you and scurries off in panic. At the entrance to the Nature Park you’ll notice the camping tents of mountaineers, who come here frequently for rock climbing, as well as the ever-present rescue teams and scouts.
A PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE INSCRIBED IN ROCK
The road leading up to the Canyon entrance is one of Turkey’s most beautiful hiking trails. And the Göksu flowing below will accompany you as you proceed along the paths amidst alder trees, Turkey oaks, wild olive, laurel and myrtle. In autumn the canyon is awash in light, the yellowed leaves juxtaposed with the rushing pale blue waters. In spring the tap-tap of the white-backed woodpeckers mingles with the calls of great titmouse, flycatcher, white-throated warbler and bulbul in surroundings that are a virtual oasis for ‘birders’. When doling out her beauty around the earth, nature was particularly generous to Yazılıkanyon, a gorge 100-400 meters in depth.
As you stroll through the 600-hectare Nature Park, you will come across the rock inscription for which the canyon is named. A portion of the inscription was destroyed during the road construction, but the poem there speaks of a certain Epictetus, who born as a slave and died a famous philosopher: “Oh traveler, prepare yourself and set forth knowing this: / The only free man is the man who is free in his self / The measure of freedom is in his own nature, / And if he is earnest in his resolve, / And pure of heart, these are what make a person noble / And by them is a man exalted, not by the error of his ways.” Born in the Phrygian city of Hierapolis in 55 A.D., the Epictetus of the inscription believed that physique, appearance or social position as determined by birth could not be regarded as superior qualities since they are not determined by the human will.
A NATURAL MONUMENT ON THE ROYAL ROAD
After reading these lines, a serendipitous expression of life philosophy in the middle of nature, you will come to an emerald green clearing about 45 minutes from the banks of the Göksu. If it’s spring you’ll find yourself in a field of flowers. If it’s summer, whoever wants can plunge into the icy waters of the natural pools that form among the rocks. Or take a snooze in the sweet-scented grass, or climb the magnificent branches of the monumental plane trees that have towered here for centuries. It’s also possible to observe the cycle of nature at Yazılıkanyon: yellow baby spiders emerging from webs, rainbow-winged butterflies, trout caught in fishermen’s nets, plants with ruddy leaves like leopard skins, snake lilies, cyclamen, oleander. And while a rabbit, a fox or a partridge might cross your path at any moment, if you happen to spot a griffon vulture or a wild goat, then consider yourself a lucky person indeed. This Nature Park is one of the areas traversed by the legendary Royal Road of antiquity. This ancient Roman road where chariots once rushed along was used by the local villagers until a hundred years ago. St. Paul passed through here on his way from Perge to Antiocheia Pisidia, which is why Yazılıkanyon has religious significance for Christians today. Interest in the roads traveled by St. Paul in Anatolia has grown of late and, together with the Lycian Road, they now constitute a popular route for extended trekking. It’s not unusual therefore to encounter tourists bearing maps in the most unexpected places. Not only tourists but mastic trees, rhododendrons and anemone as well.
TURKEY’S LONGEST CANYON
Sütçüler township where the canyon is located is 94 km from Isparta. While Yazılıkanyon is certainly its most beautiful spot, a neighboring canyon, that of the Köprüçay, should not be overlooked. For Köprüçay is Turkey’s longest canyon. And the 20 km-long segment between Sütçüler and Serik in particular excites explorers. Narrow and arduous with rocks rising to 800 meters in height, it is a trail that gets the adrenalin pumping.
As long as you’ve come to Sütçüler, don’t miss the other sights in the area. Şanlı Highland, for instance, in the southeast of the province, and Tota Highland in the town of Kasımlar, home to a number of indigenous plant species. The ancient city known as Adada 2 km from the village of Sağrak is first mentioned in a treaty concluded in the 2nd century B.C. In addition to temples built for the emperors, this city also boasts an ancient road, a basilica, a monumental fountain, a theater and monumental graves. And the excavations soon to be carried out at Adada will bring to light the true story and wealth of this city beneath the ground. Another of Sütçüler’s historic treasures are the Kocaköy Monuments (Kocaköy Asarı). The monumental graves 5 km south of the town of Kesme create a breathtaking view when you look across to Köprüçay Kanyon. Regrettably however they have been defaced by treasure hunters. I would recommend that you not set out on this road without engaging a guide from Kesme. But nature will be your guide at Yazılıkanyon. All you need do is take yourself down to the banks of the Göksu. Go down there, follow the current and discover the sheer exuberance of life on earth..